Elder Care Articles, Research & Resources

Leigh Morgan
Leigh Morgan
Last updated:
Erin L. George, MFT
Erin L. George, MFT
Medical editor

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What Is Elder Care?

As people age, their bodies go through many physical changes. These changes often lead to poor balance, muscle weakness, reduced flexibility, and other problems that make it difficult to perform basic activities. (1) Cognitive decline is also a concern, as approximately 10 million new cases of dementia are diagnosed each year. (2) Seniors with physical or cognitive impairments may not be able to live independently, resulting in a need for ongoing care.

Elder care is a broad term used to describe services designed to help senior citizens maintain their health and safety. It includes unpaid care provided by family members as well as paid care provided by adult day care centers, assisted living communities, home health agencies, and nursing homes. Some seniors need full-time care, while others just require a little assistance with preparing meals, doing household chores, and getting to the grocery store or doctor's office. There are many types of elder care available and finding the right one for you or a loved one will require some research.

Before choosing a care provider, every senior should undergo a geriatric care assessment to evaluate their ability to live independently. This type of assessment is used to determine what type of assistance a senior needs and identify services that could help them increase their quality of life. (3) A geriatric care assessment is also helpful for determining how involved family members can be in helping a senior stay as safe and healthy as possible. While planning ahead for caregiving can be a challenge, it’s worth getting a head start on for the sake of your loved one.

Elder Care — In The News
Just Half of Nursing Home Staff Getting Flu Vaccine

TUESDAY, Feb. 3, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Only about one in two U.S. nursing home workers gets an annual flu shot, a new study says. "Low staff vaccination rates put vulnerable populations at risk of contracting influenza," wrote the authors of the study in the February issue... Read More

Senior-to-Senior Aggression Common in U.S. Nursing Homes

FRIDAY, Nov. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly adults who live in nursing homes may commonly deal with aggressive or inappropriate behavior from fellow residents, a new study suggests. The study of 10 centers in New York state found that, in the space of just one month, nearly 20 percent... Read More

Health Tip: Make Home Safer for Alzheimer's

(HealthDay News) -- People with Alzheimer's disease may wander or forget how to use household appliances such as a stove, making home a more dangerous place. The Alzheimer's Association discusses how to make home safer: Install Dutch doors or folding doors to limit access to areas such as the kitchen... Read More

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What Is In-Home Elder Care?

In-home care, also known as at-home elder care, refers to all the services provided in a senior's home. The type of care provided depends on each person's needs. Seniors with chronic health conditions hire home health nurses to administer medications, provide wound care, and perform other medical services. The potential benefits of in-home health care include increased independence, better symptom management, and improvements in physical functioning. (4)

Some seniors hire home care aides to provide assistance with a wide range of activities. These aides aren't licensed medical professionals, but they have training that enables them to assist seniors with activities of daily living, housekeeping, meal preparation, and other tasks. (5) A home care aide may provide assistance with bathing, using the bathroom, getting dressed, walking, or eating. (6) It's also common for this type of care to include grocery shopping and transportation to medical appointments.

Certain agencies specialize in providing in-home care to seniors with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Available services include memory support, behavior management, medication assistance, and monitoring of vital signs. Caregivers typically provide 24/7 supervision, allowing them to recognize new symptoms or note when a senior's dementia symptoms are getting worse. (5)

Cost of In-Home Elder Care

The cost of elder care depends on several factors, including a senior's location, what type of care they need, and how many hours of care are needed each week. In the United States, the median monthly cost of nonmedical home care was $4,957 in 2021. (7) The median cost of home health care was slightly higher, coming in at $5,148 per month. On an hourly basis, this translates to a median of $26 to $27 per hour, depending on the type of care needed.

Location has a major impact on the cost of senior care, especially for seniors in cities known for their high cost of living. Although the national median for nonmedical home care is $4,957, the median in New York City is $5,339. New York City also has median monthly costs of $5,529 for home health care. For seniors in San Francisco, the cost of in-home care is even higher. Nonmedical home care has a median monthly cost of $6,864, while home health care has a median monthly cost of $7,150. (7)

What Is Outpatient Elder Care?

Outpatient elder care is provided outside the home, but it's not as intensive as the inpatient care provided in nursing homes and other residential facilities. Adult day care is one of the most popular outpatient care options. Although the services available vary, adult day care centers typically provide some combination of personal care, structured activities, and health care services to keep seniors safe and help them maintain their independence. (8) This type of care is beneficial for seniors because it gives them opportunities to get out of the house and socialize, which may help prevent loneliness and isolation.

Some adult day care centers have comprehensive health programs, giving participants access to medication management, incontinence care, and other valuable health services. It's also possible to find adult day programs for seniors with dementia and other serious health conditions. (8) These programs provide specialized care, ensuring that eligible participants have access to the services they need to stay safe when their regular caregivers aren't available.

Cost of Outpatient Elder Care

Outpatient care is much less expensive than in-home care. In 2021, the median monthly cost for adult day care in the United States was $1,690. (7) This is about $78 per day depending on how many hours of care are needed. As with in-home care, location makes a big difference in determining the cost of outpatient services. The median monthly cost of adult day care increases to $1,950 per month for seniors in New York City and San Francisco. In contrast, the median cost of adult day care in Miami is just $1,517.

How to Find Elder Care for Senior Citizens

There are several elder care resources available to help you find the right help for you or a loved one. The Administration for Community Living (ACL) offers a tool to help seniors and their family members find elder care assistance. (9) The ACL's Eldercare Locator doesn't list individual service providers, but it provides contact information for Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) and other agencies tasked with promoting the health and welfare of senior citizens in the search area. These agencies can provide referrals to trusted care providers, making it easier to find in-home and outpatient care.

When looking to help find elder care for a friend or family member, it's important to remember that each person and their situation is unique and that being open-minded and flexible can be helpful when striving to find a solution that works for everyone.