Levels of care, senior living, three pillars senior living communities

Comparing 4 Common Levels of Care at Senior Living Communities – IL, AL, or SNF? Oh my!

This article originally appeared on Angie’s List.

If you know a bit about senior living communities, you know that options abound. There are options about which community to choose. There are options about the floor plan of choice. There are options about how many meals to eat in the restaurant per day, which recreational groups to join, and which day works best for a weekly housekeeping appointment.

But what about the different types of buildings you may find as part of a senior living community? Before you can even delve into all those choices, it’s imperative that you know the basics about four common types of senior living buildings / units / levels of care. From there, you can work with your family, your physician, and the nurse at the senior community to determine the best level of care for you and carry on with the next sea of choices!

  1. Levels of care, senior living, three pillars senior living communities, independent apartmentIndependent Living | IL | Retirement Community | Senior Apartments – This is a living environment with minimal to no care or services provided. There is usually a minimum age requirement and residents are all able to care for themselves independently. You may find amenities such as a restaurant, light housekeeping services, and onsite maintenance staff to care for exterior work like mowing and interior work like a leaky faucet.
  1. Assisted Living | Catered Living | AL – In this type of community, residents live in their own apartment with medical or supportive personal care provided. These services could be physical assistance like help getting from point A to point B, medication administration, assistance with personal care and activities of daily living, or reminders about appointments and activities. Assisted Living includes most or all meals, housekeeping services, and activities. There are professionals in the building 24 hours per day, many of whom are licensed in nursing. Many Assisted Livings offer various levels of care, as well; one person could be living there under a basic care plan and paying the minimum amount, while their neighbor could be have the highest care plan, receiving many visits per day from staff and paying a higher monthly rate.
  1. Memory Care | Dementia Care | Alzheimer’s Unit – This setting is designed for someone who’s main need is support due to memory loss. Often, (though not always), the people at this level of care are quite physically able, and just need reminders throughout the day along with stimulating activities. This type of service can be provided in an Assisted Living or Nursing Home setting, depending on the community. Most services that are included at general assisted living are also included at memory care, and there are typically options to add additional services as needed. This level tends to cost more than regular Assisted Living due to the specialized training and programming required to provide the best quality of life for these residents. These are usually locked communities, as well, to prevent residents from wandering and keep them safe.
  1. Levels of care, senior living, three pillars senior living communitiesSkilled Nursing | Nursing Home | Skilled Care | Long Term Care – This refers to the highest level of care that most senior communities can provide, with registered and licensed nurses on site 24 hours per day to care for the highest level of medical and physical needs. In addition to nursing needs, other services like meals, activities, and transportation are also included. Most communities offer short-term rehabilitative stays for someone recovering from an injury, illness, or surgery, as well as long-term-care for those who require skilled nursing services on a regular basis.

If you remember one thing, remember this: when looking into a community, be up front about exactly what you or your loved ones’ needs and wants are. After all, senior communities are there to meet your needs.


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