Independent Living vs. In-Home Care

Many people hope for the opportunity to remain in their own homes as they age. For some, home care can provide a viable option for maintaining health, safety and a desirable quality of life at home.

However, home care does not meet everyone’s needs. Some people find that a supportive living community offers an ideal environment for receiving high-quality care and continuing to engage through stimulating programs and social interactions.

If you’re wondering about the best option for you or a family member, consider the differences between an independent living community and in-home care.

What Is Independent Living?

Independent living is a supportive environment for individuals who can benefit from enhanced services. Free from the burdens of home maintenance, independent living residents enjoy their time and freedom on their own terms.

In most cases, residents of independent living can live safely on their own and can provide for their health and well-being without significant assistance. However, independent living residents choose among a range of services that support their independent lifestyles as well as their convenience and comfort.

Within independent living communities, individuals enjoy their own private apartments that they decorate as they wish to suit their personal preferences and needs. Residences include attractive finishes, along with amenities such as full kitchens with stainless steel appliances, washers and dryers, and included utilities.

Independent Living: Who Can Benefit?

Individuals who have reached retirement age and wish to experience a maintenance-free lifestyle may benefit from independent living. Communities offer a variety of options for services, amenities, programs and events.

In many cases, individuals who decide to move to independent living determine that their existing home is more space than they need, or maintenance may have become too much of a burden. Some people decide to move to independent living communities because friends have relocated, to be closer to family members or their local community lacks activities and amenities they desire.

Many independent living residents choose communities that offer additional supportive care. They gain peace of mind from knowing that care is available should they need it in the future.

Independent Living: Services

Independent living communities offer a range of services, which can vary by community. Most communities offer dining services, and some even offer all-day dining, but meal plans and other options differ among communities.

Communities typically provide security services, including electronic call systems, smoke detectors and 24-hour staffing by security personnel. In addition, independent living communities may provide some transportation, often to medical appointments, shopping and planned outings.

In independent living, residents can participate in a wide range of activities to support intellectual and social well-being. Activity calendars typically include lectures, classes, day trips, musical performances, clubs and group meetings and numerous social opportunities.

Other services — including housekeeping and laundry — may be provided as part of a monthly fee or on a pay-for-service basis.

Independent Living: Choosing a Provider

Individuals who wish to move into independent living should research and visit communities in their geographic area. Communities vary in the services they provide, levels of living, pricing, amenities and other areas.

If you decide to research independent living communities for yourself or a family member, consider the level of assistance you need. Are you able to live on your own safely, without additional help? If so, an independent living community may meet your needs. Other supportive living options may serve your needs better if you require additional assistance.

When you review independent living communities, be sure to ask any questions on your mind and get a full tour of each community before you make your decision. While you want to understand the details of each community — including the services, amenities and levels of supportive care offered — also consider how you feel when you enter the community. Does it feel like home, and do you envision yourself living there?

To assist you in making the right decision for yourself or a family member, Homestead at Hamilton offers a resource guide for Navigating Retirement Living Options. This interactive workbook provides tips and checklists for comparing senior living communities and can be downloaded here.

What Is In-Home Care?

In-home care refers to having one or more trained home health assistants spend time within someone’s private home. Aides can provide assistance with services, including nursing care such as administering medications, changing wound dressings and engaging in physical therapy exercises. In addition, home health assistants can help with personal care needs such as bathing, dressing and eating.

In-Home Care: Who Can Benefit?

Individuals who need a variety of supportive services in their own homes may benefit from in-home care. In many cases, people choose in-home care when they need temporary assistance, such as after surgery or a hospital stay.

People who need ongoing, part-time assistance also may benefit from home care. If a couple wants to continue living in their own home but one spouse has difficulty with bathing and dressing, for example, a home health aide might come in for a few hours a day to assist. The more care and personal assistance an individual needs, the more hours they will require in-home care.

In some cases, an individual who needs around-the-clock care may choose to remain in their home rather than moving to a supportive living community. For personalized and intensive care, a family may choose a team of caregivers to provide separate medical, domestic and companionship services.

