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Assisted Living 101: Different Kinds of Assisted Living Communities

By Jan Bolder - May 23, 2014

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Acknowledging your senior needs to live in an assisted living community is a little scary, because it means the once-independent person you knew has changed to require help in their life. For whatever reason, they probably can't continue living safely by themselves anymore, but don't require so much help as is found in a nursing home. Basic tasks, such as housekeeping, laundry and meals, are usually found in an assisted living community, but other things, like skilled medical care or 24-hour staff, may not be. Here, we take a look at the various types of assisted living communities available for your senior:

Basic Assisted Living

This form of assisted living is the most stripped down, and resembles a community where seniors can live fairly independently. Amenities like prepared meals, housekeeping and laundry are the norm, but seniors typically don't require scheduled, regular, or consistent access to things like healthcare monitoring or medication assistance. They may need assistance with daily activities, like bathing or dressing, but that's not always the case. An evaluation is performed before the senior moves in to assess what level they're at. Seniors may have mild forms of dementia, like early-stage Alzheimer's, but it's something that's usually at the lower end of the spectrum.

Assisted Living: Memory Care

Seniors who choose this type of assisted living generally need more help with daily activities, as their memory disorder may prevent them from carrying out day-to-day tasks with ease. These units are usually housed in a separate area where there's added security — to prevent things like wandering and injuries — as well as features like different architecture more suited to a person with a memory disorder. Seniors will be "paired" with staff who are specially trained in memory disorders, but the level of severity of a senior's memory disorder is assessed before moving in to determine where would be the best fit for them.

Continuing Care Retirement Community

Lastly, this model is the most integrated of all senior communities, as you'll find independent living, assisted living, and nursing homes under one roof. This allows seniors to move freely within the various types with ease, and allows them to stay in the same geographic area despite their needs changing over time.

What an Assisted Living Community Looks Like

While each community will look different, almost all of them have the same basic layouts, which include:

  • House: This looks like your average suburban community, with house upon house on tree-lined streets. But in an assisted living community, there's usually a lot more connectedness so that staff can go from one house to another with ease and efficiency.
  • Apartment: Each unit is private — just as in a regular apartment — but again, the closeness of the units allows staff to access each unit easily.
  • Ground-Level Living: Where apartments are usually stacked up on top of each other, this type sees rooms placed along halls, with dining rooms and common areas marking the central points. They're a lot easier for people in wheelchairs to access, as stairs and elevators aren't usually an issue.