All About Senior Care

What is Senior Care?

Eldercare, also known as senior care, is specialized care for the aging population. The elderly have special needs or requirements of care and eldercare is designed to meet these needs at different life stages.    Elder care is the broad umbrella term which covers everything from assistive living, adult day care, and around the clock nursing care.

When is Senior Care Necessary?

Age itself is not a reason to seek or obtain eldercare but rather the various physical limitations and ailments that go along with it. Senior care is not an absolute of aging. Lots of people age independently and successfully into their later years without any need for additional care. Usually, the need for other assistance aligns with a decline in general health that impedes the ability of the individual to complete activities of daily living (ADL’s). The following are conditions that may necessitate additional care.

  • Physical problems
  • Gait and Stability
  • Chronic disease conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease
  • Cognitive problems such as confusion, dementia and memory loss
  • Forgetfulness with taking medications
  • Depression, withdrawal, and loneliness
  • Communication issues
  • Sensory issues such as failing vision or hearing problems
  • Temporary disability such as recovery after surgery

Recognizing the Need for Senior Care

The physical or cognitive decline can happen over time or very quickly. Family members or personal physicians are most likely the first to notice problematic changes. The decision to pursue some senior care often follows the diagnosis of a health condition that hinders the ability to complete activities such as cooking, bathing or taking medications safely. Sometimes changes are not readily apparent as in beginning forgetfulness. Sometimes adult children or visitors stop in for brief visits and their parents seem to be okay.   However, if they would stay for an hour or so, it would become very apparent that all is not right, as their parent would begin to repeat the same story.  Sometimes a person can maintain the normalcy of their home environment, but cognitive limitations become very apparent when the patient becomes hospitalized and off their routine.

Determining the Kind of Senior Care Needed

Every human being is unique all throughout their lifespan, and aging needs can vary widely. A thorough assessment of the physical and cognitive needs of the patient can determine the level of services best able to support them in the least restrictive setting. Each patient requires assessment of the ability to complete activities of daily living safely and consistently.

Senior Care Options

Seniors who require support in the home can benefit from the following services.

  • Meals and transportation like Meals on Wheels and cab services
  • Home care services offer geriatric nurses, private duty aides, and shopping/cleaning assistance.
  • Adult day care is caring several days a week at an outside facility which offers exercise, meals, and socialization.
  • Respite care is when a trained caregiver comes to the home for several hours to give caregiver time to run errands and such.

Housing Options

Senior care housing options are designed to maximize independence and offer adapted equipment and facilities such as adaptive bathrooms.

  • Subsidized apartments and housing for the elderly is an option for poor old people in reasonably good health. Residents live independently but with a community room, access to community meals in a dining room. Residents have access to nursing but not around the clock care.
  • Adult, senior communities are for healthy individuals. Most occupants buy condominiums with options for 24-hour nursing oversight. Leisure World is a well-known example.
  • Assisted Living is for independent persons who require some assistance. Residents receive meals, personal care, laundry services, and nursing services.
  • Rental Retirement communities
  • Personal Care Homes are small, licensed communities that provide shelter, food, care and supervision to residents.

Nursing Facilities

If the older individual cannot stay in a less restricted setting, there are around the clock placement options. Nursing facilities offer skilled and intermediate levels of care.

  • Skilled nursing facilities provide 24-hour nursing care for those with severe medical concerns.
  • Intermediate care facilities provide medical assistance and help with personal care.

Options for Paying for Long-Term Care

Medicare will not pay nor cover long-term needs. Medicare is a federally funded health insurance program that has two parts. Part A is hospital insurance to help pay for inpatient hospital care. Although Medicare will NOT pay for custodial nursing home care, it will pay for up to 60 days for convalescence after being in the hospital. The second part, or Part B, is medical insurance that pays for doctors and outpatient services for a monthly fee.

Medicaid is a joint venture between state and federal agencies to provide health care to low-income people. Medicaid provides payment for the majority of nursing home care, and there are strict income requirements. Recipients must be at poverty level and have limited assets.

Other insurances can be helpful such as Medigap. Medigap is designed to cover some of the gaps in services, but it does not include long-term care. Long-term care insurance is private insurance that pays a pre-established amount for nursing home or home health care. Each policy is different, and care must be taken to read the small print.

The following resource can be used to locate eldercare for a loved one.


Carolyn Falconer-Horne, Ph.D. Candidate
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