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Senior Housing and Care Options

Helping a parent move to senior housing can seem more intimidating than orchestrating a rocket launch. The death of a spouse, declining health or safety concerns can trigger the need to move. The first phase comes with the realization that the family home is no longer suitable. Emotional ties to a place are hard to overcome. Talk to family and/or friends. Your doctor can help discuss the pros and cons of senior living options. He or she can help you decide when and where to go. Some older adults may be unable to decide due to health reasons. In this case, family or other caregivers will have to make the best choice.  Finding a new home that is appealing and appropriate is no easy task, and neither is culling through a lifetime's accumulation of "stuff."

Here are some tips to help make the transition easier:

  • Plan ahead. Don't wait for a health crisis to start the process. The smoothest transitions occur when the person moving is in the driver's seat.
  • Get a full assessment of the current situation. Physical care needs and financial resources are where to start. Consider the costs of staying in place, including renovation and ongoing maintenance. Add the cost of rising utility bills and taxes, and don't forget transportation and food. Make a list and decide whether it's cheaper to stay or move to a community designed for seniors.
  • Set a realistic financial budget. Be sure to consider the finances of any family members who will be contributing.
  • Take a multi-phase approach. Seniors often take longer than a year to actually make the move.
  • Schedule a tour with local residences. While there, use the Senior Housing Tour Checklistto help you evaluate the residence.
  • Fully explore new housing options. Senior living offers a broader range of options than ever before.
  • Read the housing contract carefully. You may want to review it with a lawyer.
  • Hire down-sizing-movers who specialize in senior moves
Different Types of Senior Housing

There are many types of senior living communities and housing. Each one provides different services. The services are based on the lifestyle and health care needs of the residents.  People choose to move into senior living communities for different reasons. Some move because they are lonely and want to be around other older adults. Some older adults can't take care of their home and need help with daily tasks. Others move because their family can't provide a safe environment or proper medical care. Below are some options for senior living.

Active Adult Communities

Active adult communities are neighborhoods made for older adults. They can be made up of houses or townhouses. Or they may include apartments, condos, or mobile homes. In most communities, adults have to be 55 years of age or older to live there. Residents are fully independent. They have no trouble living on their own. They take care of themselves and manage their homes.

This option allows active and able older adults to live on their own but near each other. Many of these communities offer a range of social, recreational, and educational activities.

Independent Living Communities

Independent living communities are known as retirement communities or retirement homes. Older adults can rent or buy their own units in one of these places. Meals often are included in retirement homes. Housekeeping, laundry, and transportation may be available, as well. Most residents can take care of themselves. They don't need help with daily tasks, such as bathing, getting dressed, or taking medicine.

This option may be a good fit for older adults who feel lonely living alone. Residents enjoy community living with others. They are fairly active and independent but enjoy services such as housekeeping and prepared meals.

Assisted Living

Assisted living residences are similar to independent living communities. However, they also offer personal care services to residents in need. These may include bathing, getting dressed, or taking medicine. Some residences include special units such as memory care for people who have early- to middle-stage dementia.

This option might be a good fit for older adults who are somewhat active but need help with daily tasks.

Continuing Care Communities

Continuing care communities meet the needs of a lot of older adults. They feature a variety of residences on a large campus. Residents can choose independent living, assisted living, or nursing home services. As their needs change over time, they can move to a residence that offers more assistance or medical care.

This option can work for many older adults. It lets them benefit from services right away while planning for their future. These communities allow older adults to live in one place for the rest of their lives. This is the most expensive of all senior living options. Residents must be able to sign a contract and pay for services now, to be used at a later date.

Nursing Home or Skilled Nursing Facility

Nursing homes are also known as skilled nursing or extended care facilities. They provide services as well as medical care. Nursing homes are staffed with nurses and other health professionals 24 hours a day. Some older adults stay here temporarily. This could be to recover from a fall, health condition, or surgery. Other adults may need to stay long-term.

This option is for people who need 24-hour personal and medical care. This type of care often can't be provided at home or in another senior living facility. Medicare and/or Medicaid cover some nursing home services.

Home Health v. Home Care

People often think home health and home care are the same thing. Many agencies use the terms interchangeably, depending on the state you're in. The terms sound similar and both types of care are delivered in the home. But there are important differences between home care and home health care. Knowing the differences can help you decide which type of care is right for your needs and budget.

When comparing home health vs. home care, it's useful to know the definitions of each as a starting point.

Home Health Care Definition

The home health care definition is medical services provided at home to treat a chronic health condition or help you recover from illness, injury or surgery. Some people start home health care after a health decline or getting diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Many people transition to home health care after a stay in a hospital, rehab center or skilled nursing facility. The primary goals are to help people recover and stay as independent as possible.

Home health care services address intermittent, or periodic, needs and may include:

  • Nursing
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Medical social work
  • Wound care
  • Patient and caregiver education
  • Help with daily tasks like bathing and dressing from a home health aide

When ordered by a doctor, Medicare, Medicaid and some private insurance plans cover the cost of home health services for eligible patients.

Home Care Definition

The definition of home care is help with daily activities to allow people to stay safe at home. It is often used by older adults with chronic illness, those with disabilities and people recovering from surgery. Home care is also sometimes called personal care, companion care, custodial care or homemaker services.

Home care services may include:

  • Bathing, toileting, dressing and grooming
  • House cleaning and other chores
  • Transportation
  • Meal preparation
  • Companionship
  • Medication reminders

Many patients pay for home care out of pocket. In some cases, Medicaid or long-term insurance will cover the costs of home care.

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