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A Guide to Senior Living Options

by Amanda Lambert
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guide to senior living

Introduction

The terminology of Senior Living communities can be confusing. Here is a guide to Senior Living options. If you educate yourself about your options, you will make an informed decision. Depending on whether you live in a rural or more urban setting you may have limited choices. Alternative options to traditional senior care continue to develop every day, to meet the growing demand for creative solutions to senior living.

Independent Living

A Guide to Senior Living
  • Independent Senior Living depending on the type, is either completely independent with no support, or as part of a broader continuum of care, has some support, such as meals and activities. :
  • This type of community consists of several different types of communities. Some are smaller homes or mobile home parks for seniors 55 +. Other independent senior living is located within a larger continuum of care, including Assisted Living and Memory Care. In these cases, Independent Living may be on different floors, depending on the size of the community.
  • Independent usually means that aide support for assistance with activities of daily living is not available except through a private pay option. Nursing is also reserved for Assisted Living, and those services would need to come from home health. In some independent living communities, on-site physician services are an option.
  • Medications are not dispensed. Taking medications is the responsibility of the resident.
  • Amenities can include weekly housekeeping, laundry, transportation to medical appointments, and all meals and snacks. Also included are daily activities.
  • Pets are often of a certain size are allowed in most Independent Living.  The resident has to be able to take care of their pet as a requirement for having one.
  • Cost is dependent on the state you live in. PricesCosts may also vary within a state depending upon whether you are in a city or more rural area. Genworth has an average cost for care across the country.

Assisted Living

A Guide to Senior Living

Assisted Living communities are growing across the country to meet the increasing demand for a supportive living for seniors. Research shows that the majority of seniors say they want to age in place. Aging at home is not always possible due to constraints on caregiving options and the cost of private care.

There are several factors to consider when choosing an Assisted Living facility. One of the biggest factors is the price. Assisted Living pricing varies across the country or even within the same community. Refer to Genworth to get pricing in your area. Pricing is often dependent on how much care someone requires or where a person lives. Metropolitan areas might be more expensive than rural areas. The other price determinant is how much care someone needs. The more care, the higher the monthly cost.

  • Assisted Living communities have nursing available for medication dispensing, vitals checks, and coordinating medical care. Nursing is rarely available 24-hours a day. Aides are available to help residents with getting to the toilet, transferring, dressing, bathing, and other needs.
  • All meals and snacks are included as part of the monthly charge.
  • Housekeeping and laundry services are standard services that are part of the monthly cost.  Recreational activities and transportation to doctor’s appointments are provided.
  • Most communities require an emergency response system for each resident. If someone has an emergency, the front desk contacts a family member or emergency services.
  • Physician services are sometimes offered on-site.

Read more on moving to Assisted Living facilities here. You can read more about the benefits of assisted living.

Memory Care 

A senior woman in a wheelchair outside a memory care facility
  • Most Memory Care “units” are in the same building as Assisted Living. Others are free-standing. Memory Care communities specialize in working with people who have dementia or other neurological problems that cause cognitive impairment. Other Memory Care residents may have mental health problems like psychosis, depression, or anxiety. Memory care residents often exhibit confusion, memory problems, agitation, and wandering. The communities have the same amenities as Assisted Living such as meals, activities, and transportation, along with these added features:
  • Memory Care can be more expensive. The increase in expense is attributed to the higher staff-to-residents ratio needed to supervise and manage residents. Memory care residents often require more one on one individualized attention.
  • These communities are smaller in size so that staff can provide one on one supervision when necessary.
  • Memory Care units are secure to prevent wandering. Wandering is a common behavioral problem for people with dementia. Locked and secure units are necessary to ensure the safety of residents.
  • Care is more individualized. A typical memory care unit has a wide range of people with differing levels of cognitive impairment. That being the case, residents require more individualized care and attention. Residents of memory care are often confused, disoriented, and frightened. There needs to be adequate staffing to reassure and help manage residents.
  • Most residents have significant personal care needs. Some memory care residents will have very few personal care needs, and others will need significant assistance every day. This includes help with bathing, dressing, and toileting.

Nursing Home Care

Seniors sitting in a nursing home
  • Nursing Home care is usually the last resort for most seniors. It is the highest level of care available outside of a hospital setting. Due to the high cost of nursing home care, few families can afford to pay for very long.  Most people have to resort to qualify for Medicaid, which pays for the cost of care.
  • A person becomes a two-person transfer.  The states regulate Assisted Living communities. Many states require a certain level of physical ability to qualify. Staffing at Assisted Living communities does not accommodate the needs of someone who requires two people to transfer them. They also do not want the liability of a resident who needs two people to transfer them. Many assisted living communities do not allow mechanical lift devices either.
  • Medical needs increase. Nursing provided by assisted living communities is limited. Assisted Living can’t provide access to 24-hour nursing.  They also can’t do IV  or injectable medications, or wound and catheter care. It is rare, but sometimes a resident of Memory Care is too difficult to handle. If a resident is a danger to themselves or others, it might be time for a nursing home.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Seniors sitting and having lunch and discussing CCRCs

Want to have it all? Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) offer a community where seniors can remain throughout their life. The appeal is pretty straightforward. You can opt into a CCRC and not have to worry about where to go if you need more care. CCRC’s are like a campus for seniors. They have all of the senior care options available in one location, including Assisted Living, memory, and nursing home care. Seniors can move into any portion of senior care that they are ready for, but most start in Independent Living.

CCRC’s vary in terms of their structure and buy-in options. Most traditional Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care options have monthly payment options. CCRC’s often require a significant upfront investment, and the terms can be complicated.  Make sure you understand the investment you are making. Consult an attorney if necessary to go over the paperwork.

Conclusion

Senior Living communities are changing and adapting as people’s needs and desires change people as they age. Knowing all the options will help you choose the situation that fits you best. Once you decide to move, you can find out more about how to adjust to life in Senior Living.

Visit BoomersHub for all of your housing, financial, and healthcare needs. Prepare and plan ahead to have peace of mind for whatever the future holds.

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