Retirement and lifestyle changes never mean you stop pursuing your goals and ideal lifestyle. You simply reassess, re-evaluate and make choices based on what you need now and in the future.
At no point is this truer than when you’re making long-term care and housing decisions. You want to live in a place where you’re active, involved in your community and can meet your wellness goals; but you’ve also learned that it’s important to plan ahead.
There are lots of living arrangements available for older adults. The first step, as in any choice you make, is to understand your options. Here are the types of living options you’ll probably encounter as you look for the next place you’ll call home.
Independent Living Communities
Independent living communities are exactly what they sound like they would be. You are able to get yourself around, make your own decisions and take care of your day-to-day needs, but you do it in a community environment with a range of amenities and services.
The Benefits of Independent Living
Designed for people who can live day-to-day without assistance, independent living can provide all of the privacy that you’re used to in your own home, but without on-going responsibilities like mowing the lawn or fixing appliances. Independent living typically does not provide hands-on care – although you have access to support – there’s often transportation available for medical appointments.
The focus of independent living is activity. You spend your days in a community of peers who are committed to enjoying life and making the most of their days, just like you are. You can make your own fun or join in scheduled social and activity programs, which can range from card game nights to live entertainment.
The Living Space
Independent living communities make it easier for residents to lead healthy, active lifestyles and build rich social networks. Many locations have amenities like fitness centers, swimming pools and transportation to area shopping and entertainment venues so residents can stay as active as they want to be.
Independent living floorplans have a private bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living areas, just like you’re used to having; and if you really want to shed the responsibilities of home-keeping, many communities offer cleaning services for an extra fee.
How Long Can You Stay?
You’re welcome to stay in an independent living community as long as you can manage all of your activities of daily living. Known to health professionals as ADLs, these are the daily tasks that you do to perform basic self-care. ADLs include:
- Personal grooming and dressing
- Using the restroom
- Bathing or showering
- Moving about your home, either on foot or with the help of a wheelchair
- Shifting from one position to another – from lying down to sitting up, for example, or from sitting in a chair to standing
To stay in an independent living residence, you need to be able to do all of these things yourself or arrange for the assistance you need. Many people live in these residences with a spouse or partner and the two people help each other. You may also be able to hire a personal assistant or another professional who can come in and assist you.
Generally, outside help can be enough for independent living residents who need occasional help or basic support. If you reach a point at which you need more consistent assistance, you’ll want to consider an assisted living option.
Assisted Living Communities
If you ever have cognitive or physical needs that make it difficult or dangerous for you to live on your own, but your health is still relatively stable, an assisted living community could be the place for you.
The Benefits of Assisted Living
Assisted living communities serve people who need some help with ADLs but are basically independent. There is always some support available and team members can help you arrange transportation, get to appointments and otherwise keep yourself as healthy and active as possible. Housekeeping and laundry are usually provided as well, so you don’t have to worry about getting yourself to a laundromat or scrubbing a dirty floor.
Like independent living communities, assisted living communities usually have a schedule of recreational and social activities. Exercise and wellness programs are typically a part of the program and feature activities designed to keep you in tip-top shape.
The Living Space
Assisted living floorplans vary by location. You’ll often find private studio or one-bedroom apartments with attached bathrooms. Other locations have semi-private rooms or suites for residents. If you’re looking for a particular level of privacy or apartment layout, simply ask.
How Long Can You Stay?
You can remain in an assisted living community for as long as the services available meet your needs. As with independent living, you may be able to arrange for home health care or even hospice care in your residence, but most assisted living centers do not provide anything that might be considered medical care.
In general, you’ll be safe and comfortable in assisted living as long as you:
- Don’t have a medical condition that requires 24-hour care
- Are in stable health and don’t put others’ health at risk by sharing their space
- Can walk or use a wheelchair, shift positions, and go down stairs without help most of the time
- Can participate in the creation and adjustment of your own support plan
Mobility assistance, such as a walker or scooter, is not a deal-breaker for assisted living. But if you find that you regularly have trouble transferring yourself to or from the mobility device, it might be time for a higher level of support.
Can Assisted Living Communities Provide Memory Support?
The short answer is “sometimes.” Many assisted living communities welcome people who have mild-to-moderate memory support needs. Others have dedicated memory care neighborhoods where they can serve people who have more advanced needs. In most cases, however, residents whose memory needs advance past a certain stage will require skilled nursing services.
Skilled Nursing Communities
A skilled nursing or memory care community provides services to residents who require 24-hour support for serious health needs. There is always a licensed practical nurse (LPN) on staff and an RN is on-site at least eight hours a day, every day of the week. A full complement of nursing assistants rounds out the team.
