Long-Term Care Facilities vs Home Care: Which is Best for Your Parent?

At some point in the near or distant future, you will need to have an honest conversation about your parent’s care needs. Sometimes, this conversation may result in a medical alert system for in-home and on-the-go use. But when physical and social wellbeing degrades, considering alternative living options becomes crucial to senior health. 

For some families, moving a parent into a long-term care facility is an obvious choice. Your home may be too small to accommodate mom, or perhaps dad lives with a degenerative disease that requires constant care. But for others, moving a parent in with you may seem like a viable option. 

Parents need care, and most people decide to open their homes out of love for their parents, wanting them to be closer, and the belief that love alone is all that is needed. But, before making the decision, you’ll want to think critically about what you think your parent needs versus what they actually need, as well as what they will need over time as they continue to age physically and mentally. When it’s time to have “The Talk”, don’t bring them home – get them professional care.

If you’re on the fence about moving a parent into a senior facility, consult this article to help guide you through this tough decision.

Choosing Assisted Living vs. In-Home Care

The burden of home health care is not always completely visible before making the decision. Only around 7 percent of older adults live in facilities that cater specifically to their needs. Around 80 percent of long-term care services are provided by unpaid caregivers. So, in most cases, the burden of care falls to a family member. What’s more, this unpaid work often comes at a monetary cost; AARP estimates that unpaid caregivers spend between $7,400 and $12,700 per year on health costs for elderly parents.

In other words, asking a parent to live with you can result in a financial, emotional, and social burden – all while not guaranteeing the medical and social care they need to thrive.

That said, some folks may think they have the time, energy, and resources to care for an aging parent. If you’re among the many Americans about to make this choice, consider the differences in care between a long-term living facility and bringing a parent home., as there are many hidden costs and complications.

·         Long-term care facilities offer round-the-clock care. If there’s an accident in the night, you can rest assured that your parent will receive the help they need. By contrast, bringing a parent home means that you, another family member, or hired help will be their primary caretaker. If you are unwilling or unable to provide medical assistance throughout the night, senior housing is the better choice.

·         Care facilities have a professional staff and specialized care. Most people will find that, between working, maintaining the home, and caring for other dependents, they are not equipped to handle in-home specialized care.

·         If your mom or dad has problems with mobility, living at home can be dangerous. Not every home can be easily retrofitted to ADA standards. Those that can often require substantial work to get to compliance. If you are not willing or able to install features to make home living easier for your parent – a wheelchair ramp, widening hallways, and installing anti-scalding temperature controls in the shower, to name a few, you should consider some form of long-term care.

·         Living in an assisted living facility before independence degrades makes transitions easier. If your parent lives with a degenerative disease, like multiple sclerosis (MS), osteoporosis, or Parkinson’s disease, introducing them to a long-term living facility earlier can make later moves and transitions less burdensome.

·         If your parent wants to remain social and live with community support, a care facility can better cater to those needs. When elderly parents live with their children, they typically come to rely on those children for all their social and health care needs. This can foster resentment and frustration, which can degrade the relationship over time.

·         Think about your parent’s range of care needs. For some, this might include simple, everyday tasks, like laundry, housekeeping, and medication reminders. For others, it might involve medication administration, companionship, and using the toilet. If you underestimate your parent’s needs, emotional, financial, and social burdens may arise without the right support. 

The Burden of Becoming a Home Caregiver

The labor involved with caring for elder adults at home is often ignored. In the below video, Ai-jen Poo, the Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, discusses the invisible value these caregivers provide – and how they are not always cared for in return. If you are thinking about caring for your aging parent at home, Ai-jen Poo’s perspective may be illuminating. 

When Home Care is the Right Choice

While most seniors will find support in senior care facilities, there are some cases wherein home care is a more appropriate option. The most persuasive case is for seniors living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. For folks with these conditions, familiar settings are more comfortable than new places. Even if they move from their own homes into yours, being consistently surrounded by people they know inside a place they’ve visited is likely to be more comfortable than a long-term care facility. 

That said, many long-term care facilities are now designed to feel as comfortable and homelike as possible. And, most importantly, these places can help set your parent up for more specialized care later on. In other words, if they enter an assisted living facility when their Alzheimer’s or dementia is in an early stage, the transition into a nursing home or special care unit will be easier.

People living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia need safe, healthy, and structured environments, and not every homeowner is equipped to provide that support. If you feel unable to provide that care – or if you question your ability to provide that care – an independent senior living facility is likely the more appropriate choice. 


Nobody loves your mom or dad, aunt, aunt, uncle or other family member more than you do. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be considering caring for them at home. However, long term care—even what you consider to be “light care”—is tough business that never ends. You can never take a vacation from this. Allow professionals to relieve you from the burden of daily care and reserve the twilight years with your loved one for only the good times together.