There have been several articles coming out of the senior living industry news whirlwind recently about companies that are offering on-demand or a la carte senior living services.
One start-up company is positioning itself as the “Uber” of senior home care. Another is unbundling the services that are traditionally included in some monthly senior living rental agreements. And yet another is setting up a service where, among other things, college students can exchange caregiving services for lodging in seniors' homes.
Is this the wave of the future or a step backwards? Will the erosion of the current service model result in lower prices along with a lower quality of care?
There is a coming crisis in senior care. There won’t be enough professional caregivers for our growing, aging senior population nor will there be enough traditional senior housing. There is already a severe lack of affordable senior housing that will become more critical before or if it gets better. All of this adds up to the necessity of the market spawning alternative care models.
Here are a few of the new ideas:
On-demand senior home care
You’ll set up an account for yourself or your parent, the company will supply you with a digital interface, and you can arrange for a screened caregiver whenever help is needed, for anything from driving to companion services to housekeeping to help with the activities of daily living. Pros: Help when you need it, and if you only need a few hours a week, the price is right. Cons: Potential inconsistencies in service with rotating caregivers, and if you begin to need more care, the price can skyrocket.
Unbundled senior services
More independent senior living communities are now offering a la carte services, such as meals, laundry and transportation, rather than including them in the monthly fee. Pros: Again, there are price advantages, and this is the point, that occur when you’re using these services occasionally, and not on a regular schedule. Cons: Less dependable services. Requires active participation in, for instance, meal scheduling and fulfilling nutrition requirements, and planning ahead to book transportation and other on-demand services.
Alternative assisted living
This seems to be the sketchiest of all. A new service patterned somewhat after Airbnb that will match seniors who need care with people who have rooms in their home and are willing to provide that care. Or if a senior who needs care has an extra room in her home, they’ll match you with a caregiver, even a college student who will exchange caregiving services for free rent. Pros: Cost and the availability of caregivers. Cons: Hey, college students living in homes with seniors who go to bed early and have a medicine cabinet full of tranquilizers and psychotropic medications? What could possibly go wrong?