November 18, 2020

Understanding Senior Care Options

Senior man and woman review senior care options with daughter.

Today, you have more senior care options than ever before. Gone are the days when an institution-like nursing home was the only alternative for families taking care of their loved one at home. While having more options is a benefit, it also can feel overwhelming and confusing.

Ideally, you can discuss senior care options with your parents early on, before they need help. However, only half of older adults have planned or thought about developing a care plan for themselves, according to a survey by Home Instead®. If your parents fall into that category, you can help them better understand the variety of options available for assistance - to find a solution that best suits their wishes and your family situation.

Options for Care

The most desirable place to age is at home. Approximately 90% of those 65+ hope to age in place at home, but the reality is that 70% of older adults age 65+ will need assistance at some point. The good news is, you have options for care at home including home care and home health care.

Cost of Care

You or your parents might believe that the cost of care will be covered by Social Security, Medicare or retirement accounts, but unfortunately that’s not usually the case. In reality:

  • Social Security does not pay for care.
  • Traditional Medicare may cover care for limited amounts of time under very specific circumstances.
  • People are living longer, so personal savings are often inadequate.

The most common form of payment for care is private pay (or self-insurance) or long-term care insurance. In some cases, an older adult may qualify for care covered by Medicaid or Veterans Assistance.

In 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services expanded access to in-home senior care by offering paid benefits for services like nutritious meal preparation and non-medical transportation when accessed through a Medicare Advantage plan. If your parents have a Medicare Advantage plan, you should find out what types of in-home care the plan covers.

Encourage Advance Planning

The best plans take shape well before a person requires care. Engage early in conversations with your parents about how and where they want to live as they age. Ask if they want their children involved in their care, or if they prefer to engage a professional provider for these services.

You can help your parents avoid crisis management by sketching out a general care plan in advance, with the understanding the plan will evolve as your parents age or if an accident or medical condition requires the caregiving plan to scale up. You can support your parents in their planning by:

  • Helping them navigate their care options. Explain the various care options available in their area. Get a good understanding of their needs and suggest the types of care that best fit their unique situation.
  • Explaining what to expect. Help your parents (and siblings, if any are involved) understand what is and is not included in each type of care. This helps to set expectations about what the providers can and cannot provide.
  • Helping them connect to resources. In addition to reviewing their care options, you can provide your parents with other useful resources such as CaregiverStress.com.

You can also direct them to more specific resources such as the National Institute on Aging to help families navigate the payment options for care or Genworth’s Cost of Care study.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to help your parents plan for older age is to listen. Hear their concerns and wishes, and then formulate a plan together to help them achieve their goals. With more care options available than ever before, you no doubt can work out a plan that keeps your parents safe, well and happy through the coming years.