Choosing Between Independent & Assisted Living A comparative analysis of the two types of living facilities
As our parents age, we find ourselves facing tougher tasks at a time when we often also have to look after school or college-age children. Helping parents manage their health issues and making living and caregiving choices can thus be among the most demanding responsibilities that we have to assume.
Frequently though, our parents are in that stage in their health where living independently is precarious at best. We may give it serious consideration, but only as a timely bridge to more of the assisted living type. Independent living is a natural option though when they still have years of relatively good health, when home is not preferred, and when socializing makes them happier.
Here is more on the distinctions between both types of living facilities:
Daily life in an independent facility
For seniors who are able to care for themselves but wish to live among a community of retirees, an independent living community might be the better option. Such a community is often created for those who no longer wish to maintain a home and want to live in a community with active seniors who, more likely than not, come from a common socio-economic background.
These communities often provide an easier lifestyle, particularly for the senior who does not do well as a reclusive at home. In fact, socializing is frequently the number one lure that pulls folks away from the isolation of their homes, even when they have the means to stay at home.
One drawback to living in an independent facility however is that there is no common medical assistance. If your loved one is in need of immediate care, there could be delays. It is therefore important that he or she manage their own medical exigencies, including frequent visits to the doctor and for tests.
Daily life in an ALF
An ALF is exactly what it purports to be, a residence where professional caregivers assist the residents with their ADLs (activities of daily living). They are licensed and kept in check by the local governments in each state. They have to have RNs and certified Home Health Aides in certain ratios set by the licensing authorities. They also have a dietician on board, as well as an activities director whose duties include providing exercise and activities, usually mornings and afternoons.
Here is how an ALF touts its offerings:
- They provide a secure and comfortable environment
- Your loved one gets a room to himself or herself
- Their staff assist with all ADLs on an as-needed basis
- There are always one or more RNs on staff
- They provide companionship and socializing opportunities among the residents
- They have an activities director on board, with activities usually twice a day
- The high point of the day is dinner in the big dining room
- Some also accept and specialize in patients with dementia
It’s uncanny how more or less equal the overall costs are between independent and assisted living facilities, with emphasis on the word “overall”.
And it’s no secret that these two living options can be costly. They are often self-pay and are not covered by any program other than Long Term Care Insurance, which your loved ones either possess or they don’t.
The families are therefore having to dig into their nest eggs, with the knowledge that such resources can quickly get depleted. In many cases, families sell the homes of their loved ones in order to pay for a few years in a facility.
According to the Genworth 2015 Cost of Care Survey, an ALF can cost $3,600+ per month, based on 12 months of care in a private, one bedroom. This also depends on what state you live in. For example, according to the same survey, the annual cost of an ALF in Oklahoma is approximately $40,000 per year, or about $3,350 a month.
The average monthly cost of independent living can range from $1,500 to $2,500 per month based on the type of home and community chosen. However, by the time you’re done with paying for extras such as all the components of meal preparation, some housekeeping, plus intangibles associated with living on your own, you end up in the same ball park as with an ALF.
Count on a total budget of $4,000+ a month for a middle-of-the-road, comfortable living arrangement in either one of the two types of housing.
So, where do we go?
Determining which facility is best for your loved one is primarily based on their current physical and mental health. The questions to ask yourself in reality boil down to this: is your loved one able to cope with their ADLs on their own? Will he or she need assistance with daily professional aide assistance and RN supervision?
If you are confident that mom or dad can live on their own, but wish for him or her to live among fellow elders, then an independent community might be best. However, if your mom or dad faces many challenges with living alone, then an ALF will bring better you peace of mind.
Finally, when making this critical choice for your loved one, a good amount of research is vital. For example, there is no better substitute to going to actual residents of both types of facilities and finding out from them what advice they can proffer.