Which Senior Living Option is Right for You?

With the variety of senior housing options available today, selecting the one that is right for you or a loved one can be an overwhelming task. Planning ahead, evaluating your needs and becoming educated on your options can reduce some of the anxiety and stress associated with the process.

Residential Living, often referred to as independent living, is a housing arrangement designed exclusively for older adults where, in general, the homes (which range from apartments to free-standing homes) are maintenance free. Residential living provides an opportunity to still live independently, without the hassle of home maintenance.

When choosing a residential living community, keep in mind some of the amenities that might be important to you such as availability of transportation, security, accessibility to community resources and support, and opportunities for socialization.

If, however, you are finding that your activities of daily living are becoming increasingly more difficult to manage on your own, a personal care facility may be a good choice to consider. Residents in personal care receive assistance with bathing, dressing, medications and minor health issues if needed, while still being encouraged to remain as independent as possible.

The personal care facility you choose should offer health care services you need now and those that you anticipate in the future, and have a manageable staff-to-patient ratio to ensure personalized care. Opportunities for socialization should be offered and encouraged. Keep in mind that health insurance does not generally cover this level of care.

Although an assisted living residence offers some of the same services as personal care, such as assistance with activities of daily living and supplemental health services, it requires a different licensure. An assisted living facility will allow residents to age in place without having to move to a licensed long term care facility as their needs increase. Assisted living residents will also have private living units with kitchen capacity and private bathrooms, allowing for greater independence and privacy.

Nursing facilities are all-inclusive care homes for adults requiring constant, continuing assistance with activities of daily living and medical care. Residents in nursing care will have their daily medical, physical, social and psychological needs met with the help of the nursing staff. Nursing care facilities should also offer ample opportunities for socialization and participation in activities that are physically, mentally and socially stimulating.

Nursing care, however, is not necessarily a long term need. Some people access nursing care as a bridge to getting strong enough to go back home such as after a knee replacement, for example. It can also be used to treat short term clinical interventions such as intravenous therapy or wound care. This type of nursing is typically covered by Medicare or other insurance provider.

Continuing care retirement communities, are best prepared to deal with healthcare issues that arise as you age. These communities provide residential living, personal care and nursing care at a central location so that if a resident's heal begins to deteriorate, they can get the proper treatment without having to move to a different facility.

As you do your research, remember that any senior living residence you choose should be safe, clean and have a caring and dedicated staff. Spend time at the facility before making any commitments. Talk to current residents and staff, enjoy a meal and browse the common living areas.

For additional reassurance, ask to see the facility's most recent state inspections. The Better Business Bureau or Eldercare Locator (a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging) can inform you of any complaints, deficiencies or legal actions that have been filed against a specific facility.

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