Guide to Senior Living Communities

Written by Julia on November 8, 2015

There’s an overwhelming number of options for senior living these days that can make choosing the best for your loved one difficult.

Finances are certainly an important consideration, but you’ll also need to consider personal preferences and health status when you choose a senior living community.

Although choices vary by community and state, below are the most common senior living options.

Independent Living Communities

As the name implies, these communities are geared toward active senior citizens who can care for themselves. These communities are also known as retirement communities, villages, 55+ year old communities, congregate care, and senior apartments. Here, residents either rent or buy their homes in the community.

Independent living communities offer:

  • Private apartments or homes ranging from studios to two or three bedrooms.
  • Housekeeping services.
  • Dining services, often with the ability to tailor meal plans. Since many independent living units feature full kitchens, residents can choose to prepare some meals themselves.
  • A full schedule of group events, classes, and outings.
  • Recreational facilities, such as pools and tennis courts.

Cost

Costs range from $3,000 to $5,000 monthly. Resident may also need to pay entrance fees, which can include the cost of purchasing a home in a community, ranging from $100,000 to $1 million.

Payment Options

  • Personal funds, such as retirement accounts and annuities.
  • Social security payments will cover only a portion of monthly costs.
  • Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly payments funded by the government can cover part of the costs for low-income senior citizens, although not many independent living communities offer Section 202 units.

Assisted Living

Assisted living communities, also known as assisted care communities or personal care homes, are ideal for people who need a little help handling daily activities. Daily activities include dressing, bathing or preparing meals, but don’t need the services of a nursing home.

Assisted living communities offer:

  • Private apartments or shared rooms.
  • A dining room that offers daily meals.
  • Social activities and outings to local stores and attractions.
  • Nursing or other services on site.

Cost

The average cost for a one-bedroom unit is $3,293 per month, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Costs can vary depending on the size of the unit and the amenities that the assisted-living facility offers.

Payment Options

  • Personal funds.
  • Medicaid, in some cases.
  • Long-term care insurance.
  • Social security payments, although payments may not cover the entire cost.

Nursing Home

Nursing homes offer the ideal solution when seniors can no longer care for themselves, even with assistance, or require constant medical care. The facilities, are also known as nursing centers, long-term care facilities and skilled nursing.

Nursing home facilities offer:

  • Shared or private rooms.
  • Short- and long-term care.
  • Rehabilitation services.
  • All meals in a dining room or the patient’s room.
  • A full schedule of group activities and events.

Cost

The average nursing home costs, per month, $6,235 for a semi-private room or $6,965 for a private room. Costs are higher or lower depending on the various amenities offered by the home.

Payment Options

  • Personal funds.
  • Social Security payments.
  • Long-term care insurance.

Residential Care Homes

Residential car homes also known as group homes or adult family homes, are facilities that offer a home-like setting for seniors who need some assistance in handling daily living. Residents receive services from one or two caregivers who live in the home with them. Caregivers offer the same kind of services residents receive from assisted-living facilities, but often at a lower price.

Residential care homes offer:

  • Private or shared rooms.
  • Assistance with bathing, dressing and other activities.
  • Transportation to appointments.
  • All meals.

Cost

Costs for residential care range for $3,000 per month in a facility with 25 or fewer beds to $3,540 for facilities with 26 or more beds, according to the Scan Foundation.

Payment Options

  • Personal funds.
  • Social Security payments.
  • Medicaid, in some cases.
  • Long-term care insurance.

Home Care

Home care is the least expensive option, although it may not be appropriate if extensive medical care is needed. It allows older people to live in their homes while receiving assistance from aides.

Aides provide:

  • Assistance with daily living activities, such as bathing, dressing and scheduling and attending medical appointments.
  • Round-the-clock care or as many hours per week as needed
  • Assistance with grocery shopping and meal preparation.

Cost

Home health aides earn between $8.19 and $14.21 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Payment Options

  • Personal funds.
  • Medicare or Medicaid.
  • Long-term care insurance.

Alzheimer’s Care or Memory Care

Depending on the stage of the disease, patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can receive care at an assisted-living facility, nursing home or residential care home or from a healthcare aide, specializing in memory care.

Cost

Care can range from $8.19 per hour during the early stages of the disease to $6,965 or more per month during the latter stages.

Payment Options

  • Personal funds.
  • Long-term care insurance.

Respite Care

Respite care, also known as adult day care, gives people who care for elderly family members a break from caregiving responsibilities. These programs are often offered by nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

Respite care facilities offer:

  • Stays ranging from a week to a month.
  • All the standard services of the facility.

Cost

The cost varies depending on the facility, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that the average cost of a day in an adult day health care center is $67.

Payment Options

  • Personal funds.
  • Long-term care insurance.

Working with a Senior Living Placement Agent or Geriatric Care Manager

A local senior living placement agent can help you find the right eldercare option for your loved one. Agents are paid by the communities when your loved one moves in and do not charge you for their services. They’ll meet you to find out about the type of care your loved one requires and will even accompany you on tours of the facilities that you are considering.

If your situation is complicated and you need help navigating the process, a geriatric care manager is another good option. These professionals will create a custom plan that includes a range of care options. Although geriatric care managers charge a fee, they offer invaluable assistance and a wealth of experience.