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Understanding the Differences: Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Nursing Home

Understanding the Differences: Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Nursing Home

June 9, 2024

Time and time again I’m approached about the confusion surrounding senior housing. I’ve always felt the Quad Cities is rich with resources for older adults on both sides of the river. This is a very good thing, but with so many choices it can be overwhelming, especially when making the decision during a stressful life event, such as a health care crisis.

There are benefits to proactively securing the right care at the right time, but this can be a challenge even for those who have a perfunctory knowledge of the long-term care industry. When considering the right place for you, it’s helpful to understand some basics.

Independent living retirement communities typically have a minimum age requirement and have apartments or cottages to choose from. Residents can count on a host of amenities, like transportation, meal plans, housekeeping, snow removal, television access, phone, to name a few. Amenities and charges vary from facility to facility. Some may charge a base fee, with the option to choose from an ala carte menu of services, while others are all inclusive. Enrichment programming provides activities, outings, and fun things to do. For those who thrive making social connections, moving to an independent living sooner rather than later will not only enhance their quality of life, but will likely also improve their physical and cognitive well-being.

Assisted living facilities are ideal for those who need a little help with their activities of daily living (ADLs), such as medication management, mobility, bathing, and dressing. All meals are provided in assisted living. Residents live in their own apartment, enjoy a variety of activities, and have access to onsite clinical staff. This level of care is regulated by the State and when the threshold of need for assistance exceeds what the regulations allow, a higher level of care, such as nursing home may need to be considered. Some assisted livings, like Ridgecrest, offer memory care assisted living; a secure unit with trained staff and programming specifically geared towards caring for someone with dementia.

Lastly, there is nursing home level of care, which provides a high degree of clinical, personal, and nursing care for those individuals with care needs beyond what can be managed at a lower level of care. A nursing home stay can be either short term for skilled care/rehabilitation or long-term care. Nursing homes are often referred to as nursing facilities, care centers, or skilled nursing facilities (SNF). Additionally, there are nursing homes with specialized care units for those individuals who have dementia and require nursing home level of care.

Ridgecrest is one of the few local senior communities offering independent and assisted living with a nursing home unit right on campus. Often people move to Ridgecrest when they are ready to lighten some of the burdens associated with caring for their own home and embrace the richness of living around others who are at a similar place in their journey and enjoy all the fun that goes with it. Some people wait until they have need for assistance with ADL’s and move directly into assisted living or memory care assisted living. There are others who wait until they need full nursing care, often prompted by a medical event that requires a stay in skilled care following a hospitalization. With all these various levels of care on one campus, Ridgecrest can consider residents moving in at any stage, knowing it is different for everyone.

There are many independent living and assisted living communities in the area which do not offer nursing home care. For those who do not have a nursing home as part of their retirement community, they are forced to find alternative placement should they ever need a nursing home. This can be traumatic, especially if making the decision quickly while in the hospital.

Having the full continuum of care on one campus is just one example of how Ridgecrest is committed to having a positive impact on people’s lives.

Regardless of the situation that you are in and/or considering as your next move, it’s important that you educate yourself to the differences and options available for senior housing. Be sure to make notes, ask questions not only thinking about today, but consider future needs. No one wants to find themselves navigating a “move” to a whole new system under a time of emotional stress and vulnerability.

Julie Arndt is a licensed social worker and Director of Marketing at Ridgecrest Village with over 30 years’ experience working in the field of geriatrics and senior advocacy.

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