Senior Living Communities 101
Understanding the basics of senior living communities
There are thousands of senior living communities across the country. At Oasis Senior Advisors®, we are proud to offer a free service to seniors and families to help you navigate the many choices. The summaries below provide an introductory overview of the five general categories of communities. It’s important to note that licensing and terminology vary greatly from state to state – connect with your local advisor today, and they will help you understand these details in your area.
Click the title below to learn more about each type of senior living community:
Independent Living communities tend to be larger apartment-type buildings or complexes where seniors live on their own, with little to no assistance required. Types of communities include senior apartment buildings, retirement communities, campuses, etc. Apartments range from studio to 2-3 bedrooms in size, in some cases casitas, patio homes and/or full-sized homes. Amenities range from simple proximity to services to a wide range of activities, transportation, dining options and more.
Independent Living is an appropriate setting for seniors who are capable of living on their own and need little to no assistance with activities of daily living (dressing, bathing, etc), but who would like access to some amenities such as activities and light housekeeping.
Independent Living communities are not licensed by the state, and therefore do not provide care. Some have on-site “home care partners” that residents can contract with individually for some assistance. A key consideration in choosing an Independent Living Community is short and long-term projections for health and support needs, and willingness to move again in the future if care needs change.
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Assisted living communities offer a home-like, residential atmosphere that balances independence and levels of care. They range in size from large buildings or complexes where residents live in apartments (studio to 2 bedrooms in size, with full or partial kitchens) to small residential care homes where a few residents share a common living room and dining area.
Assisted living is an appropriate setting for seniors who need or want assistance with various daily activities ranging from cooking, housekeeping and laundry to getting dressed, or using the bathroom in the middle of the night, or for someone who simply would like the peace of mind of having assistance nearby if it’s needed.
All assisted living communities are licensed by the state, and their license determines the level of care the community can provide. Assisted living communities offer a wide variety of amenities that differ with every community. Amenities may include a library, pool, pool table, theater, chapel, fitness room, happy hour, and the list goes on.
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Memory Care communities offer a home-like, residential atmosphere that provides assistance with all day-to-day activities while promoting independence. While similar to Assisted Living Communities, most often the staff is specifically trained to understand the challenges associated with diseases related to memory loss. Many offer specific programming developed around dementia. Residents share communal living rooms and dining areas, in a setting that provides security from wandering. Communities range in configuration from a single larger building, to a group of cottages on an enclosed campus, to a small residential care home with only a few residents.
A Memory Care Community is an appropriate setting for seniors who are experiencing things such as accidents as a result of stoves or faucets being left on, wandering or being lost even in familiar settings, or it is unknown how they will react in emergency situations.
All Memory Care communities are licensed by the state. Memory Care communities offer a variety of approaches – some have seniors live in a small setting with others at approximately the same cognitive level, and others integrate cognitive levels. Depending on the state, some, not all, Memory Care Communities are contracted with state Medicaid services for seniors who qualify both financially and with care needs.
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Skilled nursing homes are commonly known as “nursing homes” or skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). They provide the highest level of clinical care, similar to a hospital or rehabilitation facility. Due to the care levels offered, Skilled Nursing home settings are often more “hospital-like”.
This type of community is an appropriate setting for seniors who have very high levels of clinical care needs.
Some Skilled Nursing Facilities focus primarily on short, rehabilitation stays, while others offer long-term care. Key when considering Skilled Nursing Homes for long-term care is understanding the amenities and activities offered, as these can vary greatly from Nursing Home to Nursing Home. Many are contracted with state Medicaid services for seniors who qualify both financially and with care needs.
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CCRCs tend to be larger complexes, often a campus, that offers most of/or the entire “continuum” of care – Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, and Skilled Nursing. The concept is that a resident can stay in the same community and move through the levels of required care. The accommodations range from homes, patio homes, apartments, and rooms, depending on the specific level of care; with a range of activities, dining options and amenities. Most often, CCRCs require a larger upfront fee (aka “buy-in”), and some require that you initially enter as an independent resident.
A CCRC is an appropriate setting for seniors who are currently independent, and would like the ability to receive increasing care without having to leave that “campus”.
Every CCRC has a different model for pricing and continuing care. Variables include – whether or not there is a buy-in, minimum stay in independent living, medical assessment prior to acceptance, whether the buy-in is fully, partially or not refundable after certain length of stay, guarantee of continuing care and what levels, etc. Key considerations also include size of campus and desired amenities.
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Every senior living community is different, as are the needs of each individual. There are thousands of senior housing options to choose from, which can make the selection process challenging. At Oasis Senior Advisors®, we are proud to offer compassionate senior placement and referral services for individuals and families from coast to coast. Our advisors have extensive knowledge of their local communities and will help you navigate your options.