Historians may tell our great-grandchildren that the past 100 years was the age of specialization. Doctors, lawyers, and counselors all specialize. So do residential homes for senior care. Decades ago, there were only a few terms to describe facilities for senior living, terms we might now find pejorative, like: “the old folks home.” Today there are many different types of residences for older adults. They have creative, descriptive names—only, often we aren’t really sure what those names mean and how they apply to us.

Let us take a moment and examine some of these terms and their meaning. This will help us decide which, if any, of these sorts of residences might be the most appropriate for us or for others we love.

Independent Living

If you are ever driving through a retirement community and you see a series of cottages, perhaps with small yards and carports, you’ll know you are in the independent living section of the campus. Independent living is virtually the same as having your own condo off the campus, except you have the right to use the resources of the facility, including the center’s health care and dining facilities. You do have to follow the guidelines of the center, just all the other residents do. So long as you’re physically able, you can remain in your cottage, living on your own.

Residential Care

Let’s say for the sake of argument, that you aren’t able to care for the cottage by yourself, so you move into residential care. This is like living in an apartment in a large, barrier-free building. You probably have a kitchen, but all meals are also available in a large dining hall. A cleaning service is available. You may be asked to wear a device that allows staff members to know where you are and also gives you the ability to signal for help should an emergency arise. Let’s mention another term here that is quite important: “continuing care.” This is a reference to those facilities that offer tiered senior care so that you might “graduate” from one level of care to another over the course of many years without leaving the facility.

Assisted Living Care

It’s important to know that definitions are fluid throughout the nation. What’s considered one level of care in one state may be called by another name in other states. However, typically assisted living means a bedroom without a kitchen. Assisted living residents are usually physically able to attend meals three times a day in the dining hall. If infirmity prevents these residents from going to the dining hall, they are able to eat in their rooms. This form of senior living enables residents to be independent to a degree. Residents can move around the campus to the extent their physical condition allows. Assisted living implies that caregivers are going to furnishing daily medications and keeping a very close watch on the health of residents. To find out more about this level of caregiving at its finest, contact Heidi’s Haven Homes.

Skilled Care

This most closely relates to what in the past was referred to as a nursing home. Many skilled care residents are bedfast or wheelchair-bound. They have attained a point of physical infirmity such that they really are not able physically or medically to live and thrive without the daily attention of skilled staff. This is not hospitalization, though it does imply the limitations brought about by the administration of necessary medication, strictly limited physical ability, and frailty. If a skilled care patient requires constant nursing oversight—say for IVs, catheter, feeding tubes, and the like, these patients would usually be in the clinic portion of the campus. They would still be considered skilled care patients.

Memory Care

Memory care refers to residents who have cognitive disabilities, often as a result of some form of dementia. Memory care patients are alike in the sense that they cannot negotiate the outside world cognitively. Physically, they may be quite healthy or they may be bedfast. Most residents who end up in memory care units do so either because they have no family caregiver who is able to provide the assistance and safety needed throughout the day or because the patient is a wanderer. Indeed, some memory care patients cannot be left alone for any length of time without disappearing and causing family members great concern. Memory care units are typically restricted so residents cannot exit on their own.

Conclusion

Whether you are a healthy retiree desiring a location where continuing care will allow you to remain on the same campus for the coming years or you need some real oversight to maintain your health, there is a proper level of care for you. Hopefully, this brief elucidation of the various levels of care will be helpful as you prepare to find the best possible placement for yourself or someone you love.

Sources

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/senior-health/long-term-care/facility-types.aspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuing_care_retirement_communities_in_the_United_States

https://www.cms.gov/Medicare-Medicaid-Coordination/Fraud-Prevention/Medicaid-Integrity-Education/Downloads/infograph-CustodialCarevsSkilledCare-[March-2016].pdf

https://www.alzheimers.net/2014-04-24-questions-to-ask-about-memory-care