Sometimes, providing the best care for your family member means asking for help. What will be the "right" help for you depends on your circumstances, personal preferences, the level of care needed and affordability.
Let's start by reviewing the many care options that are available. Here are some options to consider:
Adult Day Care
Seniors are usually brought to the care setting in the morning and leave in the evening. While there, they have the option to participate in structured programs with stimulating social activities. Rehabilitation services or a nurse may be available. Adult Day Care centers are designed for those who are physically or emotionally disabled and need a protective environment.
Aging in Place
This option advocates allowing your family member to remain in their living environment, regardless of physical or mental changes that may occur with aging. If a need arises, families of seniors who choose to age in place often contract home health care services.
Assisted living refers to residences and health-related services designed to aid individuals who need support on a daily basis. This residential community living option provides as-needed assistance with activities of daily living, which can include meal preparation, medication management, personal grooming, bathing and transportation. Services and amenities are on site, and group activities and events are usually included.
You always have the option of moving your family member into your own home or that of another family member. If this is a consideration, be aware that a number of situations and questions arise that need to be addressed: the effect on family relationships, adapting your home, finances, time commitments, and the personal assistance and care your family member may need.
Home Health Care
If you determine that aging in place is the option that works best for your family and the person needing the care, you may want to consider home health care services. These services provide for medical and nursing services administered by a licensed provider in the individual's home. Many third-party payers (including Medicare) require that a patient be homebound (or unable to leave the confines of their home without extreme difficulty) to be eligible for reimbursement for these services.
Hospice is a philosophy and approach to providing comfort and care at life's end, in lieu of heroic lifesaving measures. It focuses on terminally ill patients - those who no longer seek treatments to cure and who are expected to live for about six months or less. It can include medical, counseling and social services for both patients and their families, and is furnished in a private home, in specialized hospitals or in hospice care centers.
If your family member has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's disease - and depending on the amount of memory care needed - you may find yourself considering a continuing care senior living or assisted living community that has specialized areas dedicated to caring for patients needing this form of support. Usually, services and amenities are on site, with group activities and events included.
Although palliative care often accompanies hospice care, it is not the same. This medical specialty focuses on relief of pain, stress and other debilitating symptoms of serious illness. The goal is to relieve suffering and provide the best possible quality of life for patients and their families. A treatment plan customized for each patient, palliative care relieves symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. It is often administered at the same time as a treatment meant to cure the patient. Most hospitals, long-term care and skilled nursing communities offer palliative care.
If your family member requires specialized therapy - physical, speech, occupational - following accident, injury or surgery, a rehabilitation center may be what you're looking for. Here, these services are provided on an in-patient or out-patient basis, with the goal of helping individuals reach their highest level of functioning in daily life. Locations may be freestanding, in connection with a hospital, offered along with adult day care services, or as a part of the continuum of care for a retirement community. In-patient rehabilitation is a highly regulated, rigorous service provided in specialized facilities with multi-disciplinary equipment, resources and programming.
If you are the primary caregiver for your family member, there will come a time when you need to be away from home or simply need a break. Respite care services provide temporary relief from tasks associated with caregiving, and may be delivered as part of in-home assistance programs, short nursing home stays, or adult day care centers.
Skilled Nursing Care
Skilled nursing communities are designed for individuals who require full-time care, or assistance with most, if not all, daily activities. These communities are licensed and offer 24-hour medical care by trained health care professionals, such as a registered nurse or therapist. They may also include rehabilitation services for short-term residents, memory care services, or other types of specialized care. The monthly fee for this housing option includes meals, personal assistance and most medical services (except for medications). Typically, skilled nursing facilities are Medicaid- and/or Medicare-certified.
Usually offered at the hospital until the patient can be released to go home or to a rehabilitation center, transitional care is skilled care that focuses on helping patients regain their strength and mobility. The stay is usually no longer than two weeks. Patients are under the care of their own doctors with assistance from licensed nursing staff and teams of therapists - physical, speech, recreational, occupational, respiratory and others.