Is Aging In Place More Dangerous Than Moving To A Nursing Home?

If you’re a caretaker for an older adult, there are few bigger decisions you’ll have to make than where your loved one will live and who will take care of them. This decision has become especially fraught in recent years as the movement for aging in place has taken hold. This shift has left many wondering whether aging in place is actually preferable to placement in a skilled nursing facility and what factors should inform this choice.

The Challenges Of Aging In Place

Aging in place, meaning that an individual continues to live in their home and receive care there, has grown in popularity because it’s viewed as more comfortable, a way of keeping seniors engaged in the community, and generally less stressful for senior adults – and it’s true that it offers a lot of benefits. However, there are also a lot of challenges that comes with aging in place.

One of the major issues involved in aging in place is that keeping aging adults at home can be more dangerous if the home has multiple floors or features other accessibility issues. Families often need to invest a significant amount of money – anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 – modifying the space for accessibility and safety.

Distribution Of Risk

If you’re going to have to invest a lot of money in modifying your loved one’s home to ensure that it’s safe for them to live in as they age, it’s easy to assume it would just be easier and safer to opt for a nursing facility – but don’t make that leap just yet. Nursing homes and similar facilities can also present major risks.

As many as 2,000 seniors die as a result of nursing home falls every year, with many thousands more injured. Yes, these spaces are designed to be safer and there tend to be an abundance of grab bars and other safety precautions, but seniors are fragile. Many are at a high risk of falls, regardless of their environment and those with both cognitive and physical issues are more likely to disregard safety precautions surrounding their mobility. Simply put, there is no assurance of safety when it comes to senior care.

A Question Of Needs

Finally, as you consider whether aging in place is the right choice for their relatives, ask yourself what their specific care needs are. For example, does your relative need skilled nursing care? Would they be fine with a few hours of support during the week? These needs are likely to change over time, so even if you choose aging in place, you’ll need to reevaluate that if their support needs increase.

There’s also a difference between placing a loved one in an assisted living facility with multiple levels of care and a traditional nursing home. Assisted living facilities can also provide opportunities to socialize, helping prevent the isolation that so often impacts seniors who are aging in place. Obviously, socialization is a secondary concern to medical care and safety needs, depending on where you live and the needs and temperament of the person whose care you’re arranging.

There is no single right answer when choosing between aging in place and placing a relative in a care facility. Indeed, the right answer will vary by person and over time, as well as based on the particular resources available in your area. Much as with raising children, you just have to do your best and be willing to change course as needed. And don’t forget that your love and attention will play a key role in the success of any arrangement.

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