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Former Indian American geriatrician Purnima Sreenivasan offers an overview of the various options for senior care. (representational image/pixabay.com)

Aging in any place opens doors to aging as a quality of life movement. Senior care is vast, not all services are needed at all times, and knowing when to seek the right kind of care can be very much valuable. This may sound very overwhelming to our elderly or families with elderly. While some may be covered by insurance, most may not be. While some may be specific to a certain medical or health condition, others may be generalized. The system is so large that our elderly and families do need education, empowerment, support and choices.

Here are different options available, what one must know before making a choice:

  1. Home care: Home care is defined by care rendered to seniors in their own homes mostly but can be at place of aging as well. Mostly paid privately by seniors and their families, sometimes may be covered by insurance. Includes non-medical care strictly (bathing, feeding, cooking, showering, transport, errands, shopping, etc.) Home care provides private duty caregivers, may or may not be vetted, and offers services hourly, daily, weekly, or more. They do not provide any medical help as they are mostly unlicensed for that. The costs and offerings vary by the company. They service patients with chronic medical conditions, need to remain safe, secure. They cannot take care of medical issues not within their reach. They can work in collaboration with home health care and hospice.
  2. Home health care: Home health care is defined by care rendered to seniors in their homes/ place of aging. They include medical care (physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, nutritional counseling, chronic disease management, medication management, medical devices management and sometimes in-home therapy like intravenous medications, enema, etc.) They strictly provide health care and do not help with daily chores, assistance with living, etc. They are usually covered by insurance depending on the location, country, but can also be private pay. There is however a limitation, which is in terms of how long the service is available to the senior in need. These depend on the insurance coverage and need by the patient. They do not cover end of life care.
  3. Hospice: Hospice is defined as end of life care. It is different from palliative care in many ways. In palliative care, a person is helped to remain at their home/ aging place and cared for as the patient or family longer wish acute hospitalizations. They differ in that the people needing this care may not be terminal or have a few days left. They can sometimes become interchangeable. It depends on the decisions of the patient and the power of attorney for health care. Hospice care mean terminal care, and does not always provide only comfort care. It depends on the company as more hospices are now offering more services to help with quality of life at end of life. These agencies again are usually covered by insurance or can also be private pay. There is chance a person can graduate from hospice if they have recovered substantially where they are no longer considered terminal. Discharge from hospice is common and so is from palliative care.

There are other forms of care in senior care. The spectrum includes now counseling, ancillary services that can be complementary to the mental wellbeing of a senior. This article touched on basics of senior care available in communities of the world. They may be called differently in certain parts of the world but the philosophy lies in helping seniors with the care they need. In impoverished communities, it is still a burden and millions suffer with no care. In order to make this equal opportunity, we need massive movement of resources, education and change of our beliefs, mindset and innovate purposefully.

(Purnima Sreenivasan is an Indian American former geriatrician for almost two decades and now an aging tech startup entrepreneur bringing together seniors who need living and care with options, creating opportunities and building communities. She writes blogs on medium under mihygge.)

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