Senior Living Options: Understanding Your Choices

Most older adults would rather age in their homes than move to some sort of assisted living place.  However, in response to ongoing deteriorations in their health and mental status, this may not always be possible. Have you wondered what options are available to seniors once it is determined they should no longer be living in their own home? If not, it is well worth your effort to better understand what’s out there and who is required to pay for this as the level of care needs increases.

What are the primary choices for senior living options?

Independent Living (IL)
Independent Living is a place for seniors who do not need any assistance with caring for themselves, but they are seeking a simpler way of life. IL housing typically involves an apartment style building or a gated community with freestanding patio homes. In most cases these facilities offer light housekeeping, a meal plan, social activities, and transportation options.

If a senior living in Independent Living finds themselves in need of care it is an option to bring in a non-medical homecare agency to assist with bathing, dressing, etc. This is a good option if only a few hours a day is necessary to provide the care needed. If more than a few hours a day is needed, then it is much more cost effective to move to an assisted living.

 This option is paid for privately.

Assisted Living (AL or ALF)
Assisted Living is a senior living option offered either in an apartment style setting or in a residential home where you would live with a few other people needing care and a caregiver.  Assisted living facilities are licensed and monitored by state governing agencies. This option is designed for people that need daily assistance with meals, social activities, medication management, physical assistance with bathing, dressing, mobility, and transportation.  The staff caring for the residents in an ALF are generally unlicensed except for maybe one licensed nurse that provides oversight for the care staff and medication management program.

This option is paid for privately, with long-term care insurance, or state funded Medicaid programs.

Memory Care
Memory Care is under the same licensing rules as assisted living but these facilities specialize in caring for those with various forms or memory loss or dementia. These buildings are often secured, meaning there is a magnetic lock on the doors and outer perimeter with a code so the residents can not get out without supervision. The staff that work in these buildings provide all of the same services as in an ALF but they are specially trained to deal with the behavioral needs of someone with memory loss.

This option is paid for privately, with long-term care insurance, or state funded Medicaid programs.

Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF)
A Skilled Nursing Facility is a facility or part of a facility that meets criteria for accreditation established by Medicare. A SNF is licensed and monitored by both state and federal governing authorities.   A SNF provides short-term rehabilitation and various medical and nursing procedures. This option is typically used for those that have been hospitalized for three or more days and need 3 weeks or less of skilled nursing care, to include physical, occupational, and speech therapy so the resident can regain strength and either return home or to their assisted living facility.

This option is paid for by Medicare and private health insurance.

Long-term Care/ otherwise known as a Nursing Home
A long-term care facility is for people that are no longer showing signs of improvement from the therapies in the skilled care facility but are still in need of the high level of assistance for every day, non-medical tasks. Often times a skilled nursing facility and a long-term care facility are provided in one building with one wing of the building providing skilled care and another providing long-term care.

This option is paid for privately, with long-term care insurance, or state funded Medicaid programs.

Continuous Care Retirement Community (CCRC)
These campuses gather all levels of care mentioned above onto one property. Often times the skilled staff (nurses and therapists) of the skilled nursing facility provide care as necessary to the AL and IL residents as well so the necessity to move as care needs change is minimized greatly.

Written by: Stacy Gunnerson

Stacy owns Grannie on the Move, a business located in Boise, Idaho.  Grannie on the Move specializes in helping seniors find the care they need and the financial solutions to pay for it.  Stacy is a healthcare professional with over 20 years of hands-on experience in managing Senior Living facilities. She is a licensed administrator that has worked almost every job in the industry from Caregiver to Vice President of Operation over 60 facilities. She still serves in the industry as a consultant to senior living facilities that wish to improve their operations.  Stacy lives in Star, Idaho with her husband Tony and their two children, Samuel and Sydney.

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