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Guide to Senior Housing Options

Last updated: July 8, 2014

With so many senior housing options available, it's easy to feel confused and overwhelmed by the vast number of care types and styles of senior living communities. It's important to learn the terminology and the  differences between senior care solutions that are out there so you can make the right choice for your family.

As you begin your search, use this guide to learn more about the different types of senior housing options available in the United States. Learn more about senior housing in Canada.

 

Download the Guide to Senior Housing (U.S. Edition)

Independent Living Communities

Senior independent living communities cater to seniors who are very independent with few medical problems. Residents live in fully equipped private apartments.

A variety of apartment sizes are available from studios to large two bedrooms. Fine dining services are offered with custom-designed meal packages. Often, residents can choose to pay for a specified number of meals per day. Frequently, there are numerous social outings and events to choose from for entertainment.

Also Known As:

  • Retirement Communities
  • Congregate Care
  • Retirement Villages
  • 55 + Communities
  • Senior Apartments
  • Continuing Care Retirement Community

Payment Sources:

  • Mostly private pay
  • Some U.S. government funded through Section 202

Price Range:

  • $1,500-$3,500 per month

Assisted Living

Assisted Living communities are designed for seniors who are no longer able to live on their own safely but do not require the high level of care provided in a nursing home. Assistance with medications, activities of daily living, meals and housekeeping are routinely provided. Three meals per day are provided in a central dining room. Residents live in private apartments which frequently have a limited kitchen area. Staff is available 24 hours per day for additional safety. Most assisted living communities provide licensed nursing services. The hours vary greatly, so be sure to ask when you visit. Social activities and scheduled transportation are also available in most communities. A special unit for Alzheimer's residents is available in some, but not all communities.

Also Known As:

  • Assisted Care Community
  • Personal Care Home

Payment Sources:

  • Mostly private pay
  • Some take Medicaid

Price Range:

  • $2,500-$4,000 per month depending on the size of apartment and level of assistance required
  • Alzheimer's care ranges from $2,800-$4,500 for a shared suite

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes provide around-the-clock skilled nursing care for the frail elderly who require a high level of medical care and assistance. Twenty-four hour skilled nursing services are available from licensed nurses. Many nursing homes now provide short-term rehabilitative stays for those recovering from an injury, illness or surgery. Long-term care residents generally have high care needs and complex medical conditions that require routine skilled nursing services. Residents typically share a room and are served meals in a central dining area unless they are too ill to participate. Activities are also available. Some facilities have a separate unit for Alzheimer's residents.

Also Known As:

  • Convalescent Care
  • Nursing Center
  • Skilled Nursing
  • Long Term Care Facility

Payment Sources:

  • Private Pay
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid

Price Range:

  • $4,000-$8,000 per month

Alzheimer's Care

Numerous senior housing options for people with dementia or Alzheimer's are available. With memory impaired, it is important to have 24-hour support and structured activities to ensure their safety and quality of life. Many families try to care for their loved ones at home, which can be extremely difficult given the skill that is required to care for a person with memory problems.

If you need to consider a community, understand that Alzheimer's care is delivered in the assisted living setting, as well as in nursing homes and occasionally in personal care homes. Generally, the residents live in semi-private apartments and have structured activities delivered by trained staff members. Most of these living environments have secured or locked areas to ensure no one wanders off. Many times, within the secured areas, residents have access to outdoor walking paths or gardens.

Also Known As:

Payment Sources:

  • Private Pay
  • Medicaid

Price Range:

  • $3,000-$7,000 per month

Residential Care Homes

Residential care homes are private homes that typically serve residents who live together and receive care from live-in caretakers. These homes offer assisted care services for seniors who want a more private, home-like community. Assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing and dressing are typically provided. Amenities and nursing services vary greatly between homes. Ask about their services when you tour.

Also Known As:

  • Board and Care Homes
  • Group Homes
  • Adult Family Homes

Payment Sources:

  • Private Pay
  • Medicaid

Price Range:

  • $1500-$3000 per month depending on the services and level of care provided

Respite Care

Respite care provides a temporary break for caregivers by allowing a resident to have a short-term stay in a community that can meet their needs. Many assisted living communities and nursing homes have a respite care program. Residents typically stay from a week to a month, depending on their situation. They receive all of the services of the community. Respite stays may also serve as a "get acquainted" period for the senior. Many residents find that they enjoy their stay and decide to move in soon after the short-term visit. Respite programs are available for assisted living and Alzheimer's residents.

Also Known As:

  • Short-Term Stay Programs
  • Adult Day Care

Payment Sources:

  • Private Pay
  • Medicaid

Price Range:

  • $75-$150 per day

Home Care

Home care allows older people to remain in their own homes while receiving the assistance they need to help them remain independent. Typically, home care involves providing assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing and meal preparation or Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) such as transportation, paying bills, making appointments and simply being there to provide companionship and emotional support. Home care services range from once a week to 24 hours a day depending on the needs of the client.

Also Known As:

Payment Sources:

  • Private Pay
  • Medicare/Medicaid via certified home health agencies

Price Range:

  • $20-$40 per hour

Senior Housing Options Comparison

Feature or Service Independent Living Communities Assisted Living Nursing Home Alzheimer's Care 
Cost Per Month  $1,500 - 3,500 $2,500 - 4,000 $4,000 - 8,000 $3,000 - 7,000
Meals Per Day  Meal Plan Options 3+ 3+ 3+
Medication
Management
No Yes Yes Yes
Personal Care* No Yes Yes Yes
Mobility Assistance No Yes Yes Yes
Accepts Wheelchairs Yes Yes Yes Yes
Alzheimer's/Dementia Care No Varies Varies Yes
On-Site Nurses* No Varies Yes Varies
Transportation  Most Yes Most Yes Yes Yes
Incontinence Care No Yes Yes Yes
Housekeeping  Varies Yes Yes Yes
Personal Laundry Varies Most Yes Yes Yes
*Personal care and on-site nurses may be available through a third party.

*All costs calculated in U.S. dollars.


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