As our loved one ages, his or her housing needs continue to evolve. While most of us want to continue to live in our own homes for as long as possible, health or mobility issues may make this impractical.
Some seniors can stay in their own homes for many years with few problems, while others require additional resources. Seniors who need help can move to an assisted living or specialized medical facility for safety, medical care or security reasons.
When it is time for you or a loved one to consider different housing arrangements because of aging, it is important to know and understand all the options available. One type of senior housing may be perfect for one senior but a poor fit for another. It is important to consider the needs and desires of the individual as well as the cost, availability and services of each type of specialized housing.
Aging in Place
This option allows seniors to stay in their own homes because they are still largely able to take care of themselves. Seniors aging in place may need assistance with some details, such as doing home repairs, cleaning the house and some meal preparation. In-home care providers visit on a periodic basis to take care of these chores, as well as just to check up on the senior.
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In many cases, family members are highly involved as they assist seniors with daily chores. It is a relatively inexpensive option allowing seniors to maintain their ties to their neighborhood. Homes are often modified to make them easier and safer to navigate for seniors as their physical condition deteriorates. Common changes include wheelchair ramps, railings and an emergency alert system.
Active Adult Communities
Sometimes called retirement communities, these are planned communities where seniors can live in a variety of housing types, including carriage homes, duplexes and apartments or condominiums. These homes are in enclosed communities where seniors can live independently within a community of seniors who do not need assistance from others. In most cases, seniors have to be at least 55 years of age to live in these communities. Many active adult communities have features like those of resorts, such as golf courses and swimming pools.
The greatest appeal of active adult communities is the combination of tailored, independent living with lots of opportunities for social engagement. Active adult communities offer a variety of activities, educational opportunities and transportation to attractions such as malls, theaters and restaurants in the area.
Twenty-four hour security is an attractive feature of active adult communities. Many active adult communities are part of a campus. The campus has several tiers of care, so if the senior faces any health issues, he or she is moved up to a higher level of care.
Assisted living allows seniors to continue living in a home of their own located on an assisted living campus. Usually, it is a condominium or apartment designed specifically for individuals with health or mobility issues. In addition to transportation, meals and activities, assisted living offers assistance with daily activities such as dressing, medication management, errands and regular wellness checks. Assisted living communities offer 24/7 security and check frequently on residents.
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Assisted living facilities are fully staffed with personal care and nursing professionals. Dining is usually in community dining halls offering a variety of meal options, but some apartments or homes may have limited kitchen facilities. Assisted living is designed to help seniors maintain some independence while providing them the help and security they need.
Residents of assisted living are free to choose what they want to do, when they want to eat and what activities they wish to participate in. Residents usually do not have serious mental or physical limitations but need some help with daily activities. Most residents are able to move about freely or use a walker or wheelchair without assistance.
Residential Care Home
A residential care home is a private home modified to accommodate the needs of senior residents. Residential care homes take in and provide for a small number of residents. The live-in caregivers provide assistance and 24/7 monitoring for the residents. In most states, a residential care home can have no more then eight residents at a time. Many seniors enjoy living in a residential care home because it provides a more home-like atmosphere with family-style living arrangements. Residents benefit from interacting closely with live-in family members, pets and the families of other residents. The cost of these types of facilities vary widely depending on location and the amount of care the senior requires.
Nursing Home or Skilled Nursing Facility
In the past, the term “nursing home” had a negative connotation, but today’s nursing homes are pleasant and well-staffed. A nursing home provides around the clock assistance, medical care and monitoring to residents. Each senior has either a room of his or her own or a semi-private room within a residential facility. Nursing homes are for seniors who can not care for themselves. Nursing homes provide everything from assistance with bathing and dressing to help with eating and mobility as well as professional medical care.
Nursing homes can be a temporary place for seniors to stay after illness or surgery. This provides a safe environment when they have been discharged from the hospital but still require medical care and assistance until they can return to their homes. Many nursing homes offer supervised, specialized activities to encourage the mental and physical health of residents.
Dementia or Memory Care Facility
When seniors develop memory and cognitive problems, they often require intensive, round-the-clock monitoring. Dementia or memory care facilities are tailored to the needs of these individuals. These licensed facilities have special security and safety measures, ensuring residents cannot leave on their own or injure themselves due to their cognitive problems. The staff are trained to care for seniors with varying levels of memory deficit due to Alzheimer’s and other diseases that affect memory and result in confusion and an inability to care for oneself.
Meals, services and activities are structured around the needs of each resident. A calm, reassuring atmosphere is prioritized in these facilities. The facilities are often more expensive than other senior housing options but provide continual care in a locked facility, so family members can worry less about a dementia patient’s cognitive losses. Because many seniors with memory problems become agitated after the sun goes down, dementia care facilities are fully staffed with professional caregivers throughout the night.
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By Jennifer Symonds –