There are many senior housing options available these days, with a senior housing environment to fit almost every need. The number of care types and styles of senior living communities are almost endless, ranging from a little bit of help around the home to skilled nursing care and everything in between. While choice is nice, having too many options can make it difficult for you to choose the right care for mom, dad, or even yourself in the future.
Each senior housing option is different— some feature a variety of amenities while others focus on providing medical care. Learning about these differences makes it easier to choose the best solution for you and your loved one.
Independent Living Communities
Also known as retirement communities, congregate care, or senior apartments, independent living communities cater to independent seniors in very good health. These communities feature fully equipped private apartments that range in size from cozy studios to spacious two-bedroom units. Residents can usually cook in a full or limited kitchen or enjoy on-site fine dining and individualized meal packages. Many communities offer social outings and a complete calendar of entertainment events.
Most independent living communities are private pay, although Section 202 provides for some U.S. government funding that helps seniors live independently but supports essential activities, such as cooking, cleaning, and transportation.
An assisted living community may be a perfect fit for the senior who is no longer able to live on her own safely but who does not require around-the-clock nursing care. Also known as an assisted care or personal care facility, an assisted living community offers residents a variety of services—though often for an additional fee—that provide assistance with activities of daily living, medication management, meal preparation, and housekeeping.
Residents live in private apartments with a limited kitchen area as these communities usually provide meals in a central dining room. Assisted living facilities are typically staffed 24-hours a day for safety and offer licensed nursing services during limited hours. Most assisted living communities offer scheduled transportation and social activities. Some communities, but not all, feature a special unit for residents with Alzheimer’s disease.
Note that most assisted living communities are private pay, but some do take Medicaid.
A nursing home is the best option for a senior who needs a high level of medical assistance and nursing care. Nursing homes provide 24-hour skilled nursing services provided by licensed nurses.
Nursing homes offer services for seniors who require extensive or long-term care for complex medical conditions. Residents usually share a room but enjoy meals in a central dining area as health permits. Also known as convalescent care, long-term care, skilled nursing, or nursing centers, most nursing homes offer on-site activities. Some nursing homes offer a separate unit for residents with Alzheimer’s disease.
Remember that Medicare does not cover non-medical expenses, so if mom only needs custodial care (help with everyday tasks like grooming or bathing), you’ll need to look into alternative forms of coverage like Medicaid (which is subject to a certain spend-down limit) or private long term insurance.
Respite care provides caregivers a temporary break by offering seniors for a short-term stay in an assisted living community or nursing home. Many different types of communities offer respite care programs which will temporarily house an older adult for anywhere from a week to a month, depending on the senior or caregiver’s needs.
These temporary residents enjoy all the services available to full-time residents, including meals, nursing care, and opportunities to participate in events and outings. In fact, for many seniors, respite care offers a way for seniors to become acquainted with the lifestyle and services that would be offered as a full-time resident of the community.
Also known as adult day care or short-term stay programs, some respite programs offer services for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease.
Respite care is usually private pay though it can be funded by Medicaid in certain circumstances.
In-home care provides regular care for mom at home. Also known as home health care or in-home personal care, home care helps seniors live as independently as possible in their own homes.
Home care aides can help seniors bathe, dress, prepare meals and perform other activities of daily living, provide emotional support and companionship and may even offer help with transportation, paying bills, and making appointments. Skilled nursing care tends to be out of scope for most home health agencies as aides are not licensed medical professionals though some agencies may offer limited medical care from visiting nurses.
Depending on the program, Medicare or Medicaid may pay for in-home care services.
Each type of senior housing community provides seniors with different conveniences and services. Knowing the subtle differences between each type of senior housing will help you make the right choice for yourself and your family.