The elderly population is growing, and this demographic change has important implications for in-home caregiving. According to a report published by the Family Caregiver Alliance, “the aging population will more than double between the years 2000 and 2030, increasing to 71.5 million from 35.1 million in 2000.” While the number of older people is rising sharply, the corresponding number of informal family caregivers will likely be unable to keep pace. The AARP suggests that the number of available family caregivers will shrink by more than half by 2050. The calculations published by the AARP demonstrate a widening care gap, and the organization recommends urgent policy action that “call[s] for new solutions to the financing and delivery of long-term support services.”
What Types of Services Are Needed?
The AARP also finds that 80 to 90 percent of elderly people prefer staying in their own homes over moving to a care facility. The decreasing number of family members available to provide senior care to this growing segment of the population means that there will be an ever-greater need for professional in-home care providers. Many seniors require little in the way of direct health care in their homes in order to preserve their independence. Often, they simply need minimal assistance with the tasks of daily living. There are several activities where a helping hand can enable them to continue living independently. These include:
- Meal preparation
- Hair and beauty
- Transportation to daily activities and medical appointments
- Medication reminders
In-Home Care Is Efficient
According to Social Work Today, in-home care is expected to become an increasingly popular option as the baby boomer generation ages. The journal article recommends policy and public funding changes that make it easier for older adults to remain in their homes. Too often, seniors and their family members are unaware of this alternative and opt for an expensive and unnecessary move to an institutional setting. Forest Hong, PhD, chair of the Aging Practice Section of the National Association of Social Workers, states: “Several factors may cause seniors to be inappropriately placed or driven into nursing home care. Lack of accurate information and assistance in decision making can result in inappropriate nursing home placement.” For many of today’s seniors, in-home care does the best job of meeting day-to-day and long-term needs.
Kathy Black, PhD, MSW, assistant professor in the School of Social Work at the University of South Florida says:
“You simply cannot put a price on being able to remain in the home … especially those who have lived in their homes for many, many years … The ‘sentiment of home’ is significant and defining for most people, and it signifies independence to many.”
She points out that physical health is improved by the greater sense of personal well-being that results from being able to stay in one’s own home. Further research cited in the article points out that elderly people heal faster, sleep better, and maintain independence longer in the familiar setting of their own home. Freed from the stress and learning curve associated with moving somewhere entirely new, older people are able to navigate all aspects of their lives with more confidence when they remain at home.
The Immeasurable Benefits of Companionship
Friendship is one of the most important human needs. In-home care providers have the time to develop warm relationships with the people they assist, providing company and conversation as well as help with running the household. In-home elderly care has evolved in recent years, so what was once a simple meals-and-housecleaning job has transformed into one of a much wider scope, involving nurturing and independent living support. In some cases, companions accompany elders to theater performances, concerts, or religious events.
Economic Advantages of in-Home Care
The cost of nursing homes varies widely, but standard costs average well over $60,000 per year. The cost of in-home care involving assistance with a few daily tasks is far lower. Light task assistance or meal preparation can often be accomplished in a relatively brief daily encounter, providing the sense of a helpful friend stopping in for a visit.
According to a New York Times article, “Many elders living independently need outside help long before they require round-the-clock care.” A single illness may cause a temporary period during which assistance is required. In-home care can easily be arranged to cover such needs without the disruption of relocation. In light of today’s lengthened life spans and the expectation of continued activity in the senior years, seeking in-home care is the most effective way of sustaining an elderly person’s independent lifestyle for as long as possible.