Exploring Senior Living

Exploring Senior Living

If you’re starting to consider senior living, or are wondering about it on behalf of a loved one, you’re in the right place. This guide has helpful definitions, things to think about and plenty of questions to ask yourself. Making the decision to move into a senior living community is a big one, and we’re here to give you the information you need to make the decision that’s best for you. Because where you live matters.

Defining Senior Living

Active Adult Communities

Typically restricted to people who are 55+, these communities offer residential living, usually in single-family homes, townhomes or condominiums, or multi-family properties, either for sale or for rent. Hospitality services and outdoor maintenance might be included in the resident’s monthly fee, and the community could offer amenities such as a clubhouse and recreational spaces.
Assistance with activities of daily living isn’t typically provided, but access or referral to nearby health care providers may be. Typically, residents have a choice of whether or not to take advantage of available services or programs, which can include housekeeping, interior and exterior maintenance, transportation and social activities.

Assisted Living

A special combination of housing, personalized supportive services and care designed to meet the needs — both scheduled and unscheduled — of those who require help with daily activities. Many assisted living communities are freestanding. Within a senior community setting, services may include any or all of these:

  • Assistance with eating, bathing, dressing, toileting and walking
  • Access to health and medical services
  • 24/7 security and staff availability
  • Emergency call system for each resident’s home
  • Health promotion and exercise programs
  • Palliative care for serious or life-threatening illness
  • Medication reminders
  • Personal laundry services
  • Social and recreational activities
  • Three meals a day served in a common dining area
  • Housekeeping services
  • Transportation

Adults are directly admitted to the community and pay a monthly rental rate plus fees for medication and other care-related services based on regularly scheduled assessments. Often, assisted living includes memory support services within the same community

Home Health Care

Provision of medical and nursing services in a person’s home by a licensed provider. Medicare might cover some services provided by home health care if the individual meets certain guidelines regarding a recent hospital stay. Home health care is often available in senior living communities.

Independent Living

A residential living setting for seniors who require minimal or no assistance. Hospitality and supportive services are generally provided. Independent living residences may be apartments or freestanding homes obtained either for an entrance fee or through a rental arrangement. A monthly fee for services and amenities may be applied. Access to higher levels of care varies, or may not be offered at all.

Life Plan Community

Life Plan Communities, are also known as Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), offer several kinds of residences for independent living and various levels of health care services. In independent living, a community may offer apartments, freestanding homes, attached homes or other residential options. Assisted living residents usually live in apartments, while those in skilled nursing and memory support areas generally reside in suites or rooms, either private or shared.

Life Plan Communities usually provide a written agreement or long-term contract between the resident (frequently lasting the term of the resident’s lifetime) and the community, which offers maintenance-free living, a wide variety of services and amenities, and access to a continuum of health care, commonly all on one campus or site.

Most Life Plan Communities require a one-time upfront entrance fee and a predictable monthly fee, which allows the resident to occupy an independent living residence, enjoy all the services and amenities offered by the community, and have access to long-term on-site health care when and if they need it. If the resident requires assisted living, memory support or skilled nursing, the community provides the appropriate level of care. Depending on the contract structure, this care may be provided at essentially the
same monthly rate the resident paid in independent living, at a reduced rate for a specified amount of time, or on a fee-for-service basis. Types of care level settings vary from community to community.

Age restriction is usually 62+, although that varies from one community to another. While all Life Plan Communities offer residential accommodations and amenities, the range and cost of entrance fees and monthly service fees may vary

Nursing Home

Licensed daily rate properties that are referred to as skilled nursing facilities (SNF) or nursing facilities (NF), where the majority of individuals require 24/7 nursing and/or health care. In most cases, nursing homes are licensed for Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement. They generally offer a community setting, private or shared rooms, and around-the-clock medical staff, including RNs (registered nurses), LPNs (licensed practical nurses) and CNAs (certified nursing assistants). Many nursing homes are freestanding communities.

Memory Care / Memory Support

Many senior living communities, along with stand-alone memory support communities, specialize in services dedicated to caring for residents needing memory care for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia or cognitive impairments. Most memory care programs are supported in specially designed environments, and include innovative technologies and interventions that can decrease the anxieties and difficulties related to dealing with dementia. Staff typically have a high level of expertise in memory care.

Respite Care

Services that provide caregivers with temporary relief from tasks associated with caregiving (e.g., in-home assistance, short nursing home stays, adult day care). In a senior living community setting, it usually refers to an arrangement whereby a senior stays at the community for a few days or weeks, perhaps to give their caregiver at home a break, or to experience the community’s accommodations, services and amenities on
a trial basis

Skilled Nursing

Whether accommodations and services are offered in a freestanding skilled nursing facility or in a designated area of a Life Plan Community, skilled nursing is designed for individuals who require full-time care, or assistance with most, if not all, activities of daily living. Skilled nursing units are licensed and offer 24/7 medical care by trained medical staff, such as a registered nurse or therapist. They may also provide rehabilitation services, memory support services and other types of specialized care. They’re typically Medicare/ Medicaid-certified, and monthly fees include meals, personal assistance and most medical services (except for medications).

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