A time will come for all of us when we need to make decisions regarding our loved ones who have gotten older. Senior living options1 can seem daunting, due to the sheer number of organisations and structures available, but if the right information is gathered, discussed and considered, it makes the process much easier.
Ageing can be a challenging period, for we all want to make the best choice concerning accommodation, care and support. Geographical convenience for the benefit of relatives, as well as access to doctors, specialists and consultants are common factors in deciding what’s best.
Consulting a local Senior Living Guide2 may be of great benefit with regard to specific options, but even before that process begins, it’s vital to be aware of the types of senior living3 which are available, for there are several primary forms.
1: Assisted Living Facilities – Staying in a specially-designed residence, with moderate care and supervision provided
Seniors who simply require a little help, but wish to retain their independence, may benefit from an assisted living4 programme. This care option usually sees a care giver attending to things such as cooking meals, bathroom visits and showering, light housework and travel assistance (particularly for medical appointments and so forth). They can also assist with the correct organisation and administration of medication.
Assisted living is one of the most versatile forms of senior care, with spaces that come as ‘individual rooms, apartments, or shared quarters’ according to Web MD5, who go on to say that ‘facilities generally provide a home-like setting and are physically designed to promote the resident’s independence.’
This option provides 24 hour care, along with social activities, meal preparation as well as personal hygiene and housekeeping services. The community atmosphere in many assisted living programmes makes this a popular choice for many seniors.
2: Independent Living – Autonomous living within a monitored complex, community or home
Independent living is defined as a housing arrangement which is primarily designed for those aged 55 and over. This option is similar to assisted living, but offers users a great deal more autonomy.
Think of it as a supervised home, apartment complex or community. Some independent living arrangements resemble suburban dwellings, yet can be subtly modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their residents. They usually feature on-call, 24 hour care in case of emergencies, and there are also social events and elements which allow residents to remain active within their own communities, something which has been shown to assist with conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia6.
One additional benefit of independent living facilities is the fact that accommodation tends to be smaller than standardised homes, allowing for easy mobility and maintenance.
3: Retirement Communities (CCRc / Fold) – Different levels of care available within a single setup
Senior living within retirement communities, also known as Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), includes the use of facilities that combine the previously mentioned independent living and assisted living options, but with an additional element of nursing home care.
The reason for this layered form of care is that residents may only require light assistance upon joining a community, but over time this may change. The retirement community option allows for an increase in assistive care, without the need for displacement and relocation, which can cause emotional distress upon both resident and family.
4: Senior Housing Options: Aging in place – Staying at home with a visiting care giver
Aging in place is an option preferred by those who simply require mild levels of assistance and care, which can be facilitated in the comfort and familiar surroundings of the user’s own home. This has obvious benefits, such as a maintenance of routine. The local community will be a big factor. Should a senior have a strong network of friends and neighbours, then this is a definite possibility for those with minor, age related conditions.
It may be necessary to consult some guides which refer to the modification of certain elements, particularly those involving showering and bathing, stairs, cooking and the implementation of a medical alert system.
5: Nursing homes – Full-time care within a secure facility, with increased medical assistance
Sometimes, a nursing home option is the only one available. These live in facilities provide ongoing, specialised care. They also provide a great deal of medical monitoring and assistance. The severity and range of conditions varies within residents, but nursing homes can be seen as more of a ‘final option’ when compared with some of the aforementioned care facilities and community-led care structures.
Factors to consider
Having an idea of the options available is one thing, but it’s essential to be able to look at the bigger picture. A range of personal factors must be considered when choosing the best senior care option.
- Location – How accessible is the senior living facility from family and friends?
- Social / Emotional Needs – How much contact with other seniors will the care user have?
- Medical Condition – What current, or developing conditions are present?
- Home Maintenance – Is the senior capable of maintaining their own home / living space?
- Financial Situation – How much will the ongoing costs be?
- Power of Attorney – Who will have the control to make tough decisions later in life?
- A Living / Last Will and Testament – Arrangement and delegation of possessions and assets.
- Guardianship – Who bears responsibility?
Family support is essential. Communication is key to preparing for such a significant lifestyle change. Perceived loss of independence can spark depression, or a sense of unhappiness, so it’s vital to ensure that our ageing loved ones are prepared psychologically, as well as logistically, for any major transition within their lives. This will, of course, depend on the condition of their physical and mental health at the time, but many prefer to make the decision to investigate senior living options before things reach a critical stage. This will allow for a comfortable and stress free option to be decided upon.