Getting Familiar with Senior Living Options

Seniors enjoying teaAs the U.S. population of people over 60 years of age grows, so too does the demand for care and housing to meet their changing needs. How seniors navigate their golden years has changed for the better over the last few decades, even though many don’t realize this.

Today, seniors can enjoy a better quality of life and more housing and care options than ever before. Consequently, seniors and their families can be overwhelmed by the choices available. Ultimately, the choice of which care and housing option is best for any individual comes down to two things: care needs and finances, though there are many more things to consider when choosing the right retirement community.

Today’s post offers a closer look at the different types of living options that are available to senior retirees now. From “aging in place” in your current home to moving into one of a variety of community types, we’ll help you sort through the possibilities as you plan for the future.

In-Home Care

Seniors who can live independently, but just need a little help with yard work, housecleaning, or meals, might be most comfortable staying at home and hiring private contractors to assist with the tasks they can no longer manage on their own. This option is often called aging in place or in-home care.

In-home care can range from having someone regularly help with cleaning and meals to having skilled nurses and physical therapists provide medical treatment. Medicare covers some of the costs of in-home medical care prescribed by a physician. However, home management assistance is an out-of-pocket expense. Depending on specific care needs, this option is typically the least expensive.

In-home care is ideal for seniors who are independent, need relatively little assistance, have a limited budget and do not have memory challenges, disabilities, or complex medical problems. Additionally, this option is most successful when relatives are living nearby who can also lend a hand. However, as care needs increase, other options may be a better fit.

Age-Restricted Communities

Do you enjoy being active but no longer want to mow a yard or take care of a large house? Downsizing might be a good idea for you. Those who aren’t quite ready for a retirement community but want to interact with others their own age might like an age-restricted community, often called a “55-plus community.” As the name implies, these are neighborhoods consisting of single family homes, condos, and apartments for people 55 years of age or older.

These communities look like regular neighborhoods but are designed with seniors in mind. For example, bathrooms in individual homes may have handrails, and there are lots of sidewalks and walking paths so seniors can stay active close to home. These communities usually include a community center or clubhouse, featuring a game room, pool, gym, or other amenities. Some communities may also have a golf course and tennis courts. Each community has its own regulations on everything from pet ownership to whether or not children or grandchildren could move in with current residents.

In addition to the purchase price or rental fee, these communities also charge a monthly maintenance fee, which usually covers property taxes as well as lawn and building maintenance. These communities are ideal for seniors with minimal care needs. Before moving to an age-restricted community, seniors should find out how easy it is to move out should their care needs change, as these communities don’t usually have care resources on campus.

Independent Living Facilities

Independent living facilities have become increasingly popular over the years. They typically feature single-dwelling homes, condos, and apartments. Some campuses also include nursing homes for when seniors can no longer live independently but still want to be part of the same community. Such independent living facilities are also called progressive or continuing care retirement communities – Calvary Homes fits this category.

Seniors at independent living facilities can come and go as they please. They can elect to have cleaning services, transportation assistance, and even a meal plan whereby meals are brought to them or are enjoyed in a community dining room. Life at independent living facilities is a lot like college dorm life. These facilities offer lots of social activities and amenities, including game rooms, pools, gyms, and more.

Independent living is ideal for seniors with no or minimal care needs, who don’t want to be bothered with cleaning, cooking, or yard work. These facilities usually charge a buy-in cost as well as a monthly fee of a few thousand dollars, which is paid out-of-pocket. If the facility is also progressive or continuing care, monthly costs may increase based on the level of care needed. It is always important to be sure you are “comparing apples to apples” in terms of costs.

Before moving to an independent living facility, seniors should find out if that facility also provides progressive care. They should review any restrictions as well as the process for moving out when care needs or financial situations change. Seniors should know what will happen if they would outlive their savings. Some facilities will allow residents to stay on even after they outlive their savings, though this is not true across the board.

Continuing Care Retirement Community (like Calvary Homes)

As we age, our care needs may naturally increase. Assisted living communities are an ideal option for some seniors, while continuing care retirement communities like ours here at Calvary Homes typically have several housing options on the same campus to encompass different kinds of needs. Each option offers different levels of care – independent/residential living, personal care (which may include specialized memory care), and skilled nursing care. This is especially convenient for couples with differing care needs.

Continuing care retirement communities provide seniors the opportunity to live independently but also to have access to additional assistance when needed. For example, if a resident suffers an illness or needs to recover from surgery, continuing care communities can accommodate their recovery on the same campus.

When a senior’s needs increase permanently, they can stay on the same campus and just move to the building where their needs can best be met. By staying on the same campus, seniors are still able to see and stay connected with their spouse and friends within that community.

Because continuing care retirement communities offer such a wide range of care services, they are often most expensive of retirement living options. Medicare and long-term care insurance   may cover some of the short-term medical costs, but most of the long-term medical costs and all of the independent living and personal care costs are generally paid out-of-pocket.  There is usually a buy-in cost and a monthly fee after that, as well. That monthly fee, typically several thousand dollars, increases in conjunction with care needs.

Residential Care Homes

Seniors who can no longer live independently, who need assistance with bathing, dressing, and medication management, for example, might not want to move to a skilled nursing facility. Instead, they might enjoy the family feel of a smaller residential care home.

As the name implies, residential care homes are houses in which a handful of seniors live. Each house has around-the-clock caregivers who do laundry, make and serve meals, and provide individualized personal assistance to each senior. They are generally non-skilled nursing staff, who simply assist with the activities of daily living (ADLs).

Of the options for seniors who need help with daily living tasks, residential care is typically less expensive than nursing home care. However, residential care home costs are not covered by Medicare or Medicaid, so seniors must pay out-of-pocket. Some residential care home expenses can be covered by a long-term care insurance plan. If care needs increase beyond what can be provided by residential care home staff, seniors would need to move to a nursing home or skilled care facility.

Nursing Homes

When seniors need assistance with more than just getting dressed and other ADLs, nursing homes can provide the care they need. Often called skilled nursing care facilities, nursing homes provide care to seniors with more advanced medical or physical needs. Some such facilities also specialize in memory care for seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Nursing homes differ from residential care homes in that their staff includes registered nurses, doctors, and other medical staff, who can provide more comprehensive medical care. There is no doubt about it, nursing homes are expensive. Medicare will only cover short-term medical treatment costs from a nursing home and will not cover the cost of living in a nursing home full-time. That cost, which may be several hundred dollars per day, can be covered by a long-term care insurance plan or be paid out-of-pocket.

When to Plan for Senior Living

The best time to start planning for senior living is long before retirement and definitely before any type of assistance is needed. Meeting with a financial planner to review retirement savings and income is the first step everyone should take. And it’s often a good idea to get a general idea of what senior living costs in the area where you want to live in retirement.

When shopping around for a retirement community, seniors should visit several that can offer the services needed now as well as services that may be needed later—and ask lots of questions.

Have Questions About Your Senior Living Options?

As a continuing care retirement community, Calvary Homes offers its residents the advantage of having several different types of living options all on one beautiful campus in suburban Lancaster, PA. Get in touch with us today to schedule a tour or just learn more about who we are and how we enrich the lives of senior adults we serve.