Living in an Assisted Living
Community vs. at Home

As seniors age, making decisions about living arrangements can be difficult. Whether you’re evaluating the options for yourself or for a loved one, it’s important to carefully consider the pros and cons of staying in your home or moving to a West Virginia assisted living community.

It’s not uncommon for seniors to prefer to stay in their own homes. Most seniors have lived in the same place for numerous years and they hesitate to leave their familiar surroundings and friends.  This resistance can create a difficult situation for adult children who want to help their parents make the best decision.

By considering the advantages and disadvantages of staying at home or moving to an assisted living community, seniors and their loved ones are better prepared to make a sound decision based on facts rather than emotions. However, relocating to an assisted living community can also bring on complicated emotions, making the decision less simple than just assessing the facts.

As you determine the living arrangement that makes the most sense as you or a loved one ages, take into account any current needs and how they may change over time. Here are topics to contemplate when considering a move to a West Virginia assisted living community:

  • Finances
  • Healthcare
  • Social Interactions
  • Security and Safety
  • Comfort and Responsibilities

Finances

FACT: It is more affordable to live in an assisted living community than it is to live at home.

Long-term care is costly, either in your own home or a retirement community. Are you prepared for the expenses that are likely to increase as you age? One common misconception of assisted living is that it is very expensive and that aging at home for as long as possible – usually until something drastic occurs – is the most economical way to go. However, recent studies reveal that just isn’t the case.

The Facts

According to the 2015 Genworth Financial Cost of Care Survey, the median monthly cost for assisted living in West Virginia is $3,500. This initially may seem expensive, but consider that practically all expenditures are included in that amount – housing, utilities, maintenance, and meals. There are sizable expenses associated with aging in place at home which do not apply in an assisted living community such as household care, personal care and home modifications. Household and personal care (e.g., cleaning, laundry, helping dress and bathe, or administering medication) can cost up to $25 per hour and the amount of time personal assistance is needed is likely to increase as someone ages. Modifications to the home are also necessary for safety and ease in getting around. According to an AARP study, only 13% of homes currently meet the challenges an aging individual faces such the ability to climb stairs, pass through small doorways, and easily access the bathroom.

When all factors of staying at home are considered, the cost of remaining in your home is often equal or higher than living in an assisted living community. The MetLife Report on Aging in Place 2.0 illustrates this fact in the following chart:

MetLife Report on Aging in Place 2.0 Potential costs to age in place

The Emotion

Discussing the financial benefits of assisted living with seniors may be the easiest of the topics in this article to address because decisions are often made based on the lowest cost option. However, for many seniors there may be an unquantifiable “value” placed on living at home. For some, expenses do not matter when there are strong ties to the home they have lived in for years.

There are other financial issues to address beyond the numbers. Financial management takes organization and effort. It can be stressful to manage the cost of living. The responsibility of paying bills may need to be assigned to a family member or a paid resource. This stress and concern can be relieved by relocating to a West Virginia assisted living community. Residents can spend time with family and friends doing things that they love instead of balancing a budget.

 

Healthcare

FACT: Preserving physical and mental health is essential.

We just aren’t as healthy at age 70 as we are when we’re 30. Our bodies decline as we age, therefore it is essential for seniors to be proactive about their health. It is equally important to have direct access to medical professionals should health concerns arise. Assisted living offers seniors a health-focused environment and provides medical assistance that is just a few steps away, 24 hours a day

 The Facts

For those desiring to remain independent in advanced age, live with reduced pain and discomfort, and reduce the risk of mental illness, it’s vital to stay physically active as there’s strong evidence that those who exercise have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, depression and dementia. Seniors living together in a retirement community may encourage one another to stay physically active. Alzheimer’s disease is another concern for seniors and recent Alzheimer’s studies reveal mental stimulation akin to that offered in a senior living community helps delay dementia issues.

It’s estimated that one third of individuals over the age of 65 have a fall at least one time in a year. This percentage increases to one half in those over 80 years old.  Depending on the time until medical help arrives at a home, serious medical consequences can arise. Immediate assistance after a serious fall is vital and can improve the chance recovery by up to 80%.

For seniors who have lost a spouse and are living alone, loneliness can also play a significant role in the declining of their health. The emotions that become set off when one feels alone can be quite powerful and can trigger numerous health issues including depression.

The Emotion

An occurrence while living at home such as having a fall, forgetting a meal or medication, or needing care while ill may help seniors recognize that they may not be able to provide for themselves for much longer. Loved ones should use those times as teachable moments to start a discussion about getting help. In an assisted living community, seniors will be surrounded by friends and medical staff offering various forms of assistance in their physical care daily. Residents have access to activities and programs that stimulate the brain, strengthening their mental health. Seniors are able to be healthier for longer.

