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Senior Living Care Options: Which One is Right for Your Parent?

Many factors come into play when deciding the best senior living care option for your parent. You have to consider costs, location, the level of care and support they need, the lifestyle they enjoy and the type of living environment. They could receive care at home, with you, or move into a facility or retirement community. Generally speaking, senior living care options include independent living care, assisted living and a nursing home. You’ll also have to consider any of your parents’ special needs such as a handicap, deafness, Alzheimer’s, or if they require palliative or hospice care.


In many cases, seniors still live at home or with their families. A person who lives in the residence of their choice for as long as they can is said to be “aging in place.” This option includes being able to have any services or support they might need over time as their needs change. However, access to emergency care is not always available as it is in other care options.

Medical alert systems can be a big help for such people in case of a medical emergency.

Independent Living Care

This option refers to when seniors have a lot of independence and freedom. They do not require constant care and can get many things done themselves. They only seek help and medical treatment when it is needed. Independent living communities are an option for seniors without advanced healthcare or monitoring needs. These communities offer access to dining, entertainment, and other amenities, as well as medical care.

Assisted Living

A senior who requires assisted living needs help with daily activities, but does not require constant care and monitoring. Assisted living communities typically help residents with eating, health condition monitoring, grooming and hygiene, medication management and toileting.

Smaller assisted living care communities -- sometimes called board and care homes or adult family homes -- are another live-in care option. In these, seniors reside in a single family or residential care home that serves between two and ten patients. They have a private or shared room, meals, varying levels of assistance with daily activities, reminders to take medication, and medication administration and custodial care (i.e., housekeeping, laundry, transportation to doctor appointments).

Board and care homes provide a smaller, more intimate and family-like setting but for usually half the cost of a larger assisted living community. They tend to have a more relaxed and unstructured environment. Fewer residents allow for more interaction between residents and staff, and allows staff to give residents more attention. In short, it can feel more like a home to residents. However, board and care homes typically have fewer amenities, activities and recreational opportunities than a larger assisted living facility. Patients would only have a room and not their own apartment, and there aren’t as many people and social activity opportunities for seniors.

Nursing Home

The staff at a nursing home provide constant care and assistance with daily needs of residents at a live-in facility. Round-the-clock or even 24/7 nursing services are provided. Nursing homes must follow licensing requirements and other regulations, including staffing ratios. By US law, nursing homes must have at least one registered nurse available for eight hours daily, and one licensed practical nurse on duty 24 hours a day. This medically supervised environment ensures that patients are cared for when they cannot care for themselves.

Deaf-Assisted Living

Most assisted living facilities can accommodate deaf seniors. However, some facilities are designed specifically for deaf seniors and serve them almost exclusively by featuring:

  • Staff fluent in American Sign Language.
  • Alternative alarm systems, such as doorbells that light up, fire alarms that use high-intensity strobe lights or bed vibrations, or other emergency communications systems that do not require the ability to hear.
  • Specialized Audiovisual Equipment, including video conferencing systems that allow for communication via sign language and caption-enabled televisions.

Alzheimer’s and Memory Care

Patients who have Alzheimer’s, memory issues, and other cognitive-related problems require constant monitoring, regardless of the facility or home in which they reside.  Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that interferes with someone trying to go about their daily tasks. It impairs memory, thinking, and behavior. While it can be treated, it cannot be cured, and only grows worse over time. It’s vital that families develop a care plan to prepare for these needs as they progress over time.

Some assisted living facilities or other residential communities have designated areas for patients with Alzheimer’s. These areas may be locked or secured, include trained staff, as well as activities and amenities designed for those with dementia and related issues. Families should ask about these Alzheimer’s special care units when considering a living option for their loved one.

Making the Decision

Your parents’ needs will dictate the type of senior care they require. However, you also have to consider practicalities such as cost, comfort and convenience when making a choice. Deciding care plans and living options for seniors is an important and emotional decision. Consider all of the options, and obtain as much information as you can to make an informed decision. Having the details can alleviate the stress of making the decision, and prepare you and your loved one for the next step in senior care.

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