Senior Living

Senior Living: Understanding the Choices

Choosing a senior living community can be confusing with the wide variety of lifestyles and terms used to describe the available options. Years ago, the term “nursing home” was used as a blanket description of all senior “facilities,” regardless of the type of lifestyle or care. Today, though, seniors have an abundance of choices for their preferred lifestyle, level of care provided, and length of stay. Here’s a look at the most common types of senior living choices and what they offer.

Skilled nursing care for seniors

Let’s just start by calling out the elephant in the room. Skilled nursing is not senior living. There, we said it.

In the past, skilled nursing filled a role in long-term care (which has never just been for seniors) and there were limited alternatives to choose from. When you needed assistance with personal care, you knew it was time to consider the “home.”

Times. Are. Different. Now.

Over the past 25 years, there has been a tremendous growth in the number of senior communities offering the care services that nursing homes formerly provided in an independent and social environment instead – and this has caused a shift for nursing homes to specialize their services to patients who require considerable medical assistance.

Here’s how we look at it – Nursing homes are more related to hospitals than they are retirement communities. Skilled nursing is often appropriate following a major medical event like surgery or a stroke, and for debilitating conditions like Parkinson’s disease. It provides 24/7 medical oversight, and most offer physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and other types of services onsite in accordance with a physician’s instructions. Patients in skilled nursing are there to convalesce, rehabilitate or recover by receiving the specialized around-the-clock medical assistance they require.

Although many skilled nursing patients are there for short stays, others may receive long-term care for their conditions. In fact, more often than not, skilled facilities are divided by short and long term sections. To understand more about skilled nursing care, the agingcare.com article, “What’s the Difference Between Skilled Nursing Care and a Nursing Home?” offers a wealth of information.

Active senior living 

When retirement means freedom, an active senior community is a great choice. Seniors who want to leave the weight of home maintenance behind while they travel, enjoy an active lifestyle and have plenty of neighbors their age are a perfect fit. Active senior communities are essentially senior-only (55+) neighborhoods, many with active lifestyle amenities such as golf courses, pools and community clubhouses. 

Active senior communities offer different types of low-maintenance housing ranging from stand-alone homes, condominiums and townhouses for purchase or lease. Residents can often choose the level of home maintenance they desire and pay accordingly, usually based on a monthly association fee. Find out more about active senior living communities in the mylifestyle.net blog, “The Pros & Cons of 55+ Active Adult Communities.”

Independent senior living

In many ways, “independent senior living” is the start of true “senior living” in today’s terms. At the most basic level, dining, housekeeping, planned social activities, and transportation services set independent senior living apart from the kind of golf course resort living of active senior living.

Independent living communities are typically apartment housing with a broad range of amenities under one roof and shared common areas. Some include standalone duplex style housing, often called “senior villas.” Independent living communities include some kind of meal plans, conveniences like hair salons and barbers, a full calendar of activities and entertainment, exercise classes, transportation, and plenty of other seniors to meet. The smartasset.com blog, “Senior Independent Living: Definition, Services, and Cost,” provides an in-depth overview of what independent living has to offer for seniors.

Assisted senior living

For seniors who desire or require daily help with personal care, but are still fairly independent, assisted living is a great senior living choice. In assisted living, residents typically have the option of a private or shared room or apartment that is accessible to care partners and nurses who can help residents dress, perform daily personal tasks, and dispense medications. The level of need defines the level of care so that seniors who find themselves needing additional services over time have them readily available. In fact, most assisted living living communities even assist residents with contracting for more skilled services like physical and occupational therapy specifically so they are able to stay in the comfortable, social environment instead of needing to go to a skilled nursing facility.

Like independent living, assisted living offers meal plans and diverse on-site events, exercise classes, musical events, arts and crafts, as well as off-site adventures. Assisted living also offers amenities such as hair salons and transportation, enabling seniors to enjoy a vibrant lifestyle. In assisted living, residents have the peace of mind that services are available (should they need them) while enjoying a full social life and the company of new friends. Read more about senior assisted living in the seniorcare.com blog, “What to Expect from Assisted Living Care? Top 10 Things to Expect from Assisted Living.”

Memory care for seniors

Memory care is a highly specialized lifestyle specifically dedicated to seniors experiencing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive impairment. Communities are designed to ensure they are not only safe and secure, but are also personalized, comfortable, and active. Because individuals with dementia can have varying degrees of memory loss, memory care providers address each resident’s needs on a daily basis, tracking changes while tending to their personal necessities including everything from brushing teeth to helping with meals.

In memory care, residents have a full agenda of guided events to fill their days and engage. They benefit from being with others, taking part in activities, enjoying music, and even heading off campus for fun activities. Because memory care usually requires a higher level of medical expertise than assisted living, staff often have special qualifications and robust training and continuing education to best care for residents.

Memory care is provided in an apartment style setting with private or shared rooms- and communities are often specifically designed with special features to care for memory loss. Meals are provided and residents are often invited to participate in the cooking and preparation of meals. The level of care provided is determined based on each resident’s very unique needs. Find out what you need to know when choosing a memory care provider in the Alzheimer’s Association’s blog, “Choosing Care Providers.”

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