As your parent, relative, or loved one gets older, you’ll be forced to answer some tough questions. How are you going to manage the increasing costs of healthcare? And should you try to keep this person at home for as long as possible or find an assisted living facility?
Ultimately, these decisions are individual ones. It’s up to you to calculate the benefits and risks for each decision you make for your loved one. But there are some massive mental health benefits to consider when it comes to home caregiving.
The Mental Health Benefits of Home Caregiving
Home caregiving essentially means providing care and assistance to an older person (or someone recovering from an injury or disability) in the comfort of their own home. Rather than taking them to a hospital or an assisted living facility, you provide them with care on an occasional basis, visiting them at home to help them with occupational tasks, food preparation, personal hygiene, and some types of medical care.
This is beneficial for the person receiving the care for a variety of reasons, including:
1. Familiar people. Did you know it’s possible to get paid for the care you provide your loved one, via programs like Medicare and Medicaid? In other words, you could become a paid caregiver for your loved one, visiting them on a regular basis and giving them the care they need. Even if you’re not the one providing care directly, the caregiver you choose will likely visit consistently, gradually building a relationship with their patient. It’s valuable for elderly people to engage with familiar people on a regular basis, building relationships and socializing normally.
2. A familiar environment. This is also a familiar environment for the person receiving care. Instead of adapting to a sterile, unfamiliar hospital environment or being forced to make do with an assisted living facility, they get to traverse between rooms they already know and love. If the patient has lived in this environment for many years, this benefit is even more valuable; this is a location filled with memories that they’ll probably be reluctant to leave.
3. Autonomy and independence. Getting care at home is a way to preserve as much autonomy and independence as possible for the aging person. As you might suspect, autonomy and independence are vital for preserving and improving mental health; when a person feels they are capable of self-sustaining, they’re much more likely to take good care of themselves and think positively about their place in the world. As this patient gets older, they may need help with more and more tasks, but in their own home, they’ll be in a much better position to do things on their own.
4. Stimulating surroundings. A home environment is much more flexible and customizable than one you could find in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Together, a patient and caregiver can make the environment more stimulating, hanging up artwork, installing speakers to listen to music, and generally making it easier to move around. This is much more beneficial for mental health than a bland environment with minimal opportunities for engagement.
5. Friends, neighbors, and more opportunities to socialize. Though not always the case, living at home is usually a gateway to more socialization opportunities, especially with familiar people. When you’re living at home, you have more chances to interact with friends and neighbors who live close by, and your family members will have an easier time visiting you. We all recognize that socializing is important for mental and emotional health, and receiving home care is one of the best ways to facilitate that ongoing socialization.
6. Better sleep. Sleep is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for aging seniors. Sleep is an opportunity for your brain to rest and recover, so if you get enough sleep, you’ll feel better, you’ll be more mentally resilient, and you can even reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Most of us, including seniors, sleep better in a home, familiar environment.
7. Lower risk of depression. Seniors are especially susceptible to depression as they get older. Remaining at home, in an environment they love, can reduce this risk, boosting their mood and overall outlook on life.
8. Fewer facility-specific risks. Unfortunately, even good facilities carry some risks. Abusive or negligent caregivers simply aren’t as much of a threat when you provide care at home. You also won’t need to go through the steps of due diligence researching potential facilities.
Is Home Care Always the Right Move?
Home caregiving is the right move for millions of seniors. But it isn’t a perfect approach, and it’s not always feasible. Make sure you have all the information before you make any decisions about the care, health, and wellness of the older relatives in your life.