Eldercare Misperceptions and Myths

As with many things in life, there are misperceptions and myths about when it comes to aging and different types of eldercare. Through this article, we tackle seven of the more persistent myths about eldercare:

  • Dementia is to expected
  • Medicare covers most costs of in-home care
  • Assisted living provides around the clock access to medical care
  • All nursing home residents are senile
  • Nursing home residents have few legal rights
  • Nursing homes offer only basic care
  • Once in hospice care there is only one way out

Myth #1: Dementia Is to Be Expected

More so today than in the past generation there is a persistent myth that a person can expect to get dementia when they get older. Yes, most people experience some decline in cognitive functioning in their 70s and 80s. With that said, only a relatively small number of older adults develop some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. 

Research studies demonstrate that about 12 percent of 84-year-old individuals have some a significant level of some type of dementia. By 89, the number rises to approximately 25 percent. Conversely, 75 percent of 89-year-old individuals in the United States do not have dementia. 

Myth #2: Medicare Covers Most Costs of In-Home Care

Some people operate under the misperception that Medicare will cover most of the cost of in-home care for an older individual. The fact is that Medicare will pay some costs of in-home nursing or therapy for a short amount of time after a person is released from the hospital. 

Medicare simply is not designed to pay for the types of in-home care many individuals need. For example, Medicare will not pay for such things as:

  • Assistance with bathing
  • Assistance with dressing
  • Assistance with housekeeping
  • Assistance with cooking

An in-home care aide will undertake these tasks, but Medicare will not pay for that assistance. On the other hand, there are some long-term care insurance policies that do cover this type of in-home assistance for an older individual.

Myth #3: Assisted Living Provides Around the Clock Access to Medical Care

There is a notable amount of confusion about what assisted living does and does not provide a resident. Assisted living is not designed to provide an individual around the clock access to medical care. If there is an emergency, certainly an assisted living facility will obtain medical assistance. An assisted living facility typically provides transportation so that a resident can attend appointments with his or her own doctor. But a typical assisted living facility does not have a healthcare provider on staff.

Assisted living is designed to aid a person who has problems taking care of some issues of daily living. For example, assisted living is equipped to provide a resident assistance with the types of tasks of daily living that were outlined a moment ago in this article. 

Myth #4: All Nursing Home Residents Are Senile

While there are people in nursing homes with cognitive issues, it is a myth that all residents suffer from senility. About 53 percent of nursing home residents have some form of dementia. The remainder usually are alert and oriented. In fact, many people who reside in nursing homes manage their finances, participate in hobbies and other activities, and have an active social life.

Myth #5: Nursing Home Residents Have Few Legal Rights

Another persistent myth is that nursing home residents have few legal rights. The reality is that a nursing home resident has the same rights as any other citizen of the United States.

Unless a nursing home resident has some sort of medical condition, a nursing home resident can vote and even drive a car. A nursing home resident can interact with whoever he or she desires. 

The only time a nursing home resident would see his or her activities curtailed is if the individual had some sort of physical or cognitive infirmity. If a nursing home resident has dementia and can no longer make decisions for his or her self, someone else would make those decisions on that individual’s behalf. 

This is accomplished through powers of attorney set up before the infirmity took hold. A financial power of attorney grants another individual the power to make financial decisions for the creator of the instrument. A durable power of attorney for health care grants another individual the authority to make medical decisions on behalf of the person that created the instrument. 

If no powers of attorney were created, a guardian and conservatorship can be established to protect the individual and manage his or her affairs. Even when a guardianship and conservatorship is established, a nursing home resident maintains essential legal rights. 

Myth #6: Nursing Homes Offer Only Basic Care

Many people operate under the assumption that a nursing home provides only basic care, that a nursing home has “no frills” whatsoever. There are differences in the level of so-called frills from one nursing home to another. In other words, some nursing homes offer more in the way of higher-grade amenities. With that said, all nursing homes are required to maintain what is described as a “safe and homelike” environment. 

Nursing homes are obliged to offer things like:

  • Social interaction
  • Entertainment
  • Access to religious services
  • Transportation off-grounds
  • Privacy (including for residents that want to maintain an active sex life)

And, as has been mentioned, a nursing home needs to maintain a safe and home-like environment for its residents.

Myth #7: Once in Hospice Care There Is Only One Way Out

Finally, a prevailing myth about nursing homes is that if you are transferred to hospice care, you’re on a one-way trip out the door and that is feet first. Generally speaking, to be eligible for hospice care, a doctor must declare that a person is terminally ill and has fewer than six months to live.

The reality is that a number of people who enter hospice care each year live beyond the six-month time period or even recover. Depending on their health, some people are able to return home. Others go to an assisted living community. Others still may reside in a nursing home. The bottom line is that some people do get discharged from hospice and continue on with their lives.

Basic Nursing Home Statistics

Now that we have dealt with nursing home myths, we take a moment to share some basic statistics associated with nursing homes in the United States:

  • At the current time, there are about 1.6 million people living in nursing homes across the U.S.A.
  • More than 40 percent of seniors will use a nursing home at some juncture in their lives.
  • The average annual cost for a nursing home hovers at around $100,000.
  • The U.S. General Accounting Office indicates that the costs or nursing home care will triple in the coming 20 years. 

Basic Information About Caregivers in the United States

Beyond nursing home myths, there is some basic information about caregivers that may be of interest to you. In the United States, most caregivers are relatives of a person in need of assistance. A majority of these caregivers are spouses. The typical caregiver is a married woman between the ages of 40 and 60. 

The typical caregiver has a full-time or part-time job in addition to providing care for a loved one. On average, a caregiver in the United States spends about 18 hours each week on caregiving activities.

Caregivers in the U.S.A. spend more than $2 billion each month to cover out of pocket expenses associated with caregiving. That currently totals more than $30 billion annually. 

Approximately 60 percent of caregivers report significant issues with depression. About 20 percent report health problems that are associated with the stress of caregiving.