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Introduction to Elder Care

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

One of the biggest decisions a family may have to make is to determine how to provide care for elderly parents or relatives (e.g. elders) when those elders are no longer able to live independently. Families resolve this complex and emotionally charged issue in a variety of ways. Some families find ways to provide elders with sufficient assistance such that they are able to safely remain in their own homes. Other families move their elders in with them so as to personally provide care. Still other families find that placing their elder into a care facility is the best solution for all involved.

care facility hallwayFinding appropriate and affordable elder care and assistance is challenging. Determining exactly what type of care will best fit elders' needs is a time consuming process that often requires consultation with medical and eldercare professionals. Locating affordable appropriate and reliable care options is also time consuming. Different types of care are available in different places, while costs and quality vary widely. Identifying and locating appropriate and affordable local elder care resources can become a full time job that is stressful for all participants. Even employers and coworkers can be affected when the strain of eldercare planning makes caregivers less effective at their workplace.

This document is designed as a guide to help families sort through the various issues involved in selecting and locating appropriate eldercare services. The document begins by describing different issues that might cause an elder to require care. It goes on to discuss guidelines for selecting an appropriate level of care suited to a given elder's needs. Next, the various types of generally available elder care are described, followed by a discussion of characteristics that should be considered when evaluating care facilities or in-home care providers. The document ends with a discussion of issues that can arise for families and for elders during the transition into eldercare.