Dear Donna:

My parents both turned 80 this year and still live independently in their own home. Recently, I’ve noticed signs that have me wondering if we’ll need to make a change soon. Their house isn’t quite as clean and cared for as it’s always been, and even my mom’s physical appearance is a little less tidy.

I think it’s time for me to start exploring senior care options. One thing I don’t quite understand is how home care is different from assisted living. Do they offer the same services? Is it cheaper to stay home and hire a caregiver? My parents have the means to do either but have always been frugal. Finances will be an issue that impacts their decision.


Haley in Traverse City, MI

Home Care versus Assisted Living for Older Adults

Dear Haley:

Planning ahead is always a great idea when it comes to aging parents and their well-being. Failing to create a backup plan often means adult children are forced to find senior living after a loved one experiences a health crisis or accident. That makes an already stressful situation even worse.

When you are assisting an aging parent who is investigating their options for care, deciding between home care and assisted living is a common struggle. It really comes down to whether a senior loved one can age in place with support like home care or if they are better off transitioning to an assisted living community.

Cost plays a key role in making this decision. Many people mistakenly believe it is less expensive to age at home. Assisted living costs can be equal to or lower than remaining in a private home.

Other factors to take into account when comparing aging in place with assisted living include your parents’ health, availability of loved ones nearby to provide assistance, and the safety of their home. Many older homes aren’t built with the needs of seniors in mind. It can put them at increased risk for falls, which are a leading cause of serious injury among older people.

Here are a few more expenses to consider when deciding between aging at home and moving to assisted living.

Costs of Aging in Place versus Moving to Assisted Living

  • Home maintenance and modification

When aging parents live in a home without a mortgage, it’s easy to assume staying at home and hiring an in-home caregiver is less expensive. Sometimes it is, at least temporarily.

In addition to utilities, however, a homeowner must also pay for maintenance and upkeep, property taxes, and repairs. Appliances will need to be replaced on occasion, including major appliances like the furnace, water heater, and air conditioning.

Depending upon the home and the seniors’ abilities, safety modifications, such as installing a step-free shower or improving lighting, might also need to be made. Those will significantly increase expenses. Older adults who age at home will reach a point when they can no longer maintain their home independently. They often need to hire service providers for chores like housecleaning, lawn care, grocery shopping, and meal preparation. One benefit of assisted living communities is that these expenses are typically included in the base monthly fees.

  • Personal care

The aging process can bring unavoidable physical changes. Some might make the activities of daily living difficult for an older couple to handle independently. Personal care tasks, such as bathing, grooming, and dressing, might require a helping hand. That’s also true for menu planning, meal preparation, and transportation.

If your parents eventually need to hire an in-home caregiver for assistance, the expense can quickly add up. The cost of private duty home care has risen significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic. Agencies now charge from $28 to $40 or more an hour, and many require a minimum number of hours per visit or per week.

By contrast, assisted living residents receive much of this support as part of their monthly fee. This includes meal preparation, housekeeping, wellness programs, personal care, transportation, and more. Unlike with home care, assisted living caregivers are on-site and available around the clock.

I hope this information is helpful, Haley! Please contact the Heritage community nearest to you if you have any more questions or would like to schedule a tour.

Kind regards,