You’ve probably heard all the terms — independent living, assisted living, nursing home, and memory care — but you might not be clear about what’s involved in each, and how they differ from one another. Learn about the different types of senior living communities and care options to help you determine which is best for you.
Independent Living Community
An independent living community is a concept pioneered by Holiday Retirement in 1971. Our founders saw a need to provide seniors with an alternative to conventional retirement living options. Today, there are over 245,000 independent living communities in the United States.
Independent living communities feel and function like private residences while providing residents opportunities to spend time with people in their same season of life. Independent senior living is a good option for people who are able to live on their own without assistance, but who would enjoy benefits like companionship, bundled bills, and all-inclusive amenities such as meals, cleaning, and transportation. Many independent living residents use outside home health care providers or aides for medical and personal care services as needed, so they can enjoy an independent lifestyle longer.
Residents of independent living communities can live as active of a lifestyle as they desire with regular opportunities to participate in fitness, off-site community outings, social activities, games, and events. Some independent living community residents choose to have their own cars, although complimentary scheduled transportation is provided for all residents.
Monthly rent at an independent living community typically includes:
Housekeeping and linen services
Activities and events
Staff onsite from morning until early evening
Emergency response devices
Assisted living communities are suited for seniors who need extra help with activities like managing medication, bathing, and dressing. Residents have access to community rooms and planned activities. Assisted living facilities don’t provide as much medical care and personal assistance as nursing homes. If residents begin experiencing severe mobility issues or severe cognitive issues like dementia and Alzheimer's that extend beyond the level of care assisted living staff provide, they will likely need to transition to memory care or a nursing home.
Monthly rent at an assisted living community typically includes:
Housekeeping and linen services
Help with personal care
Emergency response devices
Many facilities have a staff health care provider who residents can use for an additional cost.
CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Communities)
CCRCs offer multiple levels of care in one location, ranging from independent retirement living to assisted living and nursing home services. Admittance into advanced care programs may be restricted to residents from within the CCRC’s independent living component.
CCRCs are ownership-style senior communities that typically require a down payment, long-term contract, and monthly fees. AARP pegs the average down payment on a CCRC retirement community at around $329,000, but reports some are as high as $1 million. Monthly fees might range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
People’s physical, mental, and safety needs increase substantially as cognitive issues progress. Alzheimer’s and memory care facilities offer specialized care and programs for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other memory loss. They provide a safe and physically secured environment.
Alzheimer’s/memory care options may operate as stand-alone facilities or as separate wings in an assisted living community. Memory care offers 24/7 onsite staff to assist residents as needed. A locked environment allows residents to move around the assisted living space freely without the danger of wandering off. The average cost of memory care is around $5000 per month.
Respite care is a short-term stay within an assisted living facility or nursing home that allows primary caregivers a break or gives the resident a trial stay to get acquainted with the service provider. Respite care may take place in a health care facility, retirement community, or adult day care. Private insurance typically does not cover respite care. Medicaid sometimes covers part of costs. Medicare helps with respite care costs for up to five consecutive days for people receiving hospice care.
Nursing homes provide 24-hour skilled care for seniors on a long-term basis. They also serve seniors who require short-term nursing care or rehabilitation assistance. Nursing homes provide the highest level of care of the senior living options. Nursing homes are ideal for people who can’t care for themselves but don’t require hospitalization. Nursing homes typically have dining rooms, community areas, activities, and outings appropriate to the population.
Hospice care is designed for terminally ill individuals in the final phase of their illness. Care may be provided in a range of settings including private homes, hospice facilities, or nursing homes. Hospice care focuses on comfort rather than treating a terminal disease or condition with the intention of extending life. Medicine and medical care treats the symptoms of the condition, not the condition itself.
People typically enter hospice care when they have 6 months or less to live. Hospice care teams are made up of medical professionals, behavioral health professionals, and volunteers.
Home care allows seniors to receive in-home assistance based on frequency and level of need, and may include daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and other personal care, as well as housekeeping, meals, and medication. Home care is available for private home and independent living and assisted living, but may be restricted in facilities providing higher levels of care.
Home care providers and aids allow seniors to pay for only the extra services they need, when they need them, which can be a cheaper option than moving to a higher level of care. At Holiday Retirement, home care is available through outside agencies, many of whom have offices on campus.
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