Today, families have more choices than ever when it comes to senior care. One common choice involves deciding between an assisted living community and a residential care home. Care homes (also called “group homes”, “board and care homes” or “adult family care homes”) are regular houses in residential neighborhoods that have been adapted to accommodate a handful of elderly residents and their caregivers. Assisted living communities, on the other hand, also provide housing and care for older people, but are larger and more closely resemble hotels than homes.
The level of care offered at assisted living communities and care homes is comparable: Both can be appropriate options for seniors who need help with daily living but who are well enough that a nursing home isn’t necessary. Assisted living communities and care homes also tend to be similarly priced.
Because both level of care and the price of these options are much the same, the decision often comes down to the personality of the potential resident. Here are five questions to help guide those deciding between these assisted living and a care home:
More active seniors may prefer the larger, busier environment of an assisted living community, which has daily activities and entertainment. Seniors who are more subdued may like the quiet, calm and ‘homelike’ environment of a care home.
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Most assisted living communities offer daily excursions for the intrepid. This can include trips to the mall, classical concerts, museums, church or even the casino. Care homes typically offer outings on a more periodic basis, so a senior who likes to get out and about frequently may prefer assisted living, while the homebody may prefer a care home.
Care homes tend to have a higher ratio of caregivers to residents than assisted living communities, so seniors who need more companionship or one-on-one attention from caregivers may do well at a care home. On the other hand, assisted living may be better suited for seniors who would be unlikely to turn to caregivers for companionship or to fulfill emotional needs.
The more extroverted and social may prefer assisted living communities, which have dozens of residents (potential friends), frequent social gatherings and a restaurant-like dining experience. Seniors who are more reserved may prefer a care home, where they can quickly become familiar with the caregivers and the other residents, and often develop a special bond with them. Quieter seniors also often enjoy the intimate and genuinely home-like dining experience of care homes.
Assisted living residents typically have their own apartment, usually with a private bathroom and sometimes with a living room, as well. Assisted living residents who appreciate solitude can retreat to their apartment and even lock their door whenever they like when they want “alone time.” At care homes, intimacy prevails over privacy, and solitude can be more difficult to find. Care-home residents usually have just their bedroom to themselves, and sometimes share a bathroom with another resident.
We recognize that neither people, nor senior communities, fall into cut-and-dry dichotomies. Just as there are people with a blend of outgoing and introverted characteristics, there are senior communities with the traits of both assisted living and group homes. The questions posed in this article are designed to spur thought, but those who are grappling the immediate choice may be best served by visiting a few assisted living communities as well as a few care homes to learn more about what might be the best fit.
Have you had to decide between assisted living and a care home? Do you have other tips about how to make this decision? Please share your comments below.