In-Home Care: Services

Individuals who need care at home can secure a wide range of services through a variety of providers. Care at home also can give an individual a high degree of flexibility. For example, a couple may need only part-time, temporary assistance after one spouse has surgery; a home health aide can come into the home for several hours a day to assist as needed.

In addition, individuals who wish to remain in their own homes can personalize their care by assembling a team of home health providers. Health care aides, physical therapists, registered nurses, social workers, companions and other specialists may play a role in providing care at home.

Depending on the qualifications and experience of a home health provider, services may include care for injuries or wounds, administering medications, managing catheters and IV medications or nutrition, and monitoring vital signs including blood pressure and heart rate. In addition, aides may provide companionship, transportation, cooking and housekeeping services. They may also assist in educating individuals who require care, along with their family members, in techniques for managing specific conditions or health needs.

Some home care agencies offer enrichment services designed to help individuals maintain a high quality of life. Activities offered may include attending spiritual or religious services, playing games, going for walks or attending social events.

In-Home Care: Choosing a Provider

Individuals who need in-home care may work through an agency or hire individuals on their own. Working through an agency may offer several advantages, including stricter training standards and background screening of employees. When hiring one or more aides to provide care in the home, an individual or family bears the responsibility for ensuring that the worker is qualified to provide the promised services. In addition, it is wise to conduct a background check before hiring someone to work in your home.

Whether they are hired through an agency or privately, home health aides may provide care for only a few hours — either daily or several times a week. They also may provide care for longer shifts, including staying overnight at the home of the person who requires care. The amount of time provided varies based on the needs and financial resources of the individual or family.

What qualifications should you seek in someone who will provide in-home care? It depends on the services you or your family member will require. Companionship, domestic services such as housekeeping and laundry, and personal care services such as assistance with eating and bathing may not require specialized training.

However, if you or a relative need medical care, including changing wound dressings or checking vital signs, you should ensure that the care provider has the appropriate education and professional credentials to administer the needed services.

Advantages of Independent Living and In-Home Care

Independent living and in-home care provide two very different types of supportive living, and each has its own benefits.

For individuals who are recovering from an illness, injury or hospital stay, temporary in-home care can serve as an ideal solution. In most cases, individuals who need care on a temporary basis do not wish to vacate their residences and make a permanent move to a supportive living community. In such cases, in-home care can meet a variety of needs.

With in-home assistance, a recuperating individual can experience enhanced safety and quality of life over attempting to manage alone. For individuals living with spouses or other family members, in-home care can relieve the burden placed on others within the household, especially if for family members with health challenges of their own.

Depending on the degree and variety of assistance needed, in-home care can cost less than a permanent move to a supportive community. Because charges are often assessed on an hourly basis, individuals who require only part-time help do not pay for more assistance than they need. For those who require around-the-clock assistance or help from a variety of professionals, however, costs can mount and can exceed those for a supportive community.

For individuals who can benefit from supportive services and amenities — but do not require them for maintaining safety and well-being — independent living offers an attractive option. Freed from the maintenance and chores that accompany homeownership, independent living residents have time to explore their interests and hobbies. Instead of cleaning and engaging in yard work, they can travel, spend time with friends and family members, pursue their interests and create a life they will enjoy for years to come.

Independent living residents benefit from the variety of services offered — including transportation, housekeeping, maintenance, dining, planned activities and wellness programming. In addition, they can enjoy the many amenities and welcoming common spaces in the community. From the fitness center to the dining rooms, meeting spaces and beautifully landscaped grounds, amenities in independent living add to enjoyment and quality of life.

Many people choose independent living communities because they know they will have access to additional care options should they require them in the future. Some communities include independent living along with supportive environments such as assisted living and memory care. Independent living residents gain peace of mind knowing that should their health needs change, they will not need to make arrangements for care; their community offers additional levels of support to meet their needs.

Homestead at Hamilton: Independent Living and More

Homestead at Hamilton, in New Jersey’s historic Hamilton Township, offers personalized, supportive living, multiple dining options and a unique approach to wellness on our 24-acre campus. To schedule your visit, please contact us today.


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