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3 Key Differences between Independent Living and Assisted Living

8 Comments

After 18 months of stress which involved closing my mother's senior apartment due to illness, relocating her to live with my sister out west, then relocating her back east where she has lived in a 2nd floor apartment, she is scheduled for an interview for an apartment in a senior building.
It is difficult to force a parent to move, but try everything to convince them before an emergency situation occurs. The past 18 months have been very stressful and expensive.

What do the senior citizen that's disabled do to keep from becoming homeless with an income of SSI? Where are they allowed to live?

Very useful. My wife and I live in our own home, and our long-term insurance will pay for someone to help us do stuff we'll no longer be able to do on our own. But while she can still drive and cook quite capably, she is showing signs of mild dementia. For instance, she can't remember recent conversations, or follow directions. About the only places I can trust her to go by herself are two grocery stores that she frequents. Why don't I take over the driving? Because I am physically disabled myself, spending all my time in a wheelchair or in bed. I haven't driven since about 2006, when I developed seizure disorder (now under control w/medication--no seizures for 8 years). I'd have to get a roll-in car with hand controls. If/when my wife gets worse, we may have to move to an assisted living facility. When one of us dies, the other will certainly have to move--she on account of her mental state (such as inability to handle finances, home repairs, etc.) and I on account of physical limitations (can't cook, do laundry in our multi-level house, get myself to/from our car without help). We have no descendants on whom to rely. Her elder sister is in a nursing home with full-blown Alzheimer's; her kids live far away with hi-tech jobs, and their mom often doesn't recognize them when they visit.
I have in mind a local home with many levels of care. The one I stayed in, short-term recovery, was for recovery from surgery. There was also assisted living and, I believe, an Alzheimer's unit for people mentally unable to cope with either independent or assisted living. All of the parts I saw have pretty good design but for a couple of items: I could roll under the bathroom sink but couldn't see my face in the mirror, which was mounted too high; and closing the bathroom door on the way out necessitated juggling it with the doorway (eventually they moved me to a bigger room).
My wife keeps saying she doesn't want to die. As for me, I ask only that I be unconscious. Neither of us believes in an afterlife.

This was a wonderful article and shared comments are right on target. Question though, what happens to mom when she gets beyond assisted living? Do consumers have choices where to go for skilled nursing?

Residential care homes. If the client is mobile this is a great option. As it is a home in a neighborhood. Not a nursing home. They are newly built, some here in Tucson were and that meant roll in showers. Look into this option. As well as the larger apartment type assisted living.

I appreciate this information. My mother is elderly, but still active and independent. She wants to be around more people her age, so I'm helping her do some research on independent living. Your explanation of the differences between independent and assisted living facilities was most helpful.

Walter K.

My Mother is 89 years old. I tried caring for my mom at home, but it nearly hospitalized me. Then, I found a good Independent Living facility with an In-house Caregiver. This was great and affordable, until it was apparent the independent living facility was too much walking for my Mom. If you choose this for your parent, make sure you read the fine print. Many Independent living facilities usually require a three month minimum commitment (non-refundable) and will sign anyone up with funds. After I took my Mom out of Independent Living, I did not want to make another costly mistake, so I researched elder care options extensively. I'm happy to say that I hit on Residential Care Homes and strongly urge everyone to look in to these State Licensed Residential Care Homes. They are springing up everywhere in California, are affordable, and in many cases are half the price of Assisted Living and Independent Living, with MUCH MORE hands-on care. The reason is, there are only 5-6 residents in a home. (these are real homes in a neighborhood) with 1-2 caregivers 24/7. Check your state and local Ombudsman for a list. Also some services as the one advertised in this article may help you find one. I visited 9 homes before I found the best one for my mom's likes and dislikes. Follow your instincts and check online to see if they have any infractions and lawsuits. When you visit these homes, make sure the caregivers are caring and kind, and able to disperse meds. I was very fortunate to find a spotless Residential Care Home with a nurse on staff. They even take my mom to the doctor at no extra charge. BTW, one price should include everything except special needs for your parent; i.e. Briefs, or in my mom's case, she likes a glass of white wine with dinner. As far as In-Home Caregivers, Vs Residential Care Homes. Residential Care Homes are usually less expensive when you calculate the cost of food and fuel of keeping a parent at home with Caregivers. A good State Licensed residential home gives three nutritious meals a day with snacks and I needed to get back to work. As many of you know, stopping work to care for a parent depletes your savings and earning capacity as the years go by. Also, it felt invasive to always have a caregiver in my home. Having cared for my Mom for 8 years, I finally hit on a wonderful Residential Home last year and it's working out great. Plus, my mom is around people her own age and her attitude has improved, and so has mine. I'm sure being around me 24/7 was not fun for her. I was always tired and never had energy to enjoy her, as her daughter. I was more like an employee. Also, since she had Dementia, she did not understand why I was exhausted all the time. Caring for a parent at home is harder than caring for a baby. I urge you to call your local Ombudsman for a list of Residential Care Homes in your area.

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There seems to be a transitioning paradigm coming down the road. Anyone looking into assisted living should be SURE that the place can accommodate someone who may be sliding towards skilled nursing but is not there yet. For example, my mom's ALF does NOT have: roll-under sinks; roll-in shower (she has to step over a small dam but she can barely lift her leg 1/2") or grab bars or even a towel bar next to the sink (there's a grab bar behind the toilet, however, which might be helpful if a resident decides to change it up and sit backwards some day). The microwave is high enough that frail, elderly little ladies can't heat up a cup of tea. The windows are super-heavy to open, and the wood-slat blinds impossible to lift. The thermostat is small and digital, and Mom has to press her "panic button" if she just wants the temp changed. How hard would it have been to put in a large-print Honeywell like they were all used to at home? Bottom line: when looking at an ALF, imagine what your elderly relative might be like in a few years at the rate they're "progressing," and see if there are building design issues that might force them into a nursing home when they're not really needing skilled nursing but maybe could stay in an ALF if it were better designed.