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Comparing Independent Living and Assisted Living for Seniors

When families start seeking care options for their elderly loved ones, they come across two types of Senior Living Communities: Independent Living and Assisted Living.

The challenge comes with selecting the correct level of care that best suits the older adult’s changing needs. Even when working with a Senior Living Advisor (Mike McClernon, 516-254-9481), it pays to know the difference. Mike’s work covers Assisted Living and Independent Living in Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk counties.

In a nutshell, Independent Living communities are designed for older adults who do not require support with day-to-day tasks. They move into these communities for the supportive environment, socialization, multiple daily activities, and meal services. Seniors who move into Independent Living also look forward to being relieved of all the work, cost, and maintenance that comes with one’s own home – apartment or house. The stress for the residents and for the family is reduced.

Assisted Living communities support those who still live independently but need help with some of the Activities of Daily Living – or who might need help with them in the future. Of course, being relieved of the stress and cost of running one’s own household is a big relief, too!

Let us have a look at some of the more critical differences between Independent Living and Assisted Living:

Residential units

The living spaces in Independent Living communities are like an apartment you would find anywhere else, except that senior living units are maintenance-free and include meals, activities, transportation, and social structure. Residents live in private dwellings and have access to common areas such as libraries, fireplace areas, dining areas, and games rooms where residents can socialize with other community members. Most kitchens in Independent Living include a stove, fridge/freezer, sink, and cabinets.

In Assisted Living, the units resemble Independent Living in many ways, except they have a kitchenette, not a full kitchen

Amenities and programs

Housekeeping, transportation services, social activities, libraries, cafes, and games rooms are available in both Independent Living and Assisted Living communities. Typical activities include game nights, field trips, music nights, support and discussion groups, holiday celebrations, exercise classes, and continuing education courses.

Transportation services that shuttle residents to and from doctor’s appointments, grocery stores, and other places are often offered at both types of communities.

Although meals are often included as part of independent and Assisted Living, the services can differ. Independent Living usually offers 1-2 meals per day, while Assisted Living communities always provide three meals plus snacks each day all served in the common dining area.

Medical and support services

One of the most critical distinctions between the two communities is the level of medical and support services offered. For example, Independent Living facilities typically do not provide on-site nursing or other medical type support to their residents. That is because most older adults in Independent Living can safely move around the community and manage their day-to-day affairs without assistance. Most Independent communities, too, do not have aides as employees within the building. On a practical level, though, if residents in Independent Living need support for the Activities of Daily Living, the community’s management can refer them to known and trusted local homecare agencies.

Independent Living communities are all Private Pay – Medicare, Medicaid, long-term care insurance, and other financial aid programs will not cover the costs. This means that residents must pay for accommodations and services privately using Social Security benefits, pension income, retirement savings, life settlements, life insurance annuities, and other funding sources.

Assisted Living communities always have a Wellness Department staffed with nurses who direct aides, providing care according to an agreed upon and evolving Care Plan. This care includes support for all the Activities of Daily Living, as needed, plus escorting within the Community. The Wellness Department also features physicians who visit the Community weekly, providing convenient General Medicine visits for residents.

Assisted Living residents usually pay using a rent-plus-care model. This monthly fee covers maintenance, housekeeping, security, three meals per day, nursing observation, programming, and 24/7 staffing. Daily personal care such as help with bathing, grooming, and medication management is available for an additional fee. Additional care may also be bundled into an all-inclusive price that includes rent and personal services.

Family involvement

Families often ask me how involved they can be in helping to make decisions for their loved ones while they live Independent Living Communities. Independent Living Communities welcome families to visit the residents often, with the resident treating the Independent Community as their home. The resident is truly in charge of their life.

In contrast, families are encouraged to take a more active role in their loved one’s decision-making in Assisted Living. Designated family members are apprised of the older adult’s ongoing condition and are directly involved with progressive care planning.

How fees are paid

When moving into Independent Living, residents typically pay a onetime entrance fee (called a Community Fee). They also pay a rental charge each month that includes rent, maintenance, housekeeping, security, some meals, amenities, and programs.

In Assisted Living, there is also typically a onetime Community Fee. Each month, most Communities have two charges – one for Rent, covering day to day costs in the Community, and Care, which covers support for Activities of Daily Living. Because personal care (aide) activities are supplied within Assisted Living, many residents can use Long Term Care policies to pay for part or even all the costs of Assisted Living. In New York State, a small percentage of Communities accept Medicaid for Care. Medicare does not cover any assisted living expenses.

Find Independent Living or Assisted Living, on Long Island

If you need help navigating the complex process of selecting a Senior Living Community, contact Mike McClernon of Assisted Living Locators of Long Island

With decades of experience collaborating closely with seniors and their families, Mike provides expert guidance and exhaustive research to match your relatives with the most appropriate Independent Living or Assisted Living Community. He will ensure that you make the most informed choice on where your older loved ones will live during their vintage years.

Contact Mike today at 516-254-9481 or to explore Senior Living Community options for the older person in your life. His phone is always on!