As America Ages, Senior Care Options Flourish
|By MATTHEW PERRONE, AP Health Writer|
About 10 million seniors currently rely on others for daily care, such as help getting dressed, preparing meals or taking medication. That number will only increase as more of the nation's 78 million baby boomers enter old age. Nearly 7 in 10 people will need some form of long-term care after turning 65, according to the
"Nobody wants to go to a nursing home, it's the last resort," says
Nursing homes are the most intensive form of long-term care, including round-the-clock medical supervision. That level of care comes with a steep price tag: the average cost of a semi-private room last year was
Fortunately most seniors won't require extended nursing home care. Only 5 percent will need five years or more in a nursing home.
Less intensive alternatives include home-care services that offer help with meals and household chores, and boarding houses where a small number of seniors live with on-site caretakers. But like nursing homes, these services aren't covered by
"The issue is that these are long-term costs and almost all of it comes out of pocket," says
Insurance policies for long-term care are available, but only about 5 percent of U.S. adults have them. Most families don't plan for long-term care because often the need comes unexpectedly: an elder takes a bad fall or suffers a stroke. Cost is another issue, because policies can run
"The people who can really afford long-term care insurance often have enough fixed income that they don't really need it," says
Groups like the
"Once you're already sick that's not the time to start changing doctors, moving to a new place and depending on your kids," says Bunni Dybins, a senior care adviser with
Here's a quick look at some senior care services to consider:
_ MEDICAL ALERT SYSTEMS: Perhaps the cheapest and least intrusive option, seniors can use medical alert systems to get assistance in the event of an emergency. Services like
"Three-fourths of the care people receive in this country comes from spouses, kids and other relatives," says Firman. "The challenge there is to make sure those caregivers don't burn out, and adult day care becomes an important respite during the day."
The average rate for adult day care last year was
_ HOME VISITING SERVICES: For seniors who want to stay in their homes, visiting services can provide assistance with everything from preparing meals to physical therapy. The typical cost of a homecare service last year was
National companies like Visiting Angels and Home Instead generally cost more, but provide prescreening and background checks for all employees. Hiring a private caregiver can be less expensive, though you may have to do more work in terms of performing background checks and tax requirements, since you are hiring them as an employee. The government offers a website for locating eldercare services in your area: http://www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Index.aspx.
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