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Assisted Living vs. Long-Term Care: Exploring Your Options

Seniors have quite many options in regards to how and where they will spend their post-retirement years. That’s a great thing in that the elderly get to choose the environment where they will be most comfortable and have their needs met in a professional and friendly manner.

When choosing the ideal long-term care option, there are several factors that one must consider. The elements to consider in such cases include but are not limited to the level of care, location, accommodation spaces, budget, amenities, activities and diet.

Among the most popular options are assisted living and long-term care. Let us look at similarities and differences of both assisted living and long term care in general to see what senior living option is best for you or your loved one.

What is Assisted Living? The general definition of assisted living is that it is a senior care option that older adults can choose when they want to maintain their independence but also need some help with day to day activities. With assisted living, senior citizens access personal care support services like medication management, meals, dressing, bathing, transportation, emergency response protocols, and frequent opportunities for social interaction and recreation.

What is Long-Term Care? Long-term care includes a broad range of supportive and medical services that aged adults get for an extended period.

Assisted Living vs Long-Term Care: Ideal Types of Residents

Both assisted living and other long-term care communities may look after the same types of candidates. However, some residents who require local long-term nursing care may not be able to thrive in assisted living because some of their needs may not be met in the setting that the assisted living facilities offer. Take a closer look at the ideal type of residents for each senior care option.

Assisted Living:

Perfect candidates for assisted living are retired adults who have a slight decline in their health and need some help with one or a couple of ADLs (activities of daily living). These are people who want to maintain as much independence as they can while getting limited help in the areas where they need assistance.

Assisted living is also ideal for retirees who want to reside in a social environment with very few responsibilities as they access the care they need. Characteristics of candidates who are best suited for assisted living include:

  • The elderly who do not mind getting some assistance from time to time
  • Seniors who need limited personal care assistance or supervision
  • Individuals who need or want to be free of home ownership responsibilities
  • Older adults who can benefit from residing in a socially engaging environment
  • Retirees who have cognitive problems such as dementia or Alzheimer’s
  • People who can walk or use mobility devices relatively independently

Long-Term Care:

Long-term care is directed to individuals who cannot ultimately take care of themselves because of several reasons which may include:

  • Rehabilitation after a hospital stay, surgical procedures, illness or injury
  • End of life medical services
  • Chronic severe pain
  • Permanent disabilities
  • Need for round the clock supervision
  • Severe medical conditions
  • Cognitive impairments

Additionally, people who choose long-term care facilities may display characteristics like:

  • People who require a lot of personal care assistance of medical care on a daily basis
  • Retired adults who are too frail for home care and assisted living
  • Elders who must have round the clock medical supervision
  • Candidates who will most likely need frequent hospital visits

Assisted Living vs Long-Term Care: Services Provided

Both long term care and assisted living offer a broad range of services that aim at promoting independence among residents, meeting needs of the aged persons, and maximizing the quality of life.

The exact level of care as well as services, however, depends on the facility where a person stays, often depending on state regulations as well. There are some similar services you may see in assisted living and long-term care facilities as well such as:

  1. Non-skilled Custodial care: It is where caregivers help occupants with daily tasks. Examples of such may include:
  • Assisting inhabitants with bathing, eating, dressing and using the toilet.
  • Helping occupants walk, move from one place to the next in a wheelchair, or stay mobile using other means
  • Administering routine medicine, eye drops, or ointment
  • Changing and dressing
  • Applying cream to patients who have minor skin problems
  • Helping senior citizens with routine maintenance of colostomy bags or catheters
  • Repositioning members of the older generation in their beds
  • Supervising dementia patients

Note that long-term care facilities tend to provide more comprehensive and frequent personal care services than what occupants in assisted living receive.

  1. Community services: these may include adult day care, meals, and transportation services.

Some services that only long-term care facilities provide may include:

Intensive medical care: only skilled practitioners offer the service to address chronic conditions that the older population suffers from. It including monitoring medical treatments and providing medical treatments when it is necessary. Keep in mind that the facilities that offer these medical services must have the proper licenses and staff to extend nursing care service.

Long Term Care & Assisted Living: Typical Accommodation Options

Everyone deserves a comfortable living setting whether they reside in assisted living or require long-term care. Both options strive to make sure that residents enjoy their stay as much as possible. There are some notable differences in regards to living quarters discussed below:

Assisted Living Residences tend to have a wide range of living spaces that occupants can choose from. These often include studios and apartments that have one or two bedrooms. Some facilities may even have larger apartments for seniors who love their space.

Assisted living communities generally allow couples to live together, so most assisted living communities allow residents to share living quarters with a spouse or even a friend. The houses may have small kitchens. The facilities also offer communal dining spaces, and in most cases, occupants have the freedom to decorate their living spaces as they wish. Most of the communities also avail plenty of recreational areas.

When it comes to long-term care, older adults can receive the services either informally or formally. One can opt to remain at home or move to an assisted living facility, nursing home, or continuing care retirement community that will cater to their needs. Should an elderly individual decide to pursue long-term care away from home, accommodation options are typically private or shared hospital style rooms.

