In-home care vs. assisted living: What's best for your family?

Jerriann Sullivan
June 7, 2018
In-Home Care vs. Assisted Living: What's Best for Your Family?

Adults don't all age the same way at the same time, so having an open and honest conversation with the senior in your life can help determine the best type of care to suit their needs. Two common options for seniors who require care are private, in-home care from a professional and assisted living, which includes medical professionals in a community atmosphere designed for seniors.

Experts say the most important things to consider are the cost of care and the level of daily care needed. Do your research and consider these things. Sit down with your loved one and talk through their current living situation, including their daily, weekly, and monthly routines and their expectations from a caregiver.

If your family member is mostly in good health but gets lonely, an assisted living facility could be the best fit. Assisted living facilities offer a community and scheduled activities to keep residents active and engaged. If your relative dislikes the idea of group living and needs more focused attention, in-home care might be a better option.

All about in-home care

The goal of in-home care is to help the senior in need continue living their life safely and in the comfort of their home or a family member’s home. Healthcare aides, registered nurses, companions or general caregivers can all be integral components of in-home care. A caregiver's tasks and responsibilities within the home will depend on what is most useful and helpful to your loved one. Driving them to doctor's appointments, helping them get dressed, going for walks or making them lunch could all fall under their responsibilities. In-home care gives families the option to customize their care much more than in an assisted living facility.


  • The family member receives private, one-on-one care with a trusted professional based on their needs, likes and dislikes.

  • Your loved one can stay in their home or a family member's home.

  • Your family can interview and hire the caregiver it connects with the most.

  • Your loved one will get to know and build a relationship with one specific caregiver.

  • The care costs can be lower if your loved one doesn't require constant care.

  • In-home care provides flexibility, meaning you could hire a single caregiver to help out with children and senior family members.


  • The cost can be high if your senior family member needs around-the-clock care.

  • If you live far from your family member, it can be difficult to interview, hire and maintain a working relationship with a caregiver.

  • It's difficult to organize backup in-home care in unexpected situations.

  • Seniors need social interaction to avoid health issues like depression and dementia.

  • Unless otherwise specified in your agreement, in-home care wouldn't cover the additional needs of a senior's home life, like grocery shopping, household cleaning, meal prepping, lawn maintenance and medicine pickup and drop-off.

All about assisted living care

While assisted living care environments don't specialize in one-on-one care, most offer a variety of care to service seniors of varying lifestyles. An assisted living facility’s monthly fee typically covers things like housing, scheduled activities, housekeeping needs and transportation to certain events. Once your family has found a few good options, book tours at each facility to attend with your senior so everyone can see what these places are like on a daily basis.


  • Your family member has access to 24/7 care and companionship.

  • With care being handled by the facility, you can focus on spending quality time with your family member.

  • Your loved one will have access to activities, adventures outside the facility and new friendships.

  • If your senior has a medical emergency, there’s trained staff on hand to help.


  • Your family member won't have constant one-on-one care from a consistent caregiver.

  • Your loved one might not like the other guests at the assisted living home.

  • Some people require less social time and may find group living to be too much.

  • Your family member could be asked to leave for any given reason and sometimes without notice.

  • If your family member becomes very ill and requires more focused care, the cost of care could multiply quickly.

Understand the cost of both options

The cost of these care options will also play a role in which choice makes the most sense for your family. Pricing for in-home and assisted living care vary based on city, state and level of care needed. On average, though, the overall pricing for in-home care is comparable to the price of renting a room in an assisted living home.

Genworth puts out an annual report that lists the average cost of care across the country. The 2017 report showed that the average price for a private, one-bedroom room in an assisted living facility was $3,750 a month. It would cost about $3,994 a month for a private, one-on-one caregiver and $4,099 a month to hire a health aide for seniors who need more focused medical attention.

The best way to calculate your specific cost for care is to research the caregiver and assisted living options in your neighborhood, and then call around to ask for detailed pricing. The average monthly cost for either care option likely won't cover many expenses your relative will have, like groceries and meals, personal care accessories, household supplies and any additional medical expenses, like prescriptions.

In-home caregivers and assisted living facilities will accept various benefits to pay their fees, like long-term care insurance policies, veteran's benefits, Medicare, Medicaid and reverse mortgages. It's essential to plan as far ahead as possible, because you don't want your loved one becoming homeless at any point due to finances. If the process becomes too daunting, consider hiring a financial adviser or accountant to help with the expense planning.

Questions to ask before making the decision

Have a conversation with your senior loved one and address the following:

  1. What do you need the most help with daily/weekly/monthly—including medical needs?

  2. Are you physically able to stay in your home, or would it be more financially responsible to be somewhere that is already equipped with what you need?

  3. Do you believe living at home is a burden to your family?

  4. Do you feel lonely when loved ones aren’t able to visit as often as you’d like or need?

  5. How do you feel about living in a group environment?

Tackling these questions honestly and openly can help your loved one and your family make the best decision for everyone involved.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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