One common question is the difference between Assisted Living and Independent Living. Both are communities where people generally age 65 and above (with the more common age being 75+) live in apartment style accommodations. Both are buildings that have apartments and common interior space for a variety of activities. Both have 24-hour staff, amenities of various sorts, availability of some medical services, transportation services, events and social activities, and various dining options. Assisted and Independent communities, though, have several significant differences. Here are a few points of differentiation between Independent Living and Assisted Living on Long Island.
Independent Living offers simple apartments, in buildings that are ‘all senior’. They provide companionship with other seniors, of course, and offer a range of activities. Seniors are free to bring in services, like aides and nurses, but care is contracted for privately and the services are delivered one-on-one. Meals are typically prepared by a combination of cooking in their kitchens and meals served in the common dining room. Various activities are available in common gathering spaces throughout the day. Assisted Living communities, on the other hand, also offer apartments, and the residents are all at least 65 years old. Personal Care services are readily available, with one aide (who works for and is supervised by the Assisted community) providing care during the day for multiple residents. In Assisted Living, meals are all served in a common dining room.
Independent Living gives people some additional choices about their daily routine. It also requires some more work and organization on the part of the resident and/or the family. Assisted Living, on the other hand, is true Congregate Care. Assisted communities are based on a Social Model of living and of care. Virtually all services are organized by management in an Assisted community.
Independent Living communities do not have a nurse care manager overseeing the personal care (bathing, dressing assistance, etc.) provided to residents. In some Independent communities, this care is available, but from separate companies that come to the building each day and provide these services. Residents are indeed independent and are free to organize this care privately.
Independent Living communities often have formal dining rooms where meals are provided to residents. The meals provided are, typically, more simple breakfasts and lunches with full, formal dinners served from a menu. Independent Living apartments often have kitchens with stoves and full-size refrigerators, too, so residents can shop (or have food delivered) and make their own meals. Assisted Living communities, on the other hand, typically have kitchenettes – and while most have or allow microwaves, they never allow stoves or other hot surfaces. In Independent Living residents can choose how and where they want their meals. In Assisted Living, all meals and snacks are prepared for residents and served in a dining room.
Medical and Supportive Care
As discussed above, the services available from the management of an independent community are not as numerous as those available from the management of an Assisted community. True to the name, seniors residing in Long Island Independent Living communities are generally able to care for themselves, and they are looking mainly for companionship and freedom from anaging a house or a large apartment. However, some residents of independent communities have a good deal of assistance – some even have live-in or part time aides. Residents are truly independent, and they can bring in virtually any type of help they require. Surprisingly, some people living in independent communities are quite dependent on aides and nurses – some may even be bedbound. Although having a one-on-one aide in Independent Living is not the norm, it’s allowed and in at least one Long Island Independent Living community many residents have brought long time aides from their homes into residence in the community.
Rent is the largest single charge for most residents in both Independent Living and Assisted Living communities. Rent typically covers the apartment itself, plus laundry, cleaning, activities, and whatever food is provided in that community. However, since independent communities typically provide a more limited selection of food, the Rent in Independent Living tends to start slightly lower than for Assisted Living. The Rent in Independent Living is typically 10-15% less than the Rent for a comparable apartment in Assisted Living
The Care charge is the second major component of cost in both Assisted and Independent communities, although there are differences in how this is managed in the two different types of communities. In Independent communities, residents often pay on a sort of a la carte basis for personal care. They may pay an aide privately to come in three mornings a week to help them, for example, and their cost would be dependent on the number of hours and the hourly charge from the aid or the agency. They may have an aide or even a nurse live with them, incurring much higher costs. More typically, though, people in Independent Living need few (if any) personal care services, and they have no costs for Care. In Assisted Living, some residents, too, have no need for personal care, so their Care costs are also $0. In Assisted communities, though, nurses and other professionals supervise each resident, and provide personal care services when needed. This Care within Assisted Living is typically priced in stages, so residents might be at a $750, $1200, $1500, or higher level of monthly personal care each month.
A few Long Island Assisted Living communities accept Medicaid to cover the Care portion of costs, although Rent is still paid for directly by the senior. Independent Living communities accept only direct payments to cover the Rent portion of their costs, too. However, if residents qualify for Medicaid, they can bring Medicaid funded homecare services into the independent community. Medicare is not accepted for Rent or routine Care in either Assisted or Independent communities.
The facilities and organized activities vary by community for both Independent and Assisted communities. Most have movies, arts and crafts, lectures, group games, and other activities scheduled throughout the day. All have barber shops and beauty salons, most bring in entertainment periodically, and most organize various types of day trips. A few communities of both types even have pools. When researching communities, amenities and activities should be an area of discussion. Between Independent and Assisted communities, though, there are surprisingly few general differences in amenities.
Independent Living on Long Island and in Queens
On Long Island and in Queens, there are approximately ten Independent Living Communities. These communities offer more services than a typical 55+ senior community – meals and activities are held in common spaces, and people spend more time in the common spaces than in their own apartments. While most apartments in Independent Living do have kitchens (oven, microwave, sink, fridge/freezer), a typical resident will eat far more in the dining room than in their apartment. People enjoy Independent Living because it provides a social outlet and offers many meaningful activities, while preserving a measure of self-direction in Care. People who choose Independent Living sometimes are healthy and fit, while others require a great deal of care and personal companionship.