Residents in this case usually have limited freedom in regards to interior décor. Because many patients cannot move around to enjoy social activities, recreational spaces are also limited. A majority of long term care facilities also have a communal living and dining areas where inhabitants can enjoy the company of other older adults.

Many assisted living facilities may allow seniors to move in with their pets. Even though it is rare, some long-term care facilities also permit occupants to stay with easy-to-care-for pets or organize visits so that retirees can benefit from pet therapy.

Assisted Living and Long-Term Care: Personnel

Both paid and unpaid staff members can offer services in assisted living communities and other long-term care options. Personnel you can expect to find in assisted living include:

  • Caregivers
  • Nurses
  • Cleaners/homemakers

Long-term care residences also have similar staff to that of assisted living. However, you are bound to run into more healthcare professionals here including:

  • Home health aides
  • Therapists (physical and others)
  • Friendly companions

Paying for Assisted Living & Long-Term Care

There isn’t much of a significant difference when it comes to paying for assisted living and long-term care. Long-term care may, however, be more expensive than assisted living because residents demand more services. Here is an overview of some options aging individuals can explore when looking to pay for senior care:

  • Savings/Out of Pocket: Financially stable elders typically use their savings to pay for the kind of care they need, whether it is long-term care or assisted living. Some use money that they have saved up over the years while others will sell assets such as homes, cars, and prized possessions to get the funds they need.
  • Medicare: In a majority of cases, this does not work for seniors in assisted living. Retirees who are in long-term care and require rehabilitative care or skilled services, however, can often take advantage of Medicare.
  • Medicaid: It pays for a high percentage of long-term care services. To use this option, one must qualify, meaning that income should be below a certain state-set level and the interested individual must also meet eligibility requirements in their state. These requirements are typically based on the type assistance that an older adult requires. Please check with your state for specific requirements.
  • Federal Programs: There are programs like Department of Veterans Affairs or the Older American Act that the elderly can also access when they need funding for assisted living or long-term care. These are not available for everyone as they are set aside for specific populations in certain circumstances. These pay for both assisted living and long-term care when needed.
  • Other Private Payment Options: This includes things like life insurance, long-term care insurance, annuities, and reverse mortgages that senior citizens can use to pay for senior care. Residents must know how they are going to pay for the services rendered in advance so that when they take up the services, they do not have to face payment problems after moving into a retirement community of their choice.

Tips for Choosing the Ideal Assisted Living or Long-Term Care Community

The health status and level of independence of an aged person will determine whether they are fit for assisted living or they have to consider long-term care. To be sure, it is best that the candidate goes for an evaluation to determine the senior care option that will look after his or her needs best. Once you figure this out, it is time to search for the best facility if a person will not be receiving care at home from a local home health agency.

There are several things you can use to help with your determination. This includes talking to your family physician, hospital discharge planner, close neighbors and friends, or leaders in authority social organizations. These are people who may shed some light on the best facilities to pick so that you or your loved ones have no regrets at the end of the day. When choosing a facility, there are some factors that you must consider which may include:

  • Costs: It is essential to find a facility that you can afford. If a resident is not using cash to pay for their stay, find out if there is eligibility for Medicare or any other financial option you want to explore. Be sure to carefully read the contract to understand the payment and reimbursement policies.
  • Location: Consider the area of the residence to make sure that the older individual ends up in a place that they love and will not want to move out due to location. For instance, if the retiree wants to be close or inside a large city, you may want to find them a community in a city. If an elder prefers rural life, move away from the hustle and bustle to find an assisted living or long-term care residence in a quieter suburban town or village. You may also want to consider a convenient location where friends, relatives, or physicians can visit with ease.
  • Staff/nursing care: visit a community before committing to stay. It will give you a chance to see the relationship that personnel and residents have. Settle for a facility where caregivers and residents care comfortable with each other.
  • Activities and Special Services: Check out activity calendars to make sure inhabitants have provisions for learning, fun, and entertainment. There should also be transportation when an aging individual wants to go out of the community.
  • Food Services: it is essential that the nutritional needs of the residents are well taken care of, especially in cases where older adults are not in a position to cook or go grocery shopping. Where possible, visit during meal times to see the kind of dining experience that the occupants have. Talk to management if a senior citizen has special dietary needs so that kitchen staff can accommodate them.
  • Licenses: Make sure that the facility you end up choosing has the necessary license and other official documents to offer the services the residents need. Check to see if there have been any license violations, and if so, how they were corrected.

Today’s senior care options are nothing like what was available in the past. Both assisted living communities and long-term care facilities strive to offer residents warm and home-like communities where senior citizens can make friends, enjoy kindness and respect, entertain guests and pursue fulfilling leisure activities. It is, therefore, quite essential to have as much information as possible about both options when looking for the long-term care or retirement community that will best suit your needs or those of a loved one.



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