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Choose extended care option to meet needs
By Allison Matthews
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- As loved ones age and begin to need some level of nursing or assistance in their daily activities, consider a variety of care options to make the most appropriate selection.
Adult children often face difficult decisions about how to care for their aging parents. Needs of the elderly vary depending on their physical and emotional health. Family members have several choices about the types of care available.
"The circumstances surrounding care decisions differ with the family situations. Sometimes a relative can provide in-home care, and sometimes a nursing home or other assisted-living option is a better choice," said Linda Patterson, Extension health specialist at Mississippi State University.
Patterson said the level of assistance needed may be minimal, such as help with one or two daily activities, like preparing a meal or housekeeping. Those who need this type of assistance may be able to remain independent in their own homes with the help of visiting family members or other services.
As the amount of help needed increases, consider new living situations such as retirement communities that provide a wide range of services. Many retirement communities promote independence and offer social and recreational activities. They also have emergency staff available, and many offer help with medication management, housekeeping and meals.
Patterson said older adults also may consider a group home or other arrangement that shares living expenses and lessens the burden of household chores. The elderly often find their larger homes become too taxing to take care of by themselves. Moving to a smaller residence or sharing living costs may lessen household expenses and upkeep.
"Moving in with others whom you are comfortable with and who also are looking for a better living situation is advantageous because it helps you avoid loneliness and isolation," Patterson said. She added it is helpful to have others around in case of a fall or other accident in which an older adult may need help.
As activities of daily living, such as walking, bathing, and even eating, become more difficult to accomplish independently, the time may be right to consider an option with more extensive care and assistance services.
"A nursing home is often the best choice of care for those who require continuous nursing assistance. The responsibilities of caring for a relative who needs this kind of maximum care can be too much for many people to take on at home," Patterson said.
For some families, caring for an elderly relative at home may be a viable option, but consider the many emotional and physical aspects of personal care before deciding whether or not it is best for both the caregiver and the person needing care.
Patterson said family members of the aging should be aware of all care options and explore the costs before making a final decision.
"When touring extended care facilities like nursing homes or retirement communities, take note of the atmosphere. Consider factors like the friendliness of staff, cleanliness of facilities, freshness and quality of prepared meals, and medical capabilities," Patterson said.
She suggested checking with families of residents in an extended care facility to see if they have been pleased with their loved one's quality of care. Also visit with residents to see how content they are with their living situations.