Caring for a senior at home is a continuously evolving process.
First, there are the long-term plans made with consideration with the current “knowns.” Then, there are the decisions that need to be made in any given moment as the result of the unknowns – a fall, a sudden onset illness, the more rapid progression of an existing condition, or changes in your own life or immediate family structure.
Guide For Proactive Senior Home Care Planning
This guide is designed to help spouses and family members proactively plan for considerations and decisions that take place before implementing a plan for your senior loved one to age-in-place. There are also things you’ll need to handle during the home care experience, as well as for the future date when you’re no longer a caregiver anymore.
Before Caring For A Senior At Home
The more information and resources you have on-hand in the beginning, the easier it is to activate them as needed later on. Some of the most important considerations include:
Big Picture Financials
If your loved one never discussed finances, this can be delicate. However, you must understand exactly where they (and you!) stand in terms of financial security.
We’ve seen clients who thought their parents were well-taken care of in their retirement, only to find that they weren’t. We’ve also seen clients who were shocked to learn their frugal parents had put away far more than anyone guessed.
The reality is that you need to know exactly what’s available to cover their long-term care costs. If there aren’t enough assets to pay for basic care costs, this will drive further conversation between family members to determine how to make it all work.
Helpful articles discussing the cost of home care and how to pay for it are:
- The Cost of In-Home Care For the Elderly
- Financial Planning for Your Senior Parents
- Getting Paid to Take Care of Elderly Parents
Making the Home Safe & Accessible
Our post, Home Modifications Can Enable Seniors to Age-in-Place… provides detailed instructions about making a senior’s home safe and accessible.
Some of the most important things to consider are:
- Installing grab bars near the toilet, bath, and shower areas
- Creating a single-story level including a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen space
- Minimizing trip hazards
- Increasing daytime and nighttime lighting
- Relocating frequently used items so they can be reached easily (without a stepping stool or bending required)
- Having enough room to move safely and comfortably with a wheelchair and walker, including doorways, around tables/chairs, around the kitchen countertops and cabinets, etc.
Even if the senior doesn’t use mobility aids yet or is perfectly capable now, these modifications minimize injury risk and make it much simpler to accommodate any future decline in mobility.
Plan for Independent Transportation
Look into senior transportation options in your area, which range from Uber or a hired driver to public transportation and dial-a-ride. Your local senior center is a fantastic resource for this and other senior-related topics.
If your senior loved one hasn’t given up the keys yet, begin to talk about what the markers would for making that decision. Visit, Safety Behind the Wheel for resources and tips.
Schedule Assessments With Local Senior Home Care Agencies
Even if you plan to provide all of the in-home care via the spouse and family members, it’s still worthwhile to consult with local, licensed home care agencies. These assessments are no-obligation and provide a wealth of information and resources for you and other family caregivers.
You never know when you might need to enlist the help of professional caregivers. Having met with agencies beforehand gives you a good idea of who to contact when/if you need additional support, 24/7 care, or more frequent respite care.
Once You’ve Implemented Senior Home Care
When providing care for a senior at home, each day can bring surprising changes and the need to adapt to a “new normal.” All it takes is one injury, bad flu, a surprise medical diagnosis, or the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia, and the entire routine must shift.
Things to consider at this stage of the game include:
Respite Care Options
Caregiving is demanding, to say the least, and respite care (providing breaks for the main caregiver(s)) is essential to ensure full-time caregivers have days off, take care of their personal/medical needs, have time for self-care, and to attend important family events and/or vacations.
Read, Learn How Respite Care Can Help You, to learn more about this invaluable home care option.
Consider Errand Running & Meal Support
As the physical needs of a senior increase over time, primary caregivers have less time to run errands, grocery shop, stay on top of basic laundry or linen changes, or to prepare healthy meals and snacks.
This is another area where licensed caregiving services help. You can also look into local programs offered by senior centers and volunteers, such as Meals-on-Wheels or grocery delivery services, saving primary caregivers a tremendous amount of time and energy.
Tap Into Support Groups & Emotional Outlets
A myriad of emotions arises when taking care of a loved one, including deep sadness, anger, resentment, and frustration. While respite care is helpful, we also recommend finding local or online support groups where you can connect with others who understand your journey.
Resources for that include:
- Our Resources page
- 23 Popular Online and In-Person Caregiver Support Services
- Alzheimer’s Association (a top-notch resource for caregivers in general, whether your loved one has dementia or not)
When You’re No Longer A Primary Caregiver
It can be surprisingly difficult to transition back into your life when you’re no longer a caregiver. Fortunately, there are two amazing resources to help you navigate that void.
The first is, When Caregiving Ends, written by Donna Schempp, LSCW. The second is the AARP’s, What Happens When Caregiving Ends.
It can be helpful to send links of these articles to your close family members and friends, so they have better insight into what you’re experiencing and where you are at.
Understanding Senior Home Care Options
Caregiving for a spouse or loved one is more than a fulltime job. It encompasses every aspect of your waking – and sometimes sleeping – life. The better prepared you are, the more likely you are to have the resources you need to weather the road ahead with as much presence and grace as possible.