Recognizing that you need help caring for an aging loved one who’s unable to live safely by themselves marks the beginning of a challenging journey. You might feel overwhelmed by the different options as you consider your senior loved one’s needs, preferences, and financial situation.
Learn about the differences between care at a senior living community and home care so you can make an informed decision.
Understanding community care vs. home care
Home care is care that occurs in a senior’s own home (or that of a family caregiver). Community care is care that occurs in a designated senior community setting.
Types of home care
Seniors who receive home care can age in place and remain within the comfort of a familiar environment. Seniors not only have more control over their surroundings, but they also avoid the process of moving out of or selling their home. Home care provides one-on-one care, companionship, and help with chores.
- Nonmedical home care may include personal home care, homemaker care, and companion care. Home care providers assist with activities of daily living such as dressing or bathing, help with meal preparation and light cleaning, and serve as a source of companionship for the senior.
- Home health care provides licensed medical care and assistance to seniors with health concerns or disabilities. Some home health care agencies have specially trained caregivers who can provide an array of services, including hospice care, wound care, and various therapies.
Types of community care
Often, community care facilities serve seniors looking for long-term care. Large communities can have many staff members on-site. Smaller communities, like residential care homes, may have fewer. Community care settings also offer residents opportunities to interact with one another.
- Independent living communities typically involve a maintenance-free lifestyle and plenty of freedom. Some independent living communities offer minimal assistance as needed, while others have a hands-off approach. Residents enjoy the ability to come and go from the community as they please.
- Assisted living communities offer long-term care for seniors who need assistance with activities of daily living. This type of community care is typically nonmedical. Sometimes respite care is available, allowing your elderly loved one to spend a short amount of time in the community while you take care of your own needs.
- Residential care homes are smaller communities that offer care in a dedicated home. Some residential care homes are licensed to provide specialized services such as memory care. In these communities, residents have live-in caregivers who help with activities of daily living.
- Memory care facilities provide specialized care and environmental accommodations to seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. These communities typically offer security and safety features, specialized architecture and interior design elements, and specific cognitive activities.
- Nursing homes, also called skilled nursing facilities, provide 24/7 licensed medical care. Residents have access to on-site medical professionals who are licensed and trained to attend to their health and personal care needs. Nursing homes typically provide both short-term and long-term care.
Consider your loved one’s needs and compare your options
Perhaps your aging family member is anxious about moving out of their home. Maybe they need daily medical assistance that goes beyond your abilities. Having honest conversations can help you determine the best course of action. Include family members, medical and other care providers, and, if possible, your senior loved one in this decision.
When choosing between community and home care for your senior loved one, you have many factors to consider:
- Your loved one’s physical health, mental health, and needs
- Your loved one’s preferences and where they wish to age
- Your own needs and your capacity to provide care
- Financial circumstances and the cost of home care versus community care
Who benefits from home care?
Seniors who receive home care services get individualized, one-on-one care at home. Nonmedical home care may be right for seniors who need help with transportation, medication reminders, light cleaning, or personal care such as dressing, feeding, or bathing. Home care is also an option for seniors who live alone and need companionship or someone to check on them.
Seniors who need skilled care may benefit from home health care, which provides medical assistance. Home health care is typically prescribed by a doctor for short-term needs, such as rehabilitation and recovery after surgery.
Older adults who hire home care avoid the hassle of leaving their home and moving their belongings. Home care also offers flexibility to families, because schedules can be modified as needs change. You can schedule care to give yourself a few hours of respite per week or cover the hours when you’re at work, or you can find full-time, live-in care.
Your loved one may benefit from home care instead of community care if they:
- Aren’t ready to move into a community setting
- Want to keep their home
- Want to stay close to their family
- Have stable mental and physical health
- Wish to receive medical care in their own home
The ability to age in place within the comfort of one’s own home is desirable for some seniors. However, home care has a few barriers and challenges to consider. For instance, opting for 24/7 in-home care may be more expensive than care in a community setting. In addition, depending on the care schedule that you can afford and that your loved one is comfortable with, family caregivers may still be responsible for providing much of the care themselves.
Who benefits from community care?
The variety of community care available means that your loved one and their unique needs can be taken care of. Many senior living communities also have access to on-site and visiting professionals, such as therapists and medical providers.
Residents who move into long-term care communities have access to desirable amenities and complimentary services. Depending on the community, this can include transportation, on-site movie theaters, and spa treatments. Residents can also participate in engaging activities and connect with one another.
Your loved one may benefit from community care instead of home care if they:
- Want a socially active environment
- Have significant physical or mental health needs
- Want a community retirement experience with amenities and activities
- Need access to licensed medical care outside of their home
One of the barriers to choosing community care is the idea of moving your loved one out of their home and into a long-term care facility. In addition, some family members may find it more difficult to visit their loved ones outside of the senior’s home, as their schedules must line up with the community care center’s visiting hours. Another potential drawback for some residents is the staff-to-resident ratio. In community care settings, seniors don’t necessarily receive the one-on-one care that home care provides.
Understanding the costs of community care vs. home care
Home care costs cover the amount of time a personal or medical caregiver spends in your loved one’s home, whereas community care costs cover care in addition to room and board.
Since home care is scheduled and billed hourly, families have the flexibility to customize the amount of care they receive. In 2021, the median hourly cost of nonmedical home care was $26, and the median hourly cost of home health care was $27. However, costs vary depending on the frequency and type of care, as well as location. Below are the national monthly median costs from 2021 for personal home care and home health care.
Personal home care
- $4,957 for 44 hours per week
- $18,927 for 24/7 care
Home health care
- $5,148 for 44 hours per week
- $19,656 for 24/7 care
Community care costs often occur as monthly rental fees for a private or semi-private room, which may include meals. Costs range from $2,630 a month to $9,034 a month, but these vary depending on the location and type of community. Below are the national monthly median costs for the types of community care.
- $7,908 for a semi-private room
- $9,034 for a private room
Choosing the right type of care for your elderly loved one
If your senior family member is ready for elder care and you need outside help, there are several options available. Find home care or community care options near you and begin a no-cost consultation with a senior living expert.
Genworth Cost of Care Survey (https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html)