The Benefits of Skilled Nursing
Skilled nursing communities have qualified personnel on-site to help with ADLs, including bathing and personal hygiene, as well as the management of chronic and acute health conditions.
Many skilled nursing communities are structured to provide rehabilitation after surgery or a hospital stay. They have not only nursing staff but also physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists. The therapeutic staff and nursing team work together to get you back into top shape and fully participating in life again as soon as possible.
In many cases, Medicare can help you to pay for these services when and if you need them.
Skilled nursing communities also provide dining services. If you’re capable of doing so, you’ll join your neighbors for dinner in the on-site restaurant. If you need to stay in your room, service providers will bring meals to you.
The same is true for activities. Skilled nursing centers typically have packed social calendars with options for people who can transport themselves for activities and people who need the activities to come to them. In general, activities are less physically demanding than those offered in assisted living communities.
The Living Space
In a skilled nursing community, your social activity is built into your daily life, since most residents in skilled nursing centers live in semi-private rooms. If your spouse or partner ends up needing the same level of care as you do, the two of you can keep sharing a room within the skilled nursing community. Other residents are placed with a roommate who may, in time, become a close friend.
How Long Can You Stay?
Skilled nursing centers can carry out doctors’ orders and perform all of a resident’s basic daily tasks of living. You’re welcome to stay as long as you need the services they offer, but there might be situations in which you need intensive or acute hospital care. Even then, however, it’s not a permanent move – they’ll work on moving you back to wherever you were before your admission.
Home Health and Home Care
You also have the option of staying where you are and having support come to you.
If you only need support with ADLs, you can hire a non-medical, in-home care provider to come in and assist you with light housework, meal preparation, personal grooming, and other personal care tasks. You’ll pay for this out of pocket, but it lets you keep living your daily life more or less exactly as it is.
Medical support is available through the home health care model, which Medicare will cover under certain specified conditions. (The most important is that you must be home-bound.) Your home health professional can assist with things like medication management, occupational therapy, and wound care. However, the person usually isn’t allowed to do anything for you that a doctor hasn’t prescribed.
The Benefits and Drawbacks
Home care and home health can help you live in your existing community for longer, but it isn’t always a viable permanent option. First of all, Medicare won’t cover home health services for more than 34 hours a week. If you need 24-hour-a-day support at any point, you may end up facing the stress of moving when you’re not in top form.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities
Continuing Care Retirement Communities, or CCRCs, are now also known as Life Plan Communities or supportive living community. They’re your one-stop shop for independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care, all under one umbrella.
How CCRCs Work
Most people who move into a CCRC start out in an independent living apartment or home. They can immediately start taking advantage of all the social and recreational activities available, make new friends and take classes.
If you move to a Life Plan Community, there’s always a chance that you’ll never have to move out of your independent living space. You’ll be able to continue spending time with your friends, participating in enrichment programs and living life to the fullest. You can even travel, just like you would if you were still based in your private home.
However, there’s one major advantage to a Life Plan Community versus a traditional independent living community: you don’t have to worry about needing a bit more support because if you do, you won’t have to move to a new community. There’s an assisted living or skilled nursing environment in the same overall community to welcome you.
A Worry-Free, Disruption-Free Future
If you move to an assisted living residence within your supportive living community, you won’t have your life upended. Your friends will still be nearby and if you’ve been attending a house of worship, going to a senior center, or otherwise taking part in activities within the greater community, you can keep on doing it. You’ll just get the daily support that you need to stay active and engaged with life.
If your medical needs go beyond what the assisted living community can manage, there’s a skilled nursing facility on-site as well. It’s there for you if you need long-term, 24-hour care or simply time to rehabilitate after a hospital stay. There’s still no relocating or leaving your friends involved.
For Couples and Best Friends
If you have a significant other, romantic or not, think of what life will be like if your independence levels suddenly don’t match up. What would you do if your significant other needed assistant living or skilled nursing care and you didn’t, or vice versa?
With a CCRC, you can make sure that the two of you will stay together even if your individual health needs change. Maybe one of you will be in independent living and one will be in skilled nursing, but you’ll still be right around the corner from each other. You can even spend all day with your partner in the skilled nursing neighborhood and sleep in your independent living apartment if that’s what suits you.
Find Your Perfect Home in Retirement
A CCRC is a great way to keep yourself focused on living, not on logistics. At Lake Park Retirement, residents can design the perfect lifestyle for themselves. Studios, alcoves, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms are available for independent living, and residents get priority access to assisted living and skilled nursing neighborhoods. There’s a fitness center, a grand dining room and even a full library.
As motivational speaker Leo Buscaglia once said, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorry, it only saps today of its joy.” Experience the peace of mind that comes with living in a great location that can meet your needs, no matter what. Consider the CCRC option, and get in touch if you have any questions or want to visit our CCRC community.