The Difference Between Independent vs Assisted Living

seniors walking together
Decisions about the type of living situations for older people

Independent vs Assisted Living

Knowing your alternatives is the first step in looking into senior living options close to you, regardless of whether you have always included senior living in your retirement plans or you are only beginning to contemplate a low-maintenance lifestyle.

Thanks to senior living communities, older individuals have many options for living a low-maintenance lifestyle with a wealth of wellness resources. But not every community is the same. Each offers unique features, services, and amenities.

Assisted living and independent living are two of the more typical forms of senior living homes. Both alternatives provide lovely homes, opulent facilities, and hospitable neighbors, but understanding their distinctions will help you make the right choice. Here are some key differences between assisted living and independent living.

Independent vs. Assisted Living

Senior living complexes often come in two different flavors: 

  • assisted living 
  • and independent living. 

The kind of support, help, and care that is offered may be the most significant distinction between independent living and assisted living. Compared to independent living communities, assisted living communities provide more assistance to residents.

Assisted living facilities provide support and help for caregivers with everyday tasks, including:

  • dressing, 
  • grooming, 
  • taking a shower, 
  • moving around, 
  • and managing medications. 
The main difference between assisted and independent living alternatives is frequently this constant caregiver presence.

Between 25 and 120 living apartments, ranging in size from one room to several bedrooms with a kitchen, are commonly found in a residential assisted living facility.

These communities' medical staff periodically update service plans that list the individualized care each resident receives, such as dressing, bathing, and medication management.

 Additionally, residents generally receive:

  • Three meals and two snacks daily
  • Services for washing and housekeeping
  • Programs for wellness and exercise
  • Recreational and social activities
  • Services for arranging transportation to and from appointments and scheduled outings

Staff members are available 24 hours a day in the majority of residences, even while assisted living communities don't offer older persons with severe mental or physical illnesses significant hands-on care. 

Communities for independent living provide:

  •  the same maintenance-free lifestyle as assisted living, but without the availability of skilled nurses and caregivers around-the-clock.

Seniors still active and need little to no assistance with daily activities should choose independent living (e.g., cooking, personal hygiene, medication, and money management). 

This kind of housing is available in a variety of settings, including continuing care communities, which provide:

  • a spectrum of care, 
  • 55+ apartment buildings, 
  • condos, 
  • and even free-standing homes.

In addition to providing the social advantages of communal living, independent living also gives those advantages to older persons who have spent years living alone in their homes. The abundance of common facilities, which include gaming rooms, libraries, computer rooms, business centers, and other spaces where residents can interact with one another in addition to a shared dining hall, is a key aspect of the community, even if residents have their own apartments.

Medical and supportive care services differ in certain ways

For those who are no longer able to live independently but do not require specialized nursing care, assisted living is a good alternative. Even though residents are still autonomous and active, they gain from caregiver support. Although it does not give seniors access to medical or nursing care, independent living does increase their level of independence.

Those who no longer feel comfortable living alone may find some consolation in independent living. People with medical issues who do not interfere with essential daily activities may thrive here. However, assisted living can provide such support when people can no longer take care of their basic needs, make wise decisions on their own, or operate without the assistance of loved ones.

Assistance Offered in Assisted Living

Seniors in assisted living facilities require some form of assistance. This could entail something as basic as routine check-ins with a staff member or more intensive service like assistance with grooming and taking a bath.

Seniors who choose assisted living facilities frequently have chronic illnesses like Parkinson's, dementia, or cancer. Many assisted living facilities give choices to move into nursing or dementia care since they never know when they could require more intensive care. A senior may be able to stay in the same place even if their needs change in some circumstances.

Depending on how much help a resident requires with daily living activities, assisted living homes offer different levels of care to ensure that residents are getting the support they need to feel their best. Daily living activities include clothing and grooming, bathing, controlling incontinence, using the toilet, moving around, transferring, and eating. The greater the level of support needed by a resident, the more assistance they may need with these chores.

Various Family Involvement Patterns

Both assisted living and independent living communities promote family interaction. Visitors, diners, and even parties that family members host for their loved ones are all welcome.

Family members frequently participate more in care decisions as seniors age. Although the assistance of someone who loves and knows you cannot be replaced, caregiver fatigue and sadness is very real. Because independent living communities ensure elders are neither alone nor fearful, they can provide caretakers some peace of mind. However, families might need to keep helping the elderly who have health problems.

Assisted living, on the other hand, frees up family members from any caregiving duties. Even when the requirements of seniors evolve, the community and its personnel are there to anticipate and satisfy those needs. As a result, carers don't need to be concerned about the requirements of their elderly loved ones not being satisfied. They might discover that this lessens their stress and enhances their relationship with the senior.

Assisted vs. Independent Living: Cost Comparison

Independent senior living communities are not seen as a type of elder care; instead, they are about lifestyle preferences. This indicates that while they are often less expensive, it is also doubtful that Medicare, Medicaid, or long-term care insurance will cover them.

Contrarily, the expense of assisted living significantly increases the degree of care a senior can have at home. Assisted living typically costs more than independent living due to these more intensive services. Additionally, Medicaid, employee benefit plans, and long-term care insurance are more likely to pay for assisted living expenses. Check the specifics of your insurance or long-term care plan, as getting coverage may require a prescription from a doctor or other medical orders.

Understanding the long-term care system

A family member, a designated caregiver or guardian, or a patient's authorized agent may begin an ALTCS application. Those who are interested in applying may also start their own applications and manage the procedure themselves. Call the ALTCS office in your area to start a new application.

Where a person lives determines the extent of the ALTCS coverage. For instance, if a person lives in a long-term care facility rather than at home, they will receive various long-term care support. Applying for Arizona guardianship could help you get any or all of the following services, depending on your income, medical need, and where you live.

Methods of Paying for Independent and Assisted Living

Residents of independent living communities often pay a monthly charge covering their rent and any other amenities or services used in the neighborhood. 

Residents may use:

  • their retirement or Social Security income, 
  • proceeds from the sale of their house, 
  • pension income, 
  • or other personal savings to pay for this monthly expense.

Additionally, residents of assisted living facilities are often charged a monthly fee that covers rent, extras, services, and caregiving assistance. Residents may use their own money to pay for treatment, but they may also be eligible for long-term care insurance or VA Aid and Attendance benefits to help defray the costs. Medicaid can help low-income seniors with expenditures, but not all facilities for senior housing accept this kind of payment.

Do you still need independence as an older person?

Selecting Between Independent and Assisted Living

Communities for independent living and assisted living both provide low-maintenance lifestyles, opulent amenities, wellness tools, and hospitable neighbors, all of which can improve quality of life. However, assisted living can be the best option if you or a loved one would benefit from round-the-clock care or support.

If you're unsure about the senior living option that might be best for you, talk to your doctor. They will make suggestions and give you some things to consider based on probable future demands.

Author: Diana Reilly is a health and wellness enthusiast. She's been working on health and lifestyle research and programs for six years. Her content is based on sharing the latest updates and everything there is to know about a healthier lifestyle, also bringing tips and useful tricks to make a healthy lifestyle easier.

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