Senior Living 101

A good place to begin will be to define exactly what I mean by “senior living communities”. There are many types of living situations that fall under this umbrella topic and unless you are working in the field or have done a lot of homework on senior living options, it can be very confusing. There are many types of senior living options to consider depending on your needs, to mention just a few:

  • Over 55 Communities
  • Independent Living Community
  • Assisted Living Community
  • Nursing Home
  • Skilled Care & Rehab
  • Memory Care
  • Life Care Community/CCRC

Over 55 communities are just that, they are communities for adults over 55 and do not include any services but you are welcome to bring services into you home. The attraction of this type of community is that you are living within a community of like-aged individuals.

Independent Living Communities are intended for senior adults, usually over the age of 60-65, that may require some support such as an emergency call system, meal plan options, social & activity programs as well as personal support (laundry, housekeeping, etc).  Though individuals in independent living tend to range in abilities and age, independent living communities are intended to be a social model and do not offer medical support such as doctors and nurses. As an example, The Park Danforth offers apartments that are equipped with an emergency call system and 24 hour emergency staff as well as meal plan options, an engaging wellness and life enrichment programs and in-house theater and grocery store. Many of our residents continue to drive and maintain their own medical appointment schedule. At The Park Danforth we provide transportation to grocery stores, the mall, discount stores, pharmacies and social trips to local eateries.

Assisted Living offers heavier support in the areas of personal hygiene, medication administration and medical oversight. Assisted  living programs tend to have medical staff involved such as RN’s, CNA’s (Certified Nursing Assistants) which assist the residents with activities of daily living such as dressing and bathing and CRMA’s (Certified Residential Medication Aides) which administer medications. Assisted Living Programs are still a residential housing option though there is some medical monitoring and oversight. Housekeeping and laundry services are usually available at an Assisted Living level of senior living. At The Park Danforth, our Assisted Living program is called Clark’s Terrace and includes 36 studio apartments with private bathrooms and kitchenettes. Our program is overseen an RN and includes a dining room, a commercial kitchen and library in addition to the apartments. We do offer MaineCare apartments when available. If you are looking into Assisted Living options for yourself or a loved one and require a MaineCare certified apartment you will soon realize that a large majority of Assisted Living MaineCare situations require you to share your apartment with another person. Clark’s Terrace at The Park Danforth is one of very few Assisted Living programs offering private apartments to Maine Care recipients.

Nursing Homes offer everything that an Assisted Living Program as far as assistance with dressing, bathing and medication administration but with Nursing Homes we are tipping into a healthcare community. Nursing homes provide medical care and have RN involvement around the clock as well as a medical director who is a physician. The extent of medical care provided within a nursing home tends to vary from Nursing Home to Nursing Home. Nursing Homes can also be referred to as Nursing Centers, Long Term Care or Skilled Nursing.

Rehabilitation Centers can be physically connected to Nursing Homes and may provide many of the same services, but they are intended for shorter term stays following a surgery, injury or physical debilitation. As an example, following a fall and subsequent hip fracture, an individual may have hip repair or replacement surgery followed by a stay in a Rehabilitation Center before returning home. In a Rehabilitation Center an individual can expect to receive one or more of the following therapies: Physical therapy, Occupation Therapy, Speech Therapy, Cardiac and/or Respiratory Therapy. This, of course, will depend on the individual’s reason for being in rehab.

Memory Care is a senior living option specifically geared towards those individuals living with dementia or short term memory loss. Memory Care communities can be offered at an Assisted Living level  in which basic supports are provided or at a Nursing Home level depending on the level of dementia and the presence of comorbidities.

Lastly, Continuing Care Residential Communities or CCRC’s cover all types of senior community options on one campus. The obvious advantage in moving to a CCRC is that you can stay in the same community and not have to relocate as your care needs change. You may start in the Independent Living part of a CCRC but you know that if you need Assisted Living or Nursing Home care in the future you can remain at the same senior living community. A Life Care Community is similar in that there are multiple levels of care available. In a life care Community you purchase your home or apartment with the agreement that you can remain within the community as you move through the continuum of care.

These are all very basic descriptions of the various types of Senior Living options and I have only scratched the surface regarding each option. I know you this is a lot of information t process but hopefully this was helpful. Hopefully, this gives you some idea of the Senior Living options that are available to you. The first question you may ask yourself is, “What do I need?”.  Are you looking for a living situation without many supports or are you looking for a situation that provides a wide range of services? Good luck in your search!