Options When Your Loved One Can No Longer Live Safely On Their Own
You may have been caring for your aging loved one for a significant amount of time, or maybe you are just starting on this challenging journey. Either way, realizing that they can no longer live at home without additional support can be a heart-wrenching but critically important decision. As the primary caregiver, there are limits to the support you can provide on your own, and it’s important to recognize when additional help is needed.
Deciding to pursue other support and care options can sometimes spark guilt or sadness in family members or caregivers. In truth, these options may seem difficult at first but may actually bring more peace of mind to your family.
What are your options when care at home is no longer appropriate?
Part of the overwhelming feeling of realizing that your loved one can no longer live safely alone at home is not knowing your options. There is a wide range of choices, depending on the level of care needed. We know that understanding the differences can help you feel more confident about your decision. Some available options, when additional support is required, include:
- Short-term home health care: Home care can be extremely valuable when your loved one has been discharged from the hospital and needs help with medication management, physical therapy, wound care, or needs help with a specific condition such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or a kidney transplant. This type of care is for a short period and provided in the comfort of home.
- Managed long-term care: If your loved one needs care for more extended periods, it may be time to consider a Managed Long Term Care Plan (MLTCP). Designed for people who qualify for Medicaid and suffer from conditions that require ongoing care, managed long-term care plans (MLTCPs) provide, arrange and coordinate the health and long-term care services your loved one might need to remain safely at home. Given recent global events, many families are seeking the reduced risk of exposure to COVID-19, and the ability to visit without restrictions, that support from a care management team – and home health aide assisting with activities such as bathing, dressing and meal preparation in your loved one’s home – can make possible.
- Residential care: Residential care consists of several types of care, including:
- Continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) offer a wide range of services for individuals who would like to stay in the same place through all the phases of the aging process. A CCRC typically has accommodations for independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing care. An individual moves between these levels of supervision as the need arises.
- Assisted living is an option for those that require minimal assistance with Activities of Daily Living. An assisted living facility helps your loved one live independently in a safe environment.
- Centers for nursing care also referred to as nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities, are an excellent option if the support provided in an assisted living facility is not enough to care for your loved one. Most skilled nursing homes provide 24-hour medical care, assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), meals, and therapeutic and recreational activities. Skilled nursing facilities are often the safest and most appropriate setting for people with dementia.
- Comfort care: When your loved one is seriously or terminally ill, palliative or hospice care can be a valuable alternative for dealing with pain and stress. The objective of both palliative and hospice care is to improve the quality of life for a patient by offering comfort, dignity, and respect and providing much-needed support for their loved ones. These options are provided with expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes.
Comfort care can be provided in the home or wherever your loved one lives, including an assisted living community, freestanding hospice, hospital, nursing home or other long-term care facilities. However, today, many families are choosing hospice care at home for their loved one so that family and friends can visit without limitation. Hospice focuses specifically on caring, not curing, and supports the patient’s family. Many find that the emotional support, symptom and pain management expertise that hospice offers can make considerable differences in quality of life.
How to identify which option of care is best for your loved one
1. Assess current needs.
- Can your loved one be safe at home alone?
- Could they be safe at home with the appropriate level of care?
- Is their existing support system enough?
- What are the medical needs of your loved one? Has a physician weighed in on these needs?
- Do they require assistance with activities of daily living?
- Are financial resources limiting your options?
2. Have a conversation.
- Discuss the situation with other family members and do your best to communicate your feelings and situation. Family dynamics can be complex, and not everyone may agree, but brainstorming and collaboration can often lead to a better plan of care. Ultimately, your family will need to designate a primary decision-maker.
- If possible, make your loved one part of selecting the best living situation.
3. Conduct tours and ask questions.
- Once you know your loved one’s needs, explore your options. Use the list you made in step two to ensure each option meets your specific criteria.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what may suit your loved one’s needs now and in the future. In the interview stage, it’s essential to understand all of the benefits offered by each organization. Be sure to ask how they will adapt to changes in medical needs or transitions in care.
How will you know when you have found the right option?
Ultimately, only you will know what option is best for your loved one. Trust your instincts and choose the option that seems best.