Home Care Remains Seniors’ Preference, But Alternatives Gaining Steam

While seniors continue to favor in-home care over alternatives, that preference could weaken in the years to come. Care options that have long been considered less favorable are gaining steam, at least according to one new study.

The paper examined a random sample of 1,783 adults age 65 or older who participated in the 2012 National Health and Aging Trends Study. The research comes from the Department of Health Policy and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the results were published in The Gerontologist.

Participants were asked to choose the best care option for someone else 80 or older who needs help with personal care and mobility.

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As it long has, in-home care came out on top, with six in 10 people calling it the best option for aging. Half of those home care proponents said in-home family help was best, with the other half favoring paid help.

However, preferences for assisted living and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), formerly less popular options, were less predictable. The results showed that roughly three in 10 older adults saw assisted living or CCRCs as the best option. Meanwhile, only 10% of respondents preferred nursing homes.

Even though home-care remains most favorable among seniors, these results suggest that care preferences are evolving, according to Dr. Judith Kasper, one of the paper’s authors.

“As we have seen for many years, there’s still a strong preference for aging in place and being in your home,” Kasper told Home Health Care News. “What is new here is that about a third of people also endorsed the idea of assisted living-CCRC kind of environments.”

Kasper pointed to a 2008 paper she co-authored as evidence. Based on 1990s data from older women with disabilities in the Baltimore area, only about 10% of respondents chose assisted living and CCRCs as their preferred option for senior care. Meanwhile, consistent with Kasper’s current paper, the vast majority favored in-home care.

“To now have 2012 data that suggests that about one in three older people see [assisted living and CCRCs] as an option is a signal,” Kasper said. “I think the other thing is that we do not find any increased interest in nursing homes as a preferred option.”

While the paper doesn’t explain why preferences are changing, Kasper hypothesized assisted living and CCRCs offer people increasingly attractive benefits, such as social engagement and transportation.

Still, preferences outlined in the paper don’t necessarily reflect the reality of care. Only one in three respondents were receiving the type of care they said was best, according to the paper.

“There’s not a great overlap you might expect in terms of people’s preferences and what they have,” Kasper said. “But — I think the other piece that’s harder to interpret — when we looked at living arrangement satisfaction [and] wellbeing, we didn’t see that people who had the match between their care and preferences were really any different form the people who didn’t.”

Written by Bailey Bryant

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