Can I take care of my dad the way he took care of me?

Remember the HIV outbreak in Indiana? It roiled Scott County, IN, the outbreak’s epicenter, where my father has practiced medicine for nearly 25 years. The outbreak threw this rural area into disarray, but the strong family dynamics in Scott County allowed residents to cope with this jarring event.

As a small town doctor, my dad took care of entire families across multiple generations—which provided him with a clear perspective on the complex and intensely personal challenges that face aging patients and their adult children.

I learned from my dad that a blurry line forms as patients get older. Families can feel trapped between preserving a parent’s quality of life by working to ensure she can remain in her own home and jeopardizing her health. The decision is emotional, financial and never simple.

There are several reasons why an aging parent, their family, and their physician would want to avoid re-locating a patient to an alternative care location like a nursing home. Quality of life, if a patient is relatively healthy and well-supported, is definitively better if the patient can stay at home. Not all families are able to meet the financial burden that long term care in an outside facility poses. The national average cost for a semi-private room in a nursing home is $6,235 per month, and this doesn’t even begin to cover all of the costs of medical care. While concerns about the health and safety of older adults are justified, there is a clear incentive to find better ways to help these individuals remain in their homes.

Perhaps the most striking fact is that more and more families will be facing these painful decisions in the coming years. According to a report from the Pew Research Center, in North America, 13% of the population is currently older than 65 years. This segment of the population is expected to increase to 22% by 2050.

The ideal solution is a mechanism that allows aging seniors to remain in their homes, or the homes of loved ones, while providing the level of care that can ensure they are as healthy as possible. This is precisely what Honor, a Rock Health portfolio company, has realized. Honor is creating a trusted marketplace for in-home caregivers to provide support for families with aging members. Their platform connects the caregiver, the senior, and the family through an in-home, custom tablet device and companion mobile software. (Hear more about creating technology-based solutions for better healthcare at where Honor’s founder Seth Sternberg is speaking).

Family comes first for my dad’s Scott County patients. Through my dad’s work, I’ve seen how difficult it can be to take care of an aging family member. I now recognize that the time will come when my own dad will need this care — this thought terrifies me. I want nothing less than the ability to take care of him the way he provided for me. As the aging population continues to grow, more of us will be faced with these difficult choices. Few of us have concrete plans. New ideas and thoughtful solutions in how we can take care of our loved ones are distinctly needed.