Independent Living vs. Assisted Living: Choosing a step in the right direction for your loved one.

Independent Living vs. Assisted Living

Currently, neighbors are “keeping an eye on” mom and you are making meals to stock in the freezer to make life easier. These days, adult children have a heavy responsibility when deciding life changes. Independence is what most seniors want; as an adult child however, safety is the first concern.

So, what is the next step? Independent or assisted living? What are the differences in all-inclusive communities? This is a quick reference article that can help answer questions as you evaluate capabilities, options and start a conversation on next steps.

First, some basic, but important questions you should ask yourself:

  • What is the activity level of your parent? In independent living (IL), seniors choose what they prefer to be involved in. They schedule their rides, activities and choose groups to interact with. IL residents often choose activities happening in the local communities and outside venues. In assisted living (AL), activity is restricted by physical limitations, driving impairments or transportation level and most activities are in-house.
  • What type of amenities are offered? Both IL and AL community teams do housework, provide meals, arrange activities, and provide morale.
  • Does your parent need help with medications? AL provides a nursing element to help with medications and incontinence care. In IL, there are independent companies that can provide help at an additional cost.
  • What are the cost comparisons? Independent living in the valley is approximately $2,000 per month, which is all encompassing with food and utilities. Assisted living is approximately $3,000 per month, with additional fees as care needs increase.

Starting the conversation:

Starting the conversation with your elderly parent can be hard and met with resistance. Seniors deserve to have some pampering, after all, and they have done many things in their life and overcome some tough challenges. Focusing on that aspect seems to be a more popular approach over pointing out safety or inability to care for themselves. Dignity is of the utmost importance when life-changing conversations are taking place. Your loved one has worked hard and earned a life that allows him/her time to focus on things they never had time in the past to do. Independent living communities are easier conversation with your parent because your parent’s freedom to make all future decisions stays intact. Independent living is rarely considered by family, but it gives an aging parent the dignity of continued independence and it is a cheaper option for the loved-one. Assisted living requires a doctor’s order and is most times an act of necessity.

Incentives for change:

With IL, the parent is no longer driving, yard work and household chores are too cumbersome, they may be experiencing social withdrawal and going out less. With AL, medications are being mismanaged by the parent, a wheelchair or lift would be appropriate, they cannot walk without walker or cane, they are in need of incontinence care or are incapable of personal care and grooming.

Why choosing correctly matters:

IL’s main focus is to keep people active, as long as body and mind are cooperating. This can still be available with extra charges for a home company to help with bathing or running errands. In AL, health aspects to aid with basic care needs cannot be met in an independent environment. It is extremely important to keep seniors in the environment most aligned with their capabilities and needs. A thriving, healthy, active senior could lose ambition and become depressed when surrounded everyday with seniors that are far less active. In reverse, it may become very frustrating for a senior with limitations to watch the activities that he or she cannot participate in on a daily basis. Independent living can curtail, sometimes by years, the need for more costly care. There is a definite need for both, but most residents in IL can age in place and may never need to move.

Assisted living is very appropriate for those with physical or mental impairments. Whichever is more suitable for your situation, I urge you to look at many of them. All communities have tours, food sampling, or short stay periods to try it out. I recommend testing a community first if it is available and time permits. The more education, the easier it is to take the right steps for the best choices and minimize stress in the meantime.

For questions on whether independent living or assisted living is a good choice for your parent, please call Heatherwood at 208-345-2150.