What’s the cost of homecare? There are a number of factors that determine how much you’ll pay. Let’s look at those and ways you can afford the care you or your loved one needs.
First, it might be helpful to define some boundaries. By homecare, we mean non-medical help with day-to-day activities that you would have likely done by yourself at an earlier time in your life. (If you need a fully qualified nurse or another qualified medical practitioner then that’s beyond the scope of this article.)
So, you’ve made the decision that you want to age at home. That’s quite understandable. It’s familiar plus you love your independence. It’s comfortable too but you (or maybe your friends or family) know you need extra help. Well, there are a lot of good things about home care. You get the care you need, help with day-to-day chores, a companion, assistance with personal hygiene, and someone to oversee your dietary and medication needs.
Know The Signs
Don’t wait too long to get help! For many, something tragic like a slip, fall, or overdose happens before help is sought out. Here are some warning signs that homecare is needed:
- Forgetfulness or confusion: We all become more forgetful as we get older but significant memory loss can be a sign of dementia. Additionally, it could also result from not taking medications as prescribed. If you or your loved one are missing appointments, getting lost, forgetting to pay bills and other such behaviors then seek out medical help and get someone in-house to lend a helping hand.
- Poor Nutrition: Are the planning and preparation of meals onerous? Is the grocery shopping that’s needed to make these meals not being done? Poor nutrition can lead to serious health issues and having a paid caregiver can ensure that these important tasks are completed.
- Poor Hygiene: Declining hygiene can be a tell-tale sign that something is wrong. Unkept hair, body odor, dirty clothes, and unbrushed teeth are all signs that action needs to be taken. If a loved one exhibits a downward change in grooming then home care may be needed.
- Problems Driving: Accidents? Near misses? Traffic tickets? Losing a driving license is a huge blow to independence but when the alternative is potential injury or death then something must be done. It’s a touchy subject for sure because not being able to get around town by car means potentially doing less or relying on others. Taxis, public transit, and ride-sharing (Uber, Lyft) may be good substitutes. A caregiver with a driving license might work too (but don’t forget the insurance implications).
- Poor Housekeeping: If living quarters are a mess with things like dishes continually not being done, dirty clothes strewn around, an overgrown lawn, or the bathroom not being cleaned then there’s obviously a problem. Certainly, a housekeeping service can fill that gap but if there are other issues like the ones mentioned in this section then a paid caregiver might be the route to go.
- Loneliness and Isolation: One drawback for widowed people is the loneliness associated with living by themselves. Lack of mobility can only make this worse. A caregiver can help mitigate these feelings by providing companionship.
- Medication Management: Not taking your medicines on time and in the right amount can have negative consequences. A pillbox can help and drug stores offer blister packs too. What’s a blister pack? Blister packs contain designated sealed compartments for medicines to be opened and taken at particular times of the day. Additionally, a caregiver can help make sure that those pills are taken and that any orders from a doctor are followed. There is also a free and useful smartphone app that can help manage medications called MyTherapy. You can find out more about it in my article Best Apps for Seniors.
- Falls and Mobility: As we get older, we lose strength and our bodies fail us. It’s sad but true. The CDC reports that each year over 3,000,000 Americans are treated in emergency departments for a fall injury. It doesn’t have to be that way. A caregiver can be there to ensure that you or your loved one don’t become just another statistic. Additionally, a caregiver can help with bathroom tasks, dressing plus getting in and out of bed.
The Cost Of Home Care
Ultimately, the cost of homecare will depend on three things:
Number of Hours
How much care is needed? Do you need someone for a few hours a day or must someone be there around the clock? Cost is definitely a consideration for many people. You may have to ask yourself what tasks can friends and family do and what will a care provider do. When planning, keep in mind that some agencies may insist on a minimum number of hours.
Type of Care
The mental and physical state of you or your loved one will also affect the cost. Someone to come in and make the odd meal or be an occasional driver to a medical appointment will be at a substantially lower cost than around-the-clock care.
Finally, extra costs will be incurred to support the person needing help. This is not static and will change over time as the person gets better or deteriorates. Mobility aids may need to be purchased. These things may include wheelchairs, canes, scooters, and other types of equipment. Also, aging at home has its own list of items like grab bars, special motorized recliners and, silly things you might not think of like, special toenail clippers. The list can be extensive and expensive!
Also, a caregiver not only needs to be paid but there may be other associated costs that must be covered. For instance, car insurance. If the homecare giver needs to drive a car then you may have to adjust insurance coverage. Brainstorming a list of these types of costs is useful. Don’t forget to leave some contingency if you can to cover these unexpected costs.
Genworth’s Cost of Homecare
Genworth, a company with over 145 years of experience, knows the business of in-home care. They’ve been helping their customers navigate their caregiving options, as well as, offering related financial advice. The Genworth 2020 survey on the cost of homecare indicates just what you expect. The cost of homecare can be incredibly expensive! Note, that the costs below are based on 44 hours a week and are a national average. There is a large variation from state to state.
Genworth defines Homemaker Services as, “Services providing help with household tasks that cannot be managed alone. Homemaker services include ‘hands-off’ care such as cooking, cleaning, and running errands.” Their survey indicates an average monthly cost of $4,481 per person. That’s approximately $25 an hour.
Home Health Aide
As for personal care, GenHome calls this Health Aide Services. It’s defined as, “home health aides offer services to people who need more extensive care. It is ‘hands-on’ personal care, but not medical care. The rate listed here is the rate charged by a non-Medicare certified, licensed agency.” The cost of that comes in at $4,576 per person. That’s roughly a bit more than $25 an hour.
Paying for Homecare
The costs are quite sobering and the costs are beyond what many families can pay. So, what are the options for trying to cover these costs?
Out of Pocket
Out-of-pocket means, just that, you or your loved ones choose to pay for the services yourselves. You use your salary, pension, or savings as you need and can afford it.
You may have seen the advertisements on TV. You get to stay in your house as long as you want. A mortgage is placed on your house and then a periodic payment is deposited in your bank account. When you pass on or move to different accommodations, the stream of payments received, with interest, is applied against the value of your home.
Life and Health Insurance
There are really two aspects to utilizing insurance.
The first is to liquidate life insurance for its cash value to help pay for the cost of homecare. The insurance may have been purchased for other objectives but if the need is urgent and other funds are not available then getting access to this money might be the right thing to do.
Also, check with your health insurance company or managed care plans. You may be eligible to have some of the cost of homecare covered as part of your private insurance.
Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans Benefits Administration may pay for part of the cost of homecare. Also, check with your State and local government to see what services they provide.
Charities or NGOs (non-governmental organizations) can be a source of assistance. Service clubs like Rotary, Lions, and Shriners do great work for those in need. Wheels on Meals is another wonderful organization that might be able to help.
A Great First Step
It’s easy to be discouraged. Getting old is hard. If there is a bright side, it’s that you’ve taken a step to improve the quality of your life or that of your loved one. Information is power and with it, you can find a path to make the “golden years” better!