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Leaves Shadow
  • Kristin Webb

Understanding Care Options for Older Adults

If you are starting to think about exploring senior living and care options for the future, whether for yourself or a loved one, there are many things to consider – even before you start looking.  The landscape of senior living options can be confusing and you may be wondering just what the differences are between one type of community and another.  Understanding these differences will help you know where to start your search and how to better select the option that best suits your needs and your lifestyle.  Let’s take a look at the different types of communities and what they have to offer.

Age Restricted or 55+ Community:  This is simply a housing development or apartment complex where residents must be over 55 to move in.  There are often activities and transportation available, and resident do not have to hassle with home and yard maintenance.  No care services or meals are offered.

Independent Living –This is a supportive retirement community for people 62 or older.  While monthly fees can seem high, rent includes your own apartment, most utilities, transportation services, weekly housekeeping, some meals, a wide variety of activities, exercise classes and miscellaneous amenities.  The focus is on helping residents maintain their independence and highest level of functioning, while providing social connection and support.

Assisted Living –An AL community is very similar to an independent living community in that it includes everything IL provides, plus more.  All meals are included and residents can receive assistance with activities of daily living (medication mgmt., dressing, grooming, bathing, transfer assistance, etc.), as well as some Nursing services, depending on staffing.  Help is available 24 hours a day, with care services provided intermittently.  The monthly Care Plan in is addition to your monthly apartment cost, and is based on an individual nursing assessment conducted prior to moving in.

Secured Memory Care – This type of setting Includes everything assisted living provides, plus a secured setting (coded entrances and exits) and higher staff to resident ratios.  It is appropriate for individuals with moderate to advanced levels of cognitive decline/dementia.  Programs are tailored to meet residents where they are in their level of cognitive functioning, while offering emotional support and security.

Adult Family Home – This is a residential home which has been licensed by DSHS to provide care for up to 6 individuals.  It is a smaller and quieter environment than those above, and best for individuals with advance cognitive decline/dementia, or who are physically frail, have more complex care needs, or are a high fall risk.  There is little activity offered, but a lot of immediate care and support is available.

Skilled Nursing Facility/Rehabilitation Center – SNFs are licensed to provide very advanced levels of care and have nurses on-site 24 hours a day.  They serve 2 functions:

·         Short Term Rehab – Many people will have a short term stay for rehabilitation after a serious illness, surgery, etc..  Medicare A pays for first 20 days as long as the individual is progressing.  Medicare B may pay for up to an additional 80 days, with daily co-pay of $204.


·         Long Term Care – Only 3-4% of the population will need to live in a Nursing Home long term.  Most people’s needs can be met in one of the settings noted above.  Medicare does not pay for LTC costs; however, most nursing homes will allow for Medicaid payment if the resident runs out of money.


Continuing Care Retirement Community –Typically offers Independent Living, Assisted Living, Secure Memory Care and Skilled Nursing on the same campus.  They are often referred to as a “Buy In”, as a significant entrance fee is required.  (May be partially refundable.)  Residents must be independent to move in, and then will move to designated areas as care is needed.

Bear in mind that many communities do offer multiple service lines, including Independent, Assisted Living and Secured Memory care – so be sure to ask.

While there are MANY other questions one needs to ask before ultimately choosing the right community, by having a realistic understanding of your own needs, and knowing what each type of community offers, you’ll have a starting point to begin your search. 


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