5 Reasons to Consider In-home Elder Care

By: Tom Scheve

Four out of five people who receive in-home care receive it from an unpaid friend or relative who's volunteering their help. See more healthy aging pictures.

Whether you're thinking about it for yourself or for a loved one, there are several reasons to consider in-home elder care. While good reasons also exist to turn to nursing homes and retirement centers when appropriate, in-home elder care is usually agreeable, not only to the family members involved in making such decisions, but also to the person receiving the care.

Home care is usually provided in the form of visits that last between two and four hours. Assistance is available in many different forms, including services provided by an occupational therapist, a home health aide who provides help with personal mobility or a homemaker who performs household chores. Volunteers working through churches or community organizations may assist with errands or simply provide companionship.


About seven in 10 people now over the age of 65 will require long-term professional care, and four out of five people who do receive in-home care receive it from an unpaid friend or relative who's volunteering their help [source: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services].

For loved ones struggling to personally provide a satisfactory level of care to an aging relative, the decision to bring professional help into the home to assist with present needs may be a world-changer.

So what are some reasons to consider in-home elder care? Keep reading to learn the five important ones.

5: There's No Place Like Home

Most people spend their entire adult lives caring for themselves. Our sense of independence is easy to take for granted, but never easy to relinquish. This alone makes it a difficult transition for an elderly person whose needs outweigh his or her desire to remain fully independent. The process of losing independence can be more stressful and troubling when coupled with leaving a home where he or she might have lived for decades.

For some (but not all) elderly people, moving to a retirement home can be an upsetting and depressing experience. The environments they nurtured and created around themselves in their own homes are suddenly stripped away and replaced with something decidedly more institutionalized and, well, just different.


Remaining in comfortable, familiar surroundings -- be it one's own home, or the home of a relative or loved one -- can make transitions to later stages of life that much smoother.

All the familiar comforts are there. Routines that have been set in stone for years don't have to be drastically changed. Instead of being placed "away," loved ones in need of extra help can remain a present part of the family setting (or happily reclusive, whichever the case may be). The presence of a familiar face isn't necessarily dependent on a nursing-home visit made by a friend or relative.

Another reason to consider in-home elder care is the difference it can make in someone's pocketbook, as we'll discuss in the next section.

4: It's Cost Effective

Medicare coverage won't pay for most of the costs associated with long-term care for the elderly, whether it's in-home care or residency in a nursing home. Most won't qualify for Medicaid, though Medicaid will cover a large portion of expenses for those who do [source: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services].

The cost of in-home elder care (as well as residency in a nursing home or retirement community) varies depending on where you live and what your needs are. On average, three visits a week from a home health aide will cost $18,000 a year [source: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services]. Your needs may be less or more than that, but in-home elder care is less expensive than other options, and there are financial advantages to extending the use of in-home elder care for as long as possible.


According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average elder-care costs in the United States include the following:

  • $198/day for a semi-private room in a nursing home ($219/day for a private room)
  • $3,131/month for care in an assisted living facility (for a one-bedroom unit)
  • $21/hour for a home health aide
  • $19/hour for homemaker services
  • $67/day for care in an adult day health care center

3: You Can't Bring Yourself to Do Otherwise

For many people, the decision about how to provide care for an aging loved one is heartbreaking, and offers no easy answers. The need for a decision may be apparent for some time, or it may present itself suddenly (following a fall, for instance).

As we age, we begin to think about the later stages of our own lives, and few of us hope for an outcome that requires being placed in a nursing home. Similarly, it's hard to make the decision to place a spouse, parent or grandparent in a nursing home.


Arranging home health care for an elderly individual can be a solution that eases your mind about meeting the needs of your loved one while alleviating worry and guilt that would have accompanied relocation of the loved one to a facility. You won't have to worry about your loved one adjusting to a new environment, or experiencing neglect or abuse. You'll be able to keep closer tabs on your loved one without being the only one responsible for doing so.

In addition to peace of mind, in-home elder care also provides customization of services, as we'll learn in the next section.

2: Care Can be Customized

At-home nursing care can be tailored to fit the exact needs of your loved one.
At-home nursing care can be tailored to fit the exact needs of your loved one.

