There are a variety of choices to suit desires for independence and meet care needs alike.
With advancing age and changing care needs, many older adults – and their families – face what can be a daunting task: finding suitable senior housing.
To begin the process of narrowing the search, it’s helpful to get a better idea first of the types of senior housing and determine which might be optimal. One of the biggest factors is taking into account what the individual’s needs are, and there are lots of different options for receiving care.
Of course, a nursing home offers the highest level of care for those who need it round-the-clock – like a person with advanced dementia. In addition, residents get help with activities of daily living, such as dressing themselves, bathing and grooming. Those who benefit from living in a nursing home usually need ongoing medical care and personal attention. They will need help with medications; they need assistance with really all aspects of their daily life, and they need some skilled nursing care.
What Care Options Are Available for Aging…
But, options for care have expanded, even for many with intensive needs. Many who may have once gone to a nursing home are able to get the care they need in other settings, such as assisted living – which provides some of the same types of daily assistance for people with less intensive medical care needs, and help managing medications – or even through home health services that allow many seniors to age in place in their own homes. That’s becoming more and more available as that’s what the public is demanding. People want choice, in terms of where they receive services. Policies at the federal and state level are moving in that direction as well, giving people more choice in terms of where they receive care as they age.
Medicaid, for example, which is one of the primary payers of long-term care and traditionally had been only available for people in nursing homes, is now being expanded through waiver programs so that people who are eligible for Medicaid might receive services in a variety of different settings.
Evaluating Different Types of Senior Housing
Certainly, though, not everyone needs the level of care offered in a nursing home, in assisted living or even through home health services. Some just want to live in communities where more basic supports, like lawn care and housekeeping services are offered, and where they can commune with peers.
For those individuals, one option is moving into a 55 and older community. These communities often cater to active older adults with amenities such as a fitness center and pool and walking or biking paths, and offer services like yard maintenance that free up time for other activities. Like other desirable communities, they’re often located within easy access of restaurants, groceries and entertainment.
Seniors who foresee possibly needing limited assistance but still want to live on their own terms may find the right balance in an independent living community. Most serve up a meal or two daily for residents, provide security services to keep communities – often apartment complexes or condos – safe, and also often offer other services, like housekeeping. That’s in addition to ample opportunities for social engagement with other residents.
One central consideration for those thinking about moving into an independent living community is, will you likely – now or in the near future – need any type of ongoing care? “One of the big questions is whether or not to go into a freestanding independent living community. In some places there are both independent living communities and assisted living units in the same complex or building – even apart from the continuing care retirement communities, which have independent living, assisted living and a nursing home in a single complex.
Such hybrid arrangements – whereby, for example, independent living communities provide some home health services – further expand the options residents have and ensure they don’t have to pay for a higher level of care that they don’t need. In other cases, residents can contract their own home health services, if needed. Related to continuum of care, increasingly and importantly, many independent living communities, while they don’t provide any kind of care with their own staff, do allow older people to bring in their own care in the units.
Experts say it’s worth keeping in mind – and a reason continuing care retirement communities and hybrid models are an option some choose – is that it can be difficult to have to go through the search and moving process all over again as a person’s health declines.
It's important to always keep a person's specific needs in mind during the search for senior housing, particularly as health issues and care needs become more significant. Some people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia – particularly in the advanced stages – may benefit from moving into a memory care unit. Memory care is a type of long-term skilled nursing care that caters to people with dementia and other memory problems, helping to ensure residents are kept safe and engaged, with everything from supportive staff to alarm systems designed to prevent residents from walking off and possibly into harm’s way. This is for individuals who need supervision and help with activities of daily living.
While in certain rural areas options may be more limited, in most markets there are a variety of different senior housing options. Whatever type of senior housing one chooses, it’s also critical to keep something else in mind – as with all housing: location, location, location. In this case, particularly for residents who have significant care needs, it’s about staying within close proximity to loved ones, who can also advocate on the senior’s behalf.
Think you’ve found a winner? There’s nothing that can take the place of site visits – at various times, and even unscheduled – to get a feel for the place, experts say. Check out state inspection reports for assisted living and nursing home facilities (access those for Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes at Nursing Home Compare on Medicare.gov) to make sure there are no glaring issues.
That’s in addition to talking with administrators about specific care needs and – if at all possible – with other residents or friends or family you know who live in the community or facility. It’s an involved process. You have to envision what it’s like to be living where you – or a loved one – are considering going. But experts say doing that due diligence, and trying to determine whether a senior housing option really aligns with one’s wants and needs, before moving in, can make all the difference.
For more information on senior care, contact Spring Arbor.