Eldercare Housing Options
There are many housing options available to the elderly. Choosing the best one will depend on the elderly person’s preference, age, health, and financial condition.
Aging in Place
Options such as Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), apartment buildings, condominiums, or cooperatives not designed as retirement communities but where at least 50 percent of the residents are 62 years old or older (which often include amenities such as grocery stores, pharmacies, limousine service, or shopping services on the premises) and/or recent technological advances (such as Velcro fasteners, lightweight wheelchairs, walk-in bathtubs, devices to control appliances, and dial telephone numbers) are available to help the elderly person stay in his/her home often make aging in place easier.
- Home care services are available in many communities, providing appropriate, supervised personnel to help older persons with either health care (giving medications, changing dressings, catheter care, etc.) or personal care (bathing, dressing, and grooming).
- Meals and transportation are available to older people to help them retain some independence. Group or home-delivered meal programs help ensure an adequate diet. Meals-On-Wheels programs are available in most parts of the United States. A number of communities offer door-to-door transportation services to help older people get to and from medical facilities, community facilities, and other services.
- Adult day care is similar to child day care. The elderly person goes to a community facility daily or two to three days per week. Activities include exercise programs, singing, guest lectures, and current events discussions. Cost varies and there are often long waiting lists at such centers.
- Respite care brings a trained person into the home to allow the full-time caregiver time off to get a haircut, visit the dentist, or take a vacation. Service is generally offered through area Departments of Social Services and is based on a sliding fee scale.
Other Housing Options
There are several types of retirement communities that provide living arrangements and services to meet the needs of both independent seniors and those who need assistance. It is important when investigating these housing options to understand completely the services provided and the cost.
- Adult congregate communities are designed for the fully able-bodied, 55 and older. Residents buy co-ops or condominiums and pay a monthly fee for grass mowing, leaf raking, and snow shoveling. A pay-as-you-go medical center is on site and a nurse is on duty 24 hours a day to make home visits in emergencies. Leisure World is the most famous example of an adult congregate community.
- Assisted living communities are rental retirement communities for independent seniors who need some assistance. A homelike atmosphere, three meals a day, maid, linen, and laundry service, availability of a registered nurse, and many personal care services are provided in the all-inclusive rent.
- Rental retirement communities with fee-for-service nursing units charge residents an entrance fee plus a substantial monthly rent. When the need for nursing care arises, residents pay an extra daily fee and stay in a nursing unit, usually located on site or nearby.
- Life care or continuing care communities provide a continuum of care from independent living to nursing home care on the premises. The individual must be independent when s/he enters the community. These communities require a substantial entrance fee and monthly service fee. Residents get one meal a day in a dining room, maid service, linen service, maintenance, and transportation to shopping and cultural events, travel planning, and a pull cord to an emergency nurse. If nursing care is needed, it is provided at no extra cost.
- Personal care homes (board and care) are licensed in many communities to provide shelter, supervision, meals, and personal care to a small number of residents.
- Subsidized housing for the elderly is an option for the elderly poor in reasonably good health. Subsidized by Department of Housing and Urban Development, income limits apply. No round-the-clock care is provided but nurses come in to check blood pressure and assess a resident’s functioning. Residents take meals in a dining room and may have use of a library, recreation area, or beauty shop.
If the elderly person is not capable of independent living, a nursing home may be the appropriate option. Nursing homes offer two levels of care – skilled nursing and intermediate care – depending on the patient’s needs. Most nursing homes offer both levels of care on a single site.
- Skilled nursing facilities provide 24-hour nursing services for people who have serious health care needs but do not require the intense level of care provided in a hospital. Rehabilitation services may also be provided.
- Intermediate care facilities provide less extensive health care than skilled nursing facilities. Nursing and rehabilitation services are provided but not on a 24-hour basis. These facilities are for people who cannot live alone but need a minimum of medical assistance and help with personal and/or social care.