Buying a home can be the most expensive and life-altering purchase we will ever make. It is where we plant our roots, grow our families, try our hand at home improvement tasks, decorate and re-decorate again to our tastes, and mostly, it’s where we make cherished memories.
However, there often will come a time when we need to decide (or in some circumstances, the decision will have to be made for us) if it’s time to downsize, move on to new surroundings, or re-think if our family home can be made safe and comfortable as we age.
It’s a lot to think about and there is a lot to consider.
And with so many senior living options now available, it’s easy to see how confusing it all can be!
Questions to Ask
Here are some considerations to keep in mind when researching the right senior housing fit for yourself or a loved one:
- Physical and medical needs
- Does the level of care offered meet your current and potentially future needs?
- What personal care services are available? What medical personnel are on-site?
- How is the building’s accessibility? Are proper safety measures in place?
- Do the building layout and its grounds meet your needs or limitations?
- Is the facility and its staff properly licensed?
- Is there adequate staffing in place?
- Will it enable you to be close to family and friends?
- What is its proximity to activities, local attractions, or accessible transportation?
- Is the location close to my existing doctors and hospital?
- Daily living needs
- How much home maintenance is required or offered?
- What services are offered? (i.e. meals, transportation, housekeeping services, medical care, etc.)
- Do the current residents seem comfortable and well-cared for?
- Are the buildings and its grounds clean and maintained?
- Social life
- What is the social environment like? What activities and amenities are available?
- Does the staff seem friendly and helpful? Do residents seem happy and fulfilled?
- Are pets allowed?
- Cost and affordability
- What is the monthly/yearly cost? What are the fees?
- What is included in the costs and what is extra?
- How will you pay for it?
- Do they accept Medicaid?
What are Your Options?
There are a variety of senior housing options and often they go by a variety of different names. They also vary according to daily and medical support available, conveniences offered, room privacy, location, and cost.
To help you sort out the different living accommodations out there, here’s a look at some of the most common types and what each can offer:
1. Aging in place, or staying in your own home, has the benefit of keeping you or your loved one in familiar surroundings. It is a potentially good solution if:
- There is a strong network of trusted friends and loved ones around you that can assist where needed with transportation, medical and personal care needs, housekeeping, home maintenance, and companionship.
- You are able to have or make home repairs or modifications that will enhance the home’s safety.
- You have access to quality homecare services, which provide a range of services from weekly visits to help with daily activities to 24-hour a day at-home care.
- Caregivers assisting an aging loved one at home have access to assistive programs such as adult day care, which provides a few hours or full day of care at a location away from the home, and can provide social and/or medical care; or respite care, a short-term stay at a senior community that can help caregivers who might need to take a break.
2. Independent Living, also known as active living or a retirement community, is a living community geared for adults, usually 55 years of age or up. Generally, it is best suited for those who are able to live independently, without the need for much, if any, medical or physical assistance.
Independent living typically offers residents varying levels of services (such as housekeeping) and amenities both on-site and off-site. There is often opportunity for community-based activities, clubs, recreation and many types of social gatherings. Some independent senior communities actually resemble a small college campus!
Independent living is defined more by the type of lifestyle offered (and able to be afforded) than medical care required or offered by the residence itself. As most residents are able to be independent, little or no medical assistance is typically offered; although a resident may be able to hire in-home help on their own if desired.
Independent living can be quite costly – depending, of course, on the level of accommodations offered by the property. (According to seniorhomes.com the average monthly price of independent housing in Connecticut is about $3,500.) Additionally, the cost of independent living is usually paid for privately.
Another type of independent living, known as “senior apartments” offers independence with a few basic services, but usually no amenities. They have a minimum age requirement and sometimes offer subsidized rent based on the resident’s income. However, these too can vary depending on what level of luxury is offered.
3. Assisted living facilities are for seniors that need some help with daily living tasks such as transportation, cooking and cleaning, and medical or personal care. Essentially assisted living offers the safety net of readily available medical support on-site, but also provides for and encourages some level of independence.
As with other senior living environments, assisted living communities come in many shapes and sizes, but they commonly will develop a personalized plan to meet the needs of each resident. Similarly, cost structures are often based on individualized needs of the resident and level or care required. (Genworth’s 2020 Cost of Care Survey lists Connecticut’s monthly median cost for an assisted living facility at $6,300.) But, like independent living, assisted living costs are generally paid for privately.
4. Nursing homes, also called skilled nursing facilities or convalescent homes, provide residents a high level of personal and medical care on-site, which is primarily overseen by medical professionals. Assistance offered typically includes, but is not limited to, administering medications, feeding, dressing, and bathing.
Nursing homes can offer both short-term (if it’s anticipated that the person can return home) and long-term stays and are most appropriate when an individual or their caregiver can no longer handle medical and personal care at home.
Nursing homes (and some assisted living locations) usually also offer specialized memory care services for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Generally these are in separate wings that have trained dementia-care staff and can provide therapy, medical, and daily living support.
In Connecticut, the average monthly cost for nursing care is over $13,000 a month! However, depending on the situation, costs can be paid through Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, or personal funds.
5. Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) are senior housing communities that include independent, assisting and nursing home living all in one facility. Although this can be the most expensive senior living option, its benefits include:
- Giving residents the ability to move up or down care levels according to their medical and personal needs.
- Allowing spouses to potentially remain in the same care location, even if different care levels are required.
6. Group homes, sometimes called residential care or adult family homes, are family-style, private homes that have been adapted to provide individualized basic care services (i.e. meals, lodging, health management, etc.) to small groups of adults. Unlike some other senior housing options, group homes do not have community-based offerings or amenities. However, they do have 24-hour supervised care available, often provided by nurses or other medical staff, in addition to the assistance offered for basic daily living needs.
Going to a new home environment, whether by choice or necessity, can be difficult. The change to new and unfamiliar surroundings can stir up strong emotions including apprehension, fear and confusion.
The key to helping make the move smoother is to know the different housing options available and what each has to offer that can best match lifestyle, financial, and health needs. Visit the facility beforehand, if possible, ask questions, and talk to your loved ones about what they want and need to help ease the transition into a new living experience.
If you need help assessing the needs of your loved one, we have a geriatric care manager on staff who would be happy to assist you. And when you need guidance about the financial aspect of planning for a future move to a senior living environment, give us a call.
Senior Living Options: Cracking the Code
Transition Options in Connecticut: Giving Up the Keys is Not the End
How to Stay Out of a Nursing Home (And Get the Care You Need at Home)
10 Waiver Programs in Connecticut That Can Help You Stay Out of a Nursing Home
Does Medicaid Pay for Homecare?
How to Choose the Right Nursing Home