In most nursing homes, additional services are available for a price, but there's not much of a financial break for someone who just barely meets criteria for being in the facility in the first place. Basically, you can be the easiest-to-care-for person, and it's still going to cost a bundle to secure long-term care in a facility. Not only that, but caregivers' time and attention will be directed toward those with greater needs, or simply divided due to the sheer quantity of residents.

With in-home elder care, you're going to know exactly how your loved one is being treated, and enjoy all the access you want with the caregiver -- after all, they're coming to your (or your loved one's) home.


The care can be tailored to fit the exact needs of your loved one. The visits from home care workers can last two to four hours, or more, depending on the needs of the individual.

Since care is provided on a one-to-one basis, your loved one won't be treated as one of many, or feel "herded" around to a series of scheduled activities. One visit may be focused on physical therapy, and another on cognitive exercises.

By observing in-home care, friends and family can learn how to better care for the elderly family member, and have easy access to ask follow-up questions.

Can in-home elder care reduce the stress on you and your family? We'll talk about it in the next section.

1: Less Stress On You and Your Family

Grandchildren can spend more time with their grandparents when receiving care at home rather than at a nursing facility.
Grandchildren can spend more time with their grandparents when receiving care at home rather than at a nursing facility.

Many services needed by an elderly person don't necessarily require professional help, such as dressing, transportation, keeping up with medications, help getting in and out of a bathtub and fall prevention. As their additional daily needs develop, family members can often provide assistance with these tasks.

However, these needs may in time increase beyond what loved ones can personally provide. That's when families need professional help. Until that help is obtained, the added stress and strain of increasingly greater needs can weigh heavier on family members to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion.


In-home elder care can remove a large burden from the shoulders of a family member who's been acting as primary care giver. Having the extra help will allow you to worry less about the care of your loved one and pay a little more attention to yourself.

Not only that, children and grandchildren can spend more time in a familiar environment with their parent or grandparent than would otherwise be the case. Visits won't necessarily be consumed entirely with personal-care tasks or other assistance, since the home health aide will have provided much of that already, leaving more time for simply talking and sharing companionship.

For lots more information about reasons to consider in-home elder care, see the next section.

Lots More Information

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  • Family Caregiver Alliance. "Groups." (May 23, 2011) http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=347
  • Home Instead Senior Care. Homeinstead.com. (May 23, 2011) http://www.homeinstead.com/Pages/home.aspx
  • Medicare. "Caregivers." Medicare.gov. (May 23, 2011) http://www.medicare.gov/caregivers/
  • Medicare. "Community: Caregiver Stories." Medicare.gov. (May 23, 2011)  http://www.medicare.gov/caregivers/community-stories.html
  • Medicare. "Nursing Homes: Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)." Medicare.gov. Mar. 27, 2008. (May 23, 2011) http://www.medicare.gov/nursing/alternatives/pace.asp
  • Medicare. "Partners Resources for Caregivers." Medicare.gov. (May 23, 2011) http://www.medicare.gov/caregivers/partners-current.html
  • MedlinePlus. "Nursing Homes." nlm.nih.gov. (May 23, 2011) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/nursinghomes.html
  • National Association for Home Care. "What Types of Services Do Home Care Providers Deliver?" nahc.org. (May 25, 2011) http://www.nahc.org/consumer/wtosdhcpd.html#20
  • National Institute on Aging. "Nursing Homes: Making the Right Choice." nia.nih.gov. (May 23, 2011)  http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/nursinghomes.htm
  • Pear, Robert. "Nursing Homes Seek Exemptions From Health Law." The New York Times. May 15, 2011. (May 23, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/16/us/16nursing.html
  • Strength for Caring. "Message Boards." Strengthforcaring.com. (May 23, 2011) http://www.strengthforcaring.com/community/boards/categories.php
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information." longtermcare.gov. (May 23, 2011)  http://www.longtermcare.gov/LTC/Main_Site/index.aspx
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Understanding Long-term Care: Services & Providers." Oct. 22, 2008. longtermcare.gov. (May 23, 2011) http://www.longtermcare.gov/LTC/Main_Site/Understanding_Long_Term_Care/Services/Services.aspx