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  • Julie Katz

Senior Living Alternatives

A brief review of living options to meet your needs


In the past there were basically two options for seniors: living at home or going to a nursing home. In the last few decades, living options for seniors have dramatically changed. Here is an overview of the most popular options:


1. Living at home or with family. This may mean having no help up to 24 hour care.

Advantages: You stay in your own home. You provide assistance according to your needs.

Disadvantages: Home may not be handicap accessible. 24 hour, private care is expensive and having family do the care is a lot on everyone. Living in your own home can be isolating. Family will have to do more for you than an institutionalized setting would.


2. Independent Senior Living. An apartment which may provide services like housekeeping, laundry, transportation and one or two meals. It may be part of a campus of continuing care.

Advantages: There will be activities to socialize with others; some services are included in rent, there is someone there if there is an emergency.

Disadvantages: Can be expensive. Does not meet the needs of people who may wander, are lonely, or need medical or personal assistance.


The right living arrangement gives you peace of mind, the wrong one can have disastrous results

3. Assisted Living. Apartment like living with a little kitchenette. All services of independent living but all or most meals provided. You can have some home care (usually for an extra cost) and medication reminders (not medication administration).

Advantages: There are social activities without the worry of caring for your needs.

Disadvantages: Expensive. With health changes, your needs can outgrow what assisted living offers, sometimes very quickly if your health takes a dramatic turn.


4. Memory Care Units. Locked units usually within assisted living or a nursing home with specially trained staff for those with Alzheimer's or dementia. The best ones have a home-like feel.

Advantages: A better alternative for those who wander, but are otherwise body healthy than a nursing home. Trained staff can make a big difference.

Disadvantages: Expensive. Many times people in various stages of dementia are put together.


5. Skilled Nursing Care. Full medical and personal care with 24 hour nursing staff.

Advantages: A health care system which is one of the most regulated by the government, except for nuclear power plants. Staff to care for medical needs an prevent new medical problems. May have on-site therapies as well.

Disadvantage: Expensive. Most people, if they live long enough, will end up on Medicaid after burning through their life savings.


Living in a place with too little care can be dangerous. Asses your needs realistically.

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