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Your Guide to Senior Care Options

Learn about the different types of in-home care and long-term facility care options available for you or your aging loved one.

Your Guide to Senior Care Options

The vast majority of seniors — nearly 90 percent — prefer to age in their own home, according to AARP’s 2012 United States of Aging survey. And doing so is often more affordable than a care facility such as assisted living and nursing homes.

The decision will come down to your family’s needs and resources, so we’ve broken down care options to age in place as well as longer-term senior housing options for when living at home is no longer feasible. Here’s an overview:

Now let’s go into detail on the most common types of elderly care: 

Home Care

There are two primary types of paid in-home caregivers, which you can hire on your own or through an agency:

1. A non-medical caregiver, sometimes referred to as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), companion care aide, or personal care attendant

2. A skilled caregiver, sometimes referred to as a visiting nurse or medicare-certified nurse. 

Non-medical caregivers offer assistance to family caregivers and to those in need of care, performing duties such as feeding, dressing and bathing, medication reminders, walking/transportation assistance, errands and social support.

Skilled care, also known as visiting nurses, offer a range of services including wound care, pain management, infusion therapy, rehabilitation therapies and medication management. If you or your relative is disabled or chronically ill, skilled care can be a big help.


  • Best suited for those who need some assistance but prefer to remain independent
  • Allows seniors to remain in their own home rather than moving to a nursing home or assisted living facility


  • May be difficult to find a substitute if caregiver/companion is out of town, leaves her job, or falls ill
  • Since the elderly can be vulnerable, it is important to make sure that the caregivers do not take advantage of them and do not have a criminal record
  • Some seniors object to having strangers in their home

Respite Care

What’s the hardest part about respite care? Believing you deserve it, and that it will actually make you a better caregiver. Well, that and taking the first step. As a caregiver, you’re used to rallying the troops. You know how to get things done, so now it’s time to utilize those amazing planning skills for your own benefit.


  • In-home care can make things less stressful for everyone
  • Immediate attention may help to avoid a larger problem down the road
  • Some insurance companies and certain states may pay for or help with the cost


  • Can be expensive if emergency help is required
  • Good communication is needed so that the respite care provider knows exactly what is expected

Adult Day Care 

Adult day programs are designed for older adults and can be a cost-effective alternative to home care. Adult day programs offer a coordinated program of professional care in settings that can range from home-like environments that provide care for 8-20 elders at a time, to larger centers that service a greater number of seniors. Working caregivers rely on adult day programs so their parent, grandparent or spouse isn’t left alone all day.

Adult day programs generally operate during normal business, hours Monday through Friday; however, some are open as early as 7 a.m. to as late as 8 p.m. Some programs even offer services on weekends. A nurse or other health services are on-call, as well as a number of caregivers to assist as needed.

Retirement Communities

Retirement communities represent the entry level tier of senior housing. They are designed for seniors who can live on their own, however, many retirement communities have on-site or nearby assisted living communities or nursing homes.


  • Camaraderie of neighbors at the same life stage
  • Community activities and amenities geared toward the active retiree  
  • The removal of distractions and issues that come with child-centered communities
  • Senior-targeted service providers


  • Lack of diversity in age
  • Artificially protected environment
  • Moving away from a family home
  • Limits on the amount of time underage houseguests can visit

Assisted Living 

Establishments which allow for a senior’s continued independence while providing some care, social stimulation, and, usually, meals.


  • A sense of independence is maintained
  • Socializing and networking with other seniors is facilitated through a shared dining room and other shared facilities


  • Can be expensive, especially if not covered through insurance
  • Some seniors prefer to stay in their own homes and neighborhoods

Nursing Homes

Full-time medical care is provided along with meals, some activities, housekeeping and possibly other services.


  • Constant care is available
  • Experienced personnel, including physicians and nurses, are on staff


  • Some seniors find nursing homes depressing, leading to other problems
  • Some nursing homes do not provide acceptable care and family members need to monitor the care given to be sure it is adequate
  • There may be waiting lists for admittance to certain homes

Hospice Care


Hospice care offers a specific kind of nursing and care for patients who are terminally ill. Patients can receive this care either in their own home or in a hospice facility, depending on the preferences of the patient and her family.


  • Hospice nurses can greatly help a person and his or her family come to terms with the impending death, and make the most of their remaining days together


  • The cost can be prohibitive although some or all of the cost may be covered by insurance or even donated through various charities.
  • Some families and patients aren’t ready to acknowledge that they are terminally ill and so are unable to take advantage of hospice care