Moving to a retirement community is a huge decision, and trying to discern which sort of senior living arrangement best fits you and your family can be quite daunting. There are more senior retirement housing options than ever these days, and just wading through the terminology and regulations associated with various levels of care may seem to require a PhD!
For many folks, knowledge of senior living arrangements is limited to assisted living and nursing homes; consequently, their search may focus solely on finding a “nice” nursing home or a “good” assisted living facility, despite the fact that there are so many independent living options available today, offering a wide range of support for senior residents. According to Rebecca Hicks, an Activities Director who’s worked with senior citizens most of her life: “One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen my own family members and friends make is waiting until they need to make a move for physical or medical reasons. Moving first into an independent living arrangement that offers help with things like lawn care, housekeeping, or even meals, often helps retirees maintain their health and quality of life by eliminating some of the heavy stress of home ownership and by keeping them socially active.”
One of the catch phrases that you’ll hear a great deal in your search for retirement housing options is “aging in place.” This refers to your ability to continue to live in the same location despite any changes in health that may occur as you age. This is most important because moving becomes more and more difficult as we add candles to our birthday cakes. If celebrating with good neighbors and “aging in place” appeals to you, a CCRC or Continuing Care Retirement Community, may be just the move that you’re looking for.
Continuing Care Retirement Community
A Continuing Care Retirement Community, often referred to as a CCRC, has a combination of independent living options as well as an on-site healthcare center that includes assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing, all on one campus. Some CCRC’s have detached cottages with garages, and most provide a variety of apartments and studios to choose from. Landscaping, meals and housekeeping are generally provided, along with a variety of activities and events for the residents to enjoy. CCRC’s provide the benefit of knowing, regardless of the level of care you may later require, you will not have to move to another community.
CCRCs are an especially good option for couples. Everybody ages at a different rate, and it’s not unusual for one spouse to eventually need more care than the other can provide. In such cases, a CCRC can provide the necessary support for couples to continue to live together, share their meals and enjoy activities together.
Independent Living communities can take many forms, offering cottages, one and two bedroom apartments and studios. Some meals and housekeeping are generally provided along with a variety of activities and events for the residents to participate in. Unlike CCRC’s, the majority of independent living communities do not provide medical care. This is generally a good option for those who can still care for themselves but are looking for a more social environment and looking to simplify their day to day responsibilities.
Assisted Living offers a more supportive level of care for people that need some help with their daily living activities, like laundry, bathing, dressing and medication administration. Normally there is a professional medical presence like a registered nurse and licensed practical nurse. These communities are typically staffed 24 hours a day with an on-call medical support. Generally rooms in an assisted living community are one room studios, sometimes with a kitchenette area. Meals and housekeeping are provided along with scheduled activities.
Memory Care communities are usually secured environments for residents with dementia. Most memory care communities are secure to prevent a resident from wandering outside where their safety might be jeopardized. Normally there is a professional medical presence like a registered nurse and licensed practical nurse. These communities are typically staffed 24 hours a day with an on-call medical support. Rooms in memory care are generally private or semi-private rooms. Memory care provides long-term care with serious health and dementia issues. Meals and housekeeping are provided along with scheduled activities.
These are the primary types of living options available to seniors, though variations exist within each category. As is true with CCRCs, sometimes more than one level of care may be available within a community, and different types of accommodations available within each level of care. Be certain to ask what might happen if you experience a significant change in your health — like any good student, you must not be afraid to ask lots of questions! If you do, you will be sure to “pass” Senior Retirement Housing Options 101 with flying colors!
Anne Marie Rawls is the Marketing Director, and Rebecca Hicks is the Activities Director at Windsor Point Retirement Community, Fuquay-Varina, NC.