When it’s time to make a change in housing, for you or your parents, it’s stressful. Leaving home is fraught with emotion, and it’s important to find a new situation that leaves you or your loved one comfortable with their new surroundings and way of life.
Luckily, nowadays you can choose from a whole range of senior living options that provide folks with the individual support they need, rather than lumping all residents together under one plan of care. We will explain each type of housing and break down the relative costs associated with each.
The Village concept
For some seniors, it may be possible to get the extra support they need without leaving home. When they join a virtual village, they get a liaison to connect them with all sorts of assistance, including driving or errands, housekeeping, home maintenance, and cooking.
The village organization is a non-profit, and the work is often done by board members or volunteers. When services are required that fall outside of the abilities of those volunteers, the village board arranges for professional services and negotiates the best deal possible for the senior village member.
The cost to belong to a village is very low compared to other assisted living options. There is an annual fee that averages about $600 so that the village board can cover their expenses. To see if there is an active village near you, check out the Village to Village Network.
Independent living centers are age-restricted communities specifically designed for seniors who want to free themselves from worry over home maintenance, yet don’t require much in the way of daily medical or physical support. Ideal candidates for independent living want to make life easier for themselves but can still manage daily activities like moving about the house, washing, and dressing.
Much like a college campus for senior citizens, independent living facilities are made up of private apartments with communal areas for eating and socializing. There may be regular activities planned by staff as well as shuttle services for people who have given up driving.
Depending on the level of service offered by the facility, costs can range significantly from about $1,500 per month all the way up to $10,000 per month. However, we don’t recommend you pay that upper end for an independent living community, but rather save the money for when/if more intensive services are required.
Residential care home
Residential care homes can be attractive to seniors who need regular hands-on support but don’t want to live in a huge impersonal facility. These are small facilities that offer personalized care to a limited number of residents in a home-like setting.
You may also find residential care homes that are called adult family homes, personal care homes, or board and care homes. They each provide lodging, meals, and assistance with daily activities. They also offer transportation and nurse oversight, though the nurse is not on site at all times.
Costs vary significantly across the country, but residential care homes are often much more affordable than traditional nursing homes – up to 50% cheaper by some estimates. With cost savings and a more family-like environment, residential care homes are worth a good look.
Continuing care retirement community (CCRC)
A continuing care retirement community is designed to meet the needs of its residents as they change and become more intensive. Organized with choices for independent, assisted, or skilled nursing lifestyles, residents will be able to move within the facility to make sure that their needs are always met.
A CCRC is great for people who want to be able to remain in one location for the rest of their lives. As needs change, the resident may move from place to place within the facility. They are also ideal for couples who want to stay close together even when one person needs more specialized care.
However, it can be expensive to live at a CCRC facility. Many charge entrance fees of well over $100,000 as well as monthly maintenance in the range of $2,000 to $4,000. Other CCRCs don’t charge an entrance fee but rent independent living units for around $3,000 to $6,000 per month, with prices going up as more intensive care is required.
Assisted living community
An assisted living community is generally a step up from independent living in terms of services offered and the daily support needed by the residents. They still consist of small private apartments, but are typically staffed 24 hours a day.
You should expect an assisted living community to have a group dining room for meals and planned social activities as well as medication management, transportation, and assistance with bathing, dressing, and housekeeping.
The cost of an assisted living community can be quite high, depending on the level of service offered. The average base cost is around $3,750 per month, which can go up if you choose to also engage an in-home caregiver for additional services that the facility doesn’t offer.
Nursing home / skilled nursing facility
At the upper end of the care continuum are nursing homes that offer 24-hour supervised care rather than on-call support. Nursing homes provide a licensed physician to supervise each resident’s care plan and have a medical professional on site at all times.
This is a good option if your loved one has a debilitating physical or mental illness that leaves them unable to care for themselves. Help is given to manage all daily living activities, including meals, baths, dressing, and moving around. Some facilities are specially designed to protect the safety and wellbeing of adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
But even though a major part of the service in a skilled nursing facility is managing daily needs for medicine, food, and hygiene, good facilities will also focus on quality of life and include stimulating activities.
The average monthly cost of a skilled nursing facility is high, running between $8,000 and $13,000 depending on whether you have a shared or private room.
It’s never easy to face the reality of diminishing independence, but the good news is that the options to support graceful aging have multiplied over the years. From the support of caring volunteers in a village to 24-hour medical supervision, you should be able to choose a community that caters to your specific needs and makes the retirement years some of the best years.