Spousal and Family Caregivers
... Options for Senior Care

Content This Page:

Care Options

The Assisted Living Option

Respite Program

Many spouses and family caregivers of seniors need or want to keep working after retirement age due to the economy and living longer.

However, if they have a spouse with dementia, they may not be able to do this--without considering their options for assisted living.

Or you may be the adult child or a friend caring for someone with dementia or one who needs some assistance.

This page is for you.

There are difficult choices to be made when one person--the spouse, friend or family member--must be cared for.

If the person who needs care has issues that keep them from being able to maintain full-time employment, you may find it difficult to be employed if they are home alone all day.

A Frustrating Situation:

Frequent telephone calls from the spouse or family member left at home, pleas to come home early, telling you they feel anxious or lonely.

Even though ones loved one is still fairly independent, emotionally they cannot handle being alone all day or they need actual physical assistance.

What are your options for caregiving?

People solve these problems in many different ways depending on your situation.  These are some of the most common:

  •  Choose to stay home and be a caregiver:

Stay at home and give up your employment, find a part-time job or work from home.

Drawbacks: Caregiving can be exhausting especially if one is older. 

  •  Employ a "homemaker": 

Keep working and have someone come into the home during the daytime hours while you are at work to be responsible for your spouse's meals and companionship. It can be someone you know or you can hire someone from a service for this purpose. These services cost on average $21/hr depending on the services you need or the area you live in (some states and areas cost more than others).

If you need health care, you would have a health care worker come into the home, which is slightly more expensive.

Drawbacks:  It may be difficult to find a companion or homemaker compatible with ones loved one.

  •  Placement in an assisted living residence 

This can be accomplished without you or you can reside as a couple. This may mean selling or renting your current home but there will be help at the residence and you may be able to continue working. This is the most expensive option, but may eventually be necessary if your spouse has a serious disease such as Alzheimer's. Also, depending on your current expenses, an assisted living option may not cost much more.   See Assisted Living Costs.

The same options apply if you are a family caregiver as a spouse.

Drawbacks: A feeling of guilt may be felt.  There may be a series of adjustments and moving may be required if the loved one doesn't adjust.  Cost may be unsustainable.

Which Option to choose can be a difficult decision.

  • Most people choose to take care of their spouse themselves at home. Usually they are retired or near retirement.  They may have to quit a job to devote their time to their loved ones.   

If you choose to stay at home, one should consider combining this with an Adult Day Care program or in-home help.

  • If one places a loved one in assisted living, they should not feel guilty because they are doing, in their opinion, what is best for the person.  Assisted facilities can sometimes care for the person better.  You can visit as often as you like.
  • If you choose the homemaker option, you should monitor the person (and check their background before hiring) to make sure your loved one is enjoying the person and they are receiving good service.   

How many years are spent in assisted living

The average time a person spends in assisted living is only a few years because they wait until the problem is extreme. This is due to the costs and hesitation to put their loved ones in a "home."  A feeling of guilt by many caregivers makes it difficult to do this.

Choosing the Assisted Living Option

The time comes when you or your spouse may consider an assisted living facility where the burden of caregiving is assigned to the facility full-time.   

With a serious disease like Alzheimer's or dementia you may have no choice but to get specialized care, which can be for an additional cost, in home or in an assisted living facility.   Since care giving can be stressful on the one giving the care, assisted living for your spouse alone becomes a realistic option.  It is difficult but it is not uncommon to separate.

For some people separating is not a favorable option.  The costs at a facility for two can vary from an "extra person fee" up to double for two people.  It can be a heavy financial burden and you may decide that you can only afford for one person to be placed in an assisted living facility.

  Some ways to remain together in a facility:

  • There are companion suites at assisted living where couples reside together. 
  • There are facilities that have both independent and assisted living on the same campus where one spouse stays in independent living, and the other in the assisted living, and they can meet up for meals and activities.

Respite Programs

Respite programs offer:

  • Relief for the Caregiver - your loved one stays for a period of time in the care of the assisted living facility while you have a "break" at home from caregiving or you take a vacation.

Drawback: You may not be able to afford this respite program or you may feel guilty about leaving them in a facility.  Authorities advise that you take this break for your own health reasons.  Studies show caregiver's health is at risk without some relief from stress of caregiving.

Adult Day Care

There are also adult day care facilities that do the same thing at a less expensive cost. Your local Senior Center may have such a program.  Visit your local Office on Aging to find the locations of these facilities or search the internet.

Don't be afraid to bring this up with your spouse or family member. You may be surprised that they are understanding of the situation and agree to "trying out" an assisted living facility for a short or long period.

Know You are not alone...

Caregiving can isolate you.  Your loved one needs all your attention yet cannot be as social as they once were.  Therefore, you can begin to feel very lonely.  There are over 48 million caregivers of older adults. There are support groups available to connect and share with other caregivers.  There are adult day care centers for socialization.  Contact a local assisted living facility to ask if there are any groups in your area.

Here is a supportive foundation website by Leeza Gibbons whose mother had Alzheimers (you can take a Caregivers Stress Test on the site) Leeza's Place with Leeza Gibbons.

Take Time to De-Stress

Stress is one of the results of constant care giving. Make the time to use these top techniques at home to help relieve depression and stress build-up: 

  • Music 
  • Meditation
  • Yoga classes
  • Massage
  • Whirlpool bath or hot/cold showers 
  • (Tip: Take a foot bath right before bedtime in hot water up to calf.)
  • A long walk
  • A good night's sleep
  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise

Also, be sure to read our article about getting care for caregivers.

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