Understanding Elder Care Living Choices

Home Care CaregiverRetirement or senior housing options can be confusing to someone who has never approached the subject before. The reason for the confusion is that most retirement care and senior housing arrangements provide overlapping services among the various categories. A commonly accepted term for retirement living from one source might be used for somewhat different services from another. Here is a list outlining several types of care to assist you in defining your particular senior housing needs

In-Home Care

Also known as: Aging in Place, Home Care, In Home Personal Care, Home Health Care Companion Care

Price Range: $650 – $4,040

When a senior needs assistance and wishes to remain in their own home (they all want independence). A Home Care CareGiver can be employed to assist on a part time or full time basis. Generally a senior will require 3 days a week, then advancing to 5 or 7 days a week. 24/7 care is also available. CareGivers can assist with daily activities:

  • Personal care
  • Shopping and errands
  • Meal preparation
  • Light housekeeping
  • Companionship
  • Medication reminders
  • Escort to Church, meetings and outings
  • Assist with therapies
  • Advocate for medical appointments

An extraordinary CareGiver can offer seniors the socially engaging productive lifestyle that experts say is so important to healthy aging.

Be sure to choose a high level CareGiver and Agency, don’t settle for an adult babysitter.

Independent Living Communities

Also known as: Retirement Communities, Retirement Living

Over 55 Community (Commonly age requirements are 55+, 62+, or 65+)

Price Range: $$1,500 – $3,500 plus meal plan

These communities are usually a combination of single family houses, apartments and condominiums. They require a minimum age for one spouse and commonly do not allow children except for visits of a few days. Most of these communities are gated and guarded for safety.

There is normally a common area including swimming pools, spas, gyms, recreation and activity rooms. Some have restaurants and dining rooms.

When seniors need some assistance at home, they can employ outside CareGivers.

Assisted Living

Also known as: Congregate Care


  • Assisted Living Communities
  • Residential Care Home

Price Range: $3,000 – 5,000

Assisted Living is appropriate for seniors requiring some assistance, but not the level of Skilled Nursing.

Assisted Living Homes provide staff 24 hours per day and provide a number of services including:

  • 3 meals per day in a common dining area
  • Assistance with medications
  • Help with activities of daily living
  • Housekeeping
  • Transportation to shopping and Doctor appointments at most facilities
  • Nursing services at most facilities
  • Various social activities
  • Some larger facilities include an Alzheimer’s unit

Services, amenities and nursing services vary greatly in Residential Care Homes because they are small and individually owned. These homes offer seniors a residential neighborhood setting in a single family home.

Assisted Living Communities range in size from a few rooms to several hundred. A Residential Care Home is usually a 4-6 bedroom residential home.

Skilled Nursing Homes

Also known as: Convalescent Care, A Nursing Center, Long Term Care Facility

Price Range: $5,000 – $8,000

Nursing Homes is probably the most recognized care term. Nursing Homes provide 24/7 care for those who have greater needs than can be provided by Assisted Living. Licensed nurses provide skilled nursing services for short-term as well as long-term stays. Rehab care is available for those recovering from falls, injuries, or surgery.

Residents typically share a room (with a screen divider) although private rooms are available for an additional fee. Meals are served in a dining room, or can be brought to the bed for people who can’t get to the dining room. Attendants are available to assist with wheelchairs or meal delivery.

Alzheimer’s Care

Also known as: Dementia Care or Memory Care

Price Range: $4,000 – $8,000

Alzheimer’s Care is available in specialized facilities as well as a separate unit in Assisted Living or a Nursing Home. It is very important that your loved one is in a specialized unit which includes 24/7 supervised care and a locked environment. Usually, seniors live in semi-private apartments or rooms and are restricted to structured activities by trained staff. Residents may have access to gardens, patios, and walking paths, however they are should be secured.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Also known as: Life Care Communities

Price Range: One Bedroom starts at $206,000 to $260,000 plus qualifying assets with $2,100 to $2,700 per month

Continuing Care Retirement Communities are designed to accommodate seniors from Independent Living to Skilled Nursing. Residents typically buy in and enjoy the lifestyle as independent living. When they need more care, In-Home CareGivers are available, then Assisted Living is required and finally Skilled Nursing. The advantage is once in, all of the levels of care are available.

One caveat is that ownership of the unit remains with the community company. In case of death, after the first three years, there is no refund of the buy in price and a refund during the first three years is prorated. Check the details with the Continuing Care Company.

Many of these facilities are a resort style community offering all the amenities of an elegant resort including: swimming pools and spas, golf courses, fine dining, and recreation meeting rooms.

Some Short Term Options:

Respite Care

Also known as: Short Term Care

Respite means to rest. This is especially critical for family caregivers providing extensive care at home. Too many daughters slowly become full time caregivers for mom and forget how to be a daughter.

Respite care can mean bringing a CareGiver into the home for a short time to allow rest for the family. This could be a day or two per week or for a week or two while the family goes on vacation.

Respite care is also available at some Assisted Living and Nursing Homes. Residents usually stay from a week to a month. These visits can also serve as a “get acquainted” time for the senior. When it becomes necessary for a permanent move, the senior will already have some familiarity with the facility and staff.

Rehabilitation Care

Also known as: Rehab Center, Rehab Program

Rehabilitation centers offer a variety of services, including physical, speech and occupational therapy. . Many people who attend a rehab center have disabilities or ongoing medical problems, while others are recovering from an accident, surgery or a medical incident such as a stroke.

Rehabilitation centers are often affiliated with another health care organization, such as a hospital or nursing home, although they can be separate, free-standing facilities.

A doctor, nurse or care manager specifies rehabilitation as part of a patient’s care plan and works together with physical therapists, occupational therapists, recreational therapists, speech therapists, audiologists, social workers, and psychiatric nurses as required to see that the patient’s needs are met,

Hospice Care

Also known as: End of Life Care

Hospice Care is available for those in the last 6 months of life, usually requiring, a terminal diagnosis from a Doctor. Hospice care is for patients who no longer seek treatments.

Usually a team of experts including:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses and Social Workers
  • Chaplains
  • Massage Therapists
  • Pharmacists
  • Nutritionists

These experts provide emotional and spiritual support for the senior and family, pain relief, guidance with treatment choices, detailed practical information and assistance according to the situation.