By Lakelyn Hogan, MA

– For many, home was reaffirmed as the center of the universe during the COVID-19 epidemic. It has become our office. It has been doubled to become our children’s school. It has been transformed into our vacation spot. It’s where we eat, rest and unwind every single day. Our homes are the most important place in our lives, and they have been for decades.

This is especially true for the elderly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eight of the 10 COVID-19-related deaths in the United States were people aged 65 and over. These statistics highlight how crucial practices such as sheltering in places and social distancing are for older adults.

Despite the pandemics, many people will always return to their home, no matter what. Research by Home Instead Inc. found that 90% of older adults want to age at home. However, most people can’t do it without assistance. 70 percent of older adults in the 65+ age group will need assistanceAt some point.

How can we honor the wishes and care for older generations affected by the pandemic? The good news? There are more optionsMore people are looking for elderly care than ever before.

Retirement villages and senior apartments are great options for people who can’t age in their own homes. If you have specialized care needs and require high-quality care, there are options such as nursing homes or memory care facilities. None of these options can offer the same flexibility or affordability as home care. Home care is a safe place for seniors. It offers a wide range of services, including companionship, transportation, medication management, and 24-hour care.

You can choose from a variety of home care options to meet the needs of your loved one, whether they are recovering from an injury or dealing with Alzheimer’s or other forms dementia. Your provider can help you find the right fit.

You can have peace of mind by having someone visit your loved one for a few short hours once a week if you are looking after them from afar. Families can consult with their provider about the best level of care, and keep in touch to meet changing needs. A team approach to homecaregiving is a smart decision, especially in difficult financial times. You can share the responsibility with family, friends, neighbors, providers, or even professionals to make sure your loved one is well taken care of. If you feel overwhelmed caring for a loved one, this is a great idea.

Ask for help! Family caregivers have never felt more in need of a break than during the pandemic.

Cost is the most important factor when looking at the options for care. Too many people assume that resources such as Social Security or Medicare will pay the whole bill. While self-insurance and private pay are the most popular ways to pay for healthcare, long-term insurance can be a good option. If you qualify for Medicaid or Veterans Assistance, this could help.

Before the pandemic family caregivers were spending nearly $7,000 per yearCare for an elderly relative by decreasing savings, delaying health care expenses, and taking loans or early withdrawals of their retirement nest egg. COVID-19 has only worsened the situation. These people’s experiences highlight the importance of planning ahead.

However, only half of older adults take the time to do this. The key to finding the right approach for you, or your loved one, is to plan and discuss the options before they are needed.

Lakelyn HoganHome Instead’s gerontologist, Judith Sullivan, MA is her caregiver advocate. Lakelyn works as a professional educator, family advocate, and community member to help older adults. Lakelyn is a Dreamweaver Foundation Vice President and a member of the National Alliance for Caregiving’s Board of Directors. She is also involved in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s.