As a service that provides information and resources to Seniors and their Caregivers, our #1 job is educating clients on the Senior Housing industry. There have always been so many misconceptions out there, and that’s been magnified during the past few months with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because our Senior population is at such a higher risk, the media has been reporting heavily on the status of the industry. With that, we’ve noticed that all Senior Housing, whether it be Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care or Skilled Nursing, is usually being lumped together as “Nursing Homes”. Our concern is that this doesn’t give a clear depiction to families of what exactly is happening in the industry so they can make the best decisions for their loved ones. Let’s take this opportunity to break down some categories within Senior Housing, so you are armed with the information you need to ask the right questions.
For a long time, Nursing Homes were all that was available to aging Seniors. But fast forward to today, and the options are vast. To be honest, it’s one of the things we love most about the industry. It isn’t a “one size fits all”, so we’re able to match clients with the perfect fit tailored to their needs.
There are four main categories of Senior Housing and the main distinguishing factor is the level of care they are able to provide their residents.
The first level is Independent Living, and is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a perfect match for Seniors who are still Independent, mobile and have good cognition. These communities offer convenience of having everything they need under one roof, increased socialization and many times have amenities like dining, laundry and cleaning services. However, they are not licensed to offer personal care to residents. If cognitive or physical support is needed, they will need to bring in a Caregiver service to do that, similar to what they would do if living at home.
The next level up, Assisted Living, has the benefits of Independent living, but is designed specifically for residents that need various levels of daily personal care. Different kinds of assisted living licenses will dictate what kind of care they can offer and if they require a nurse to be on site. All that said, Assisted Living communities are a good fit for someone who is still active enough that they can engage and gain from social activities, but need daily care. You will usually only pay for the level of care needed and that can range from basic medication management, all the way up to assisting with all activities of daily life like bathing, dressing and toileting. Other amenities that are usually included are 3 daily meals, housekeeping and laundry services, transportation and a variety of daily activities.
Memory Care communities are very similar to Assisted Living, in terms of amenities, daily programming and layout with the only real difference being that they are in a secured building/unit. They are created specifically for residents with varying levels of dementia who are a risk to wander and are usually staffed with more Caregivers to offer a higher level of care to residents.
The facilities with the highest level of care are Skilled Nursing Facilities, and are what most people picture when they hear the phrase “Nursing Home”. They are created specifically to care for those that need daily medical services. The environment is typically similar to a hospital setting and offers 24/7 care that is typically appropriate for someone with pre-existing medical conditions and more complex health needs that require assistance from a skilled nurse.
Even though our description simplifies the Senior Housing options available, you can see how it’s impossible to get a clear understanding of the industry by bunching them all together as “Nursing Homes”.
Whether it’s now, as you’re trying to disseminate statistics you hear in the news, or down the road when long term planning with a loved one, make sure you’re digging deeper to get the information you really need.
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Elli is the President of Sunways and loves spending time outside with her family, and is passionate about cooking and holistic health.