Understanding Senior Living Options

First, you need to understand the different options that exist and the various levels of service and care that each provides. Further, different options carry different financial requirements and can vary widely in cost. Understanding which option is the best fit for your needs – today and into the future – takes some research.

Living well as you age comes down to several factors:

  • Continuing to live with purpose by remaining engaged socially and intellectually
  • Staying active and having the supports to continue that as you age
  • Having a plan in place to address physical declines or health issues

The Options

Continuing Care or Life Plan Communities

Continuing care retirement communities, or CCRCs, may also be called Life Plan communities. They provide maintenance-free independent living ranging from apartments to duplexes or cottages. In addition, assisted living and skilled nursing/rehabilitative services are provided on campus.

Incoming residents can choose to pay a refundable or non-refundable entrance fee which helps support staffing, capital improvements, and campus maintenance. The monthly service fee, or rent, typically includes most utilities, a staffed fitness center, scheduled transportation, and flexible dining.

CCRCs are designed for aging well, with staff that continually focuses on wellness and supporting engaged, enriching aging. Residents play an important role in creating events and programs on and off-campus.

55+ Communities

Age-restricted communities provide apartments and homes for people who are still active and independent, but want to relieve themselves of home maintenance. These communities typically have common spaces, a clubhouse, planned events, and scheduled transportation. Residents pay rent or a mortgage, depending on the community’s structure, and a monthly service fee.

Some communities provide a la carte laundry, dining, and in-home care, but typically they do not provide assisted living and health care services or the coordination and support during a challenging time that is provided by the CCRC model.

Assisted Living

In a broad sense, assisted living helps people who are experiencing physical or cognitive declines that require monitoring and support. Tasks that may have required asking for help – such as driving to appointments, cleaning, doing laundry or preparing meals – are provided for you, in addition to moderate support with getting dressed, eating, hygiene, incontinence, and medication management.

Typically, assisted living communities offer resident programming and transportation to events and shopping. Many accept residents with early- to mid-stage memory loss.

Assisted living is not covered by Medicare or Medicaid, and has daily rates that begin around $200 to $250, depending on what services are included. Long-term care insurance may cover some expenses.

Nursing Homes

Skilled nursing centers, commonly called nursing homes, provide short-term care rehabilitative care for seniors following surgery or stroke and long-term care for those who meet specific medical criteria.

In general, nursing homes are for people who: require two people to transfer them from their wheelchair to bed, bathroom, etc.; have a serious clinical need or late-stage memory loss and related conditions; or, would not be able to recognize danger or access help from behind a closed door.

In many cases, Medicare covers short-term, post-operative stays at nursing homes. It does not cover long-term care. Medicaid does cover long-term care, but only if the resident meets specific medical criteria and has very limited financial assets. Those levels vary state by state. Learn about Medicare vs. Medicaid coverage here.

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