Elder Care: Senior Housing Options

By Laura Gillson

As North America's largest demographic nears retirement, it may be time to think about the best care options for your parents, or even yourself. This can be a difficult topic to contemplate, as it forces us to confront our feelings about our own mortality, or that of our parents. However, leaving these decisions to the last moment can cause significant stress and anxiety. Even though these choices can be as difficult as any end-of-life issue, the fact is that along with age comes a full complement of age-related complications.

We often hear about obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease, but there are also the stealthier issues, such as Alzheimer's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or macular degeneration. Each can cause its own kind of disability, and may affect your decision making for care options. Following are a few definitions that will help you decide the best place for yourself or your loved ones:

Senior independent Living: A community of seniors living in an apartment complex or retirement community with no custodial or medical care. Grounds keeping and some utility services may be included, however.

Congregate Housing: Independent living in a senior apartment, with the added services of custodial and medical care.

Assisted Living Facility: A group home consisting of private rooms or apartments with assistance in activities of daily living, but little or no medical care.

Board-and-Care Home: A small Assisted Living Facility.

Nursing Home (Skilled Nursing Facility): A facility with 24-hour medical care available, in addition to custodial care.

Continuing-Care Retirement Community: A residential community for the remainder of one's life, with a choice of services and living situations based on changing needs over time.

Adult Family Homes: A newer option that allows for assisted living in a single family home. This is a more appealing option for many, as it provides for greater privacy as well as a feeling of family life. Many adult family homes are staffed with certified professionals who also reside in the home.

In-Home Care: Usually the preferred option for most seniors. Statistically, older people live longer and healthier, and enjoy a better overall quality of life when they are able to remain in their own home. This option usually requires that one or more full-time in-home health care providers come to the home daily, providing shopping, bathing, dressing and cooking services. These client-directed services do not include medical care, as most in-home care attendants are not medical professionals; however, all in-home health care workers are required to maintain their certification through continuing education each year.

How will you know when it's time to examine your senior housing options? Keep an eye out for tell-tale signs of day-to-day difficulties. For example, if household chores are ignored or left incomplete, if bathing or dressing becomes too difficult or dangerous, or if a senior is becoming isolated, this may narrow your choices. Additionally, if your parent has an ongoing medical condition that is becoming difficult to manage, this can be a determining factor.

The proliferation of senior care options is in direct response to the needs of our society. Before you find yourself on a waiting list, or unable to find reliable in-home assistance due to the demands of an aging population, plan now for your short- and long-term care.

There seems to be no end to the acronyms and abbreviations associated with this information, so by allowing yourself the time to get educated, you will greatly alleviate your confusion. This can become most urgent when an aging parent passes away unexpectedly, leaving behind a spouse now living alone. You want to be able to plan for current and evolving needs, so give yourself the luxury of that time.

Laura Gillson is a speaker, author and educator specializing in disability awareness, advocacy, accessibility and assistive technology. For corporate, community or caregiver training, visit Eloquent Insights at http://www.eloquentinsights.com If you need help with in-home care, you'll find it at In-Home Insights at http://www.inhomeinsights.com. Finally, you'll discover a site for sore eyes at Accessible Insights at http://www.accessibleinsights.com. The author's email address is lgillson@eloquentinsights.com

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