Do you stress yourself out wondering whether your elderly mother will leave a pot on the stove overnight or run into another car on the way to the grocery store? These are not idle concerns if you are the child of an aging parent who lives alone and shows signs of mental or physical decline.

To you, it may be as clear as a pool of water that it’s time for Mom to move into a senior living community that can offer some support. But if your mother is dead set against moving out of a home full of good memories, it’s time to consider idea number two, namely, hiring a home health care service.


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Some adult children find a homemaker through word of mouth, but chances are you’ll end up calling an agency, which can provide a home health aide anywhere from three or four hours a day to around the clock. These aides provide services like companionship, meal prep, shopping, and medication reminders. They can also help seniors with dressing, bathing, toileting and feeding, though they can’t give needles or perform other medical tasks. (Agencies typically offer nursing services for an additional charge.)

Before you jump on the home health bandwagon, though, you need to find out if it really would be a viable option for your family. Here’s a few questions to get you started.

How Much Care Does Your Parent Need?

If your mother needs someone to make dinner, help out with the housework and to drive her to appointments, home health care might be a fine solution. However, if she has a complex medical condition and needs anything close to 24/7 care, the cost of home health care will quickly become astronomical.

Take a look at the Genworth Annual Median Cost of Long Term Care in the Nation report, which shows that a home health aide working 44 hours per week costs over $46,000 a year. Compare this to a skilled nursing facility, which costs between $82,000 and $93,000 per year for round-the-clock care, or an assisted living community, a nursing home alternative, which costs $43,539.

Can the Home Be Adapted for Safety?

Before you can consider home care, you need to ensure that your mom’s physical environment does not pose any risks. If your mother has mobility issues, you may need to have a ramp built to accommodate a walker or wheelchair. As well, the house may need to be modified so that the bedroom and a full bathroom (with grab bars) can be situated on the first floor.

How Large is the Home?

If your parent lives in a four-bedroom home complete with a large treed lot and many gardens, you’ll likely spend hours trying to coordinate the services needed to keep a large household running. Your workload might be considerably more manageable, however, if your Mom lives in a small bungalow with a low-maintenance yard.

Where Does Your Parent Live?

Location should also play a role in any decision about home health. If your parent lives in a rural area, home health care options might be limited not to mention community resources – remember, isolation can negatively impact an older adult’s emotional and physical health. On the contrary, if your mother lives downtown she could potentially attend a day program at a seniors’ center, a nice way for her to keep connected with the community. As well, in more populous places, it’s easier to supplement home care with other services like Meals on Wheels, which provides meals for a fee.

Is Companionship Important?

Is your parent content to sit sit at home all day by herself (other than when the caregiver is there) or would she prefer to have more lively activity and friends, like she would get in an assisted living community? Living at home alone can be lonely.

To sum up, home health care services may be a good choice for now if your parent doesn’t require too much assistance, lives in a fairly populous area, and has a home that can be easily modified for safety and accessibility. Even better if your mom has a network of nearby family and friends who will pop in and pay her a visit now and again.

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