Guide to senior housing and care
January 11, 2017
ASSISTED LIVING COMMUNITIES
Assisted living communities provide housing and care to seniors who may need some assistance with daily tasks, but who do not require the skilled care provided at a nursing home. Assistance with medications, activities of daily living, meals and housekeeping are routinely provided. Residents live in private apartments that frequently feature kitchenettes. Staff is available 24 hours per day, activities and entertainment opportunities are plentiful and transportation to appointments is available.
A special area for memory care is available in some, but not all communities. Assisted living communities come in all shapes and sizes. They can be towering apartment buildings in urban centers, sprawling complexes in the suburbs, or more intimate communities catering to a relatively small number of residents. By our own definition, assisted living communities are licensed to care for at least 20 people, but many communities have hundreds of residents.
SENIOR LIVING COMMUNITIES
Independent senior living communities cater to seniors who are self-sufficient and who do not need hands-on care. Residents live in fully
equipped private apartments that typically include a kitchenette, and sometimes a full kitchen. These communities usually offer a broad range of intellectual, physical and social activities. These communities offer a carefree lifestyle, free of many potentially difficult or burdensome responsibilities, such as meal preparation, housekeeping and laundry and house maintenance. Senior apartments are also considered independent senior living communities, but provide few, if any, amenities.
Alzheimer’s and dementia care, also known as memory care, is often provided in a secure area of an assisted living community or nursing home, usually on a separate floor or in its own wing. The secure aspect of memory care communities is intended to prevent residents from wandering off and becoming lost, which is a common and dangerous symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The security usually takes the form of alarmed exit doors rather than locked exit doors.
Residents usually live in semi-private apartments or private rooms and enjoy structured activities conducted by staff members trained specifically trained to care for those with dementia.
RESIDENTIAL CARE HOMES
Residential care homes are regular, private homes that have been adapted to accommodate the care of a limited number of residents. Live-in caregivers provide 24-hour supervision and assistance for residents.
Nursing homes are for seniors who require 24-hour monitoring and medical assistance. Typical nursing home residents suffer from severe, debilitating physical or mental conditions that leave them unable to care for themselves. They may be bedridden, wheelchair-bound, or have medical needs that require daily skilled nuring care. The good news is that modern nursing homes not only provide for residents’ physical needs, they offer activities tailored specifically to individual abilities along with the luxury of such amenities as restaurant-style meal service.
Home care allows older people to remain in their own homes while receiving the assistance they need to help them remain independent. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 7.6 million Americans receive home care, but this number may be larger when you include all the
informal care that’s often provided by friends and family of the elderly. Home care may be appropriate for seniors who prefer to live at home, but need minor assistance with activities of daily living. For seniors who need higher levels of care, or more frequent care, home care isn’t always practical or affordable.
ADULT DAY SERVICES
Often called “adult day programs” or “adult day care,” adult day services provide support for caregivers who take care of elderly loved ones at home. Typical programs feature half-day and fullday care for seniors, and many include transportation to and from the adult day center where they’re run. Adult day centers provide social activities and health care services for adults with physical disabilities and/ or cognitive impairments, as well as for frail elders who may otherwise be lonely sitting at home alone. Caregivers who work outside the home, or simply need a break from time to time, frequently use these types of services.
The term “respite care” refers to a short-term stay at a senior community, though it may be used in reference to in-home caregiving services used for only a short period.