The ABCs of Senior Housing

Start with this guide as you begin to step on the path to discovering how best to continue to thrive.

Mature woman and her granddaughter smiling

Overview of Independent Living
Well-designed Independent Living communities offer a rich variety of lifestyle options for older adults who generally require little assistance with activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, preparing meals). Dining options, greater security and freedom from home maintenance are the mainstays of these congregate senior communities, but just as important to the creation of an enhanced sense of resident well-being are a wide variety of planned social, educational and recreational programs, as well as the daily opportunities for socialization with peers.

Independent Living housing ranges from Villas or Casitas to studio apartments and these residences are often situated on campuses of significant size with wellness and fitness centers, pools and spas, beauty salons and barber shops, a variety of dining venues, computer and meeting centers, libraries, guest accommodations and outdoor amenities such as gardens and nature trails as well as transportation services.

Paying for Independent Living

Independent Living is most often paid for with private funds. Some Independent Living communities require an entrance fee and may or may not involve condominium ownership. Some communities are rental. Supplemental health services may be paid for with long-term care insurance, if the policy allows. Supplemental private insurance will not pay for Independent Living.

Overview of Assisted Living
Assisted Living, sometimes called Personal Care, is a type of care that supports individuals with their basic Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), including bathing, dressing, preparing meals, and, in some cases, medication assistance or reminders. Residents of Assisted Living communities, whether stand-alone or part of Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), benefit from the community’s planned social, educational and recreational programs, as well as the daily opportunities for socialization with peers. Three daily meals are generally provided.

Assisted Living housing tends to be more intimate, offering an enhanced home-like atmosphere. Apartments are generally studio or one-bedroom, with kitchenettes. Safety features such as call systems and handrails are standard.

Paying for Assisted Living

Assisted Living can be paid for from private funds or with a mixture of private funds and long-term care insurance. Supplemental private insurance will not pay for Assisted Living.

Overview of Memory Care
Memory Care is designed to support the specific needs of residents with Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and dementia. Many Memory Care centers develop innovative educational and social programs that engage residents in the daily activities that slow memory loss and provide continuity through structured support. Some Memory Care centers have distinct locations for programs that address the wide range of resident memory loss. Although Memory Care centers should be secure in order to prevent residents from wandering, part of the secured area may be a landscaped courtyard or garden so that residents have access to the outdoors.

Paying for Memory Care

Private funds supplemented by long-term care insurance policies is the most common way to pay for Memory Care, but Medicare and private supplemental insurance may pay for the short-term skilled nursing and rehab care that may be required at times.

Overview of Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation
Often called rehabilitation centers or nursing homes, Nursing Care communities offer both long-term skilled nursing care and short-term skilled nursing and rehabilitation services. While supporting individuals with their basic Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), including bathing, dressing, preparing meals, Skilled Nursing communities also provide complex medical care using the services of licensed nurses and therapists (physical, occupational, nutritional and speech). Skilled Nursing services are often utilized by individuals requiring short-term medical support after an injury, surgery or illness-related hospital stay. Skilled Nursing communities generally have 24-hour licensed care staffing.

Skilled Nursing housing is generally a private suite or shared accommodations. Well-designed Skilled Nursing communities enhance recovery and healing with planned social, educational and recuperative programs, as well as with an emphasis on home-like comforts.

Paying for Nursing Care

Reimbursement for Skilled Nursing community patients and residents depends largely on length of stay. Different funding sources kick in at different intervals. Short-term rehabilitation stays are often covered by Medicare and/or private insurance, including long-term care insurance. (Certain criteria in terms of length of hospital stay and care requirements while in the Skilled Nursing community have to be met to receive Medicare payments and it is worthwhile to discuss these with a discharge coordinator at the hospital.) For long-term care residents, private funds, Medicaid, and long-term care insurance are the typical methods of payment.

Overview of Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) are designed to let residents “age in place,” with flexible accommodations designed to meet residents’ changing health and housing requirements. CCRCs generally offer Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care and Nursing Care on a single campus. Because residents do not have to move as their life situations may change, CCRCs provide a significant sense of community. Residents often enter the community through its Independent Living component. CCRCs are recognized for their robust planned social, educational and recreational programs, as well as resident camaraderie.

CCRC housing ranges from Villas or Casitas to studio apartments. In some CCRCs it is not necessary to move in order to receive a different type of care. These residences are often situated on campuses of significant size with wellness and fitness centers, pools and spas, a variety of dining venues, beauty salons and barber shops, computer and meeting centers, libraries, guest accommodations and outdoor amenities such as gardens and nature trails as well as transportation services.

Some CCRCs offer a Life Care contract. With Life Care, residents pay an entrance fee plus a monthly service fee. The contract provides for future costs of health care, including assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing, rehabilitation or even long term care on site at a predictable rate.

Paying for a CCRC

CCRCs generally require an entrance fee, which can be refundable to an individual or estate. Residents also pay a monthly service fee, based both on the services utilized and the nature of the contract they may have signed when entering the CCRC. CCRCs can be paid for from private funds or with a mixture of private funds and long-term care insurance, depending on the level of care. Most CCRCs have a short-term rehab program that is Medicare certified.

Comments

  1. Jeff Silver

    Great checklist! Something that really needs to be addressed as well, is senior health before assisted living comes in. One of the greatest weapons older adults have against the health declines that come with aging are regular activity, exercise and a healthy diet. It can mean YEARS of quality life – and a much smoother experience when retirement living finally does appear on the horizon.

Leave a Reply to Jeff Silver Cancel reply