 
Social Interactions

FACT: Happy seniors are social seniors

Seniors experience changes in their social networks as friends move or pass away. It’s vital for individuals to have access to transportation and continued socialization to avoid feelings of isolation. Assisted living communities are just that – communities. There are activities and socializing for residents to take part in, friendships to be made, meals to share, or religious services to attend. Socialization can greatly extend and improve a seniors’ quality of life.

The Facts

According to a study conducted by the University of California, seniors who are isolated had a 59% greater risk to their mental and physical well-being than more social seniors. Retirement communities offer constant opportunities for socialization, pursuing hobbies and enjoying intellectually stimulating activities. Social interaction helps keep the brain active, and it’s most effective when coupled with an overall healthy lifestyle, including a nutritious diet and physical activity – all of these items are easily attainable in assisted living and could be difficult to maintain in a home setting.

Seniors living with others in a community are likely to experience happiness while sharing stories from their pasts and laughing together. Researchers at the College of William and Mary have found that “a wave of electricity sweeps through” the entire cerebral cortex just before we laugh, supporting the theory that humor can help improve cognitive functioning by activating all parts of the brain simultaneously. Laughter also triggers a number of positive physiological responses including relaxation, lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), and the release of endorphins.

The Emotion

Seniors who live at home alone may become accustomed to a solitary life. They often can only focus on the daily tasks of the day and overlook the importance of socialization. An assisted living community allows seniors to meet new friends of the same age and take part in new and exciting events, experiences and activities. Tasks that formerly were a burden are now taken care of by the living facility staff.

Allow your loved one to see what assisted living communities are like by touring a community. They will discover the friendly, active, and helpful places that they are and this will remove some of the fear of the unknown. Visiting several places will allow your parent to see that they have choices and that it is their decision. While touring the community, show enthusiasm, ask questions about what is important to your loved one, find out about activities, talk to upbeat residents, and point out the positives.

 

Security and Safety

FACT: Seniors are vulnerable to crime.

Home safety and personal safety are factors to consider when deciding whether to stay in a home or to relocate to an assisted living community.  Assisted living communities are typically gated with constant security, therefore the worry concerning safety when walking around one’s neighborhood can be alleviated. Home robbery is another common concern for seniors. It is recommended to install an emergency response system or wear an emergency pendant for seniors in a home setting. Seniors living in assisted living communities can have a peace of mind knowing emergency response systems are already in place in this environment.

 The Facts

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that seniors are thirteen times more likely to be a victim of property crime than a violent crime. Burglary is the most often reported offense, followed by vandalism and theft. One in every ten burglary victims are 65 years or older. Often a home is burglarized when a spare key is “hidden” in a mailbox or under a doormat, or when locks for doors and windows aren’t used securely.

More than 46 percent of robbery offenses against the elderly occur at home. Sadly, most seniors can not feel safe in a home which they have lived in for a number of years. According to a 2012 study, 13 percent of all fraud victims are those 65 years or older.

The Emotion

Let your loved one know that you are concerned for their safety and that living in a home environment isn’t the safest choice as they age. Be careful to not impart guilt, but do let them know that you are concerned about them being in a home alone, and that you would feel more at peace knowing they were safe. Living at home can cause them to be more vulnerable to crime than compared to an assisted living community that is protected and built with safety in mind.

 

Responsibilities and Comfort

FACT: It’s time to enjoy retirement!

At some point, seniors likely need assistance with everyday activities such as cooking, errands, bathing, and cleaning, yard work, and home maintenance. Is a family member equipped to manage all of these items for them? Many times family members will even become full-time caregivers, which can become a stressful situation for both parties.

When seniors move to an assisted living community, the amount of time saved for the children of the aging parent can be considerable. With families and households of their own to manage, the additional time and work necessary to take care of their parent’s household can take a toll. When their seniors are at an assisted living facility, the quality of visits from family improves.

The Facts

There are more responsibilities when staying home than one initially conceives. There are up to seventeen monthly expenses just pertaining to one’s household that should be considered including mortgage/rent, property taxes, yard services, security, housekeeping, transportation, and utilities.

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, family caregivers spend 20 hours a week caring for their loved ones while 13% of family caregivers are providing 40 hours of care a week or more. In a similar study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare nearly three quarters of family caregivers report not going to the doctor as often as they should and 55% say they skip doctor appointments for themselves.

The Emotion

Residing in an assisted living community means that seniors no longer have to worry about the tedium of running a household or depending on family members for care. They will have more time to do the things that bring them joy.  A senior living community also solves many of the problems that can arise for seniors who stay in their homes. With 24-hour access to assistance along with many provided services including transportation, home maintenance, laundry and housekeeping, meals and others, seniors can remain independent.

 

 

We hope that the information we’ve provided will help you and your loved one make a decision that balances the facts and emotions associated with moving to an assisted living community.  By considering all of the factors that will help you make an informed decision, weighing the pros and cons, and openly discussing the emotional aspects that make leaving one’s home difficult, the right decision can usually be reached.