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It is no secret that our bodies can only do so much daily. As we age, we need extra support because simple tasks like doing the laundry become infinitely more complicated. Many senior citizens benefit from supplementary services that make it easier to go about their everyday lives as they mature. 

However, more options than ever exist for senior care. There’s a significant difference between a person who only needs help with tasks and those who lack the stamina and mobility to get out of bed independently. As a loved one to an aging family member, you need to properly understand each level of senior care so you can make the best-informed decisions when the time comes for your family member to leave home.

Levels of Senior Care

Care for the elderly may be found in a variety of settings and at a variety of levels. The eligibility requirements for different types of care vary. The number of activities of daily living (ADLs) a senior individual can do independently can help determine the right level of care.

Below, you’ll find the most common types of senior care, from independent living to long-term skilled nursing (and a few in between).

Independent Living

When independent living is chosen, seniors often prefer to remain in their existing living situation while taking advantage of the services and resources available in their community. Housing choices in independent living communities may range from apartments and townhouses to single-family homes, all built and structured with seniors in mind. The seniors who choose independent living tend to be generally healthy and energetic. Most independent living facilities do not have on-site doctors or nurses since they are designed for seniors who can care for most of their medical needs. 

Although your loved one may be independent enough to still live at home, this doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from independent living communities. These spaces often plan social events for the residents, which can help aging family members maintain their cognitive abilities and boost their mental well-being. Furthermore, these facilities still have staff members available around the clock, just in case of an emergency.

Assisted Living

Although the terms sound the same, there are many key differences between independent living and assisted living. In assisted living, residents often have private rooms but share common spaces with others. More staff members are available to help with bathing and dressing. Nursing care is also available around the clock, and residents have access to a full schedule of meals they don’t have to prepare themselves. At this level of care, there are also many great opportunities for socialization and community-based projects.

If your loved one is still mobile enough to walk independently but needs help with things like washing, clothing, and medication management, then assisted living may benefit them.

Short-Term Care (Rehabilitation)

Short-term rehabilitation centers provide non-hospital medical and therapeutic treatment around the clock. This kind of therapy aims to aid people in getting back on their feet after they have been injured or undergone a medical procedure. Short-term rehabilitation is not meant to be permanent or continuous; most people only stay here for one to three months.

Seniors ready to leave the hospital may need to prepare to care for themselves. These facilities are staffed with physical and occupational therapists who work individually with residents. They usually establish goals so the person can discharge and return to their home or pre-established living arrangements. 

Also, since many seniors are still at risk for complications after surgery, short-term rehabilitation programs have medical professionals (including nurses and physicians) on-site around the clock. Access to timely medical care is a critical factor in the effective rehabilitation of many elderly patients.

Long-Term Skilled Nursing Care

Long-term professional nursing care seeks to enhance the quality of life for elderly patients who need constant medical attention and care while also giving their loved ones some relief. Seniors with chronic or complicated medical illnesses that you cannot treat at home or in other settings may benefit from long-term care, which provides medical attention and monitoring around the clock. Medical professionals and advanced medical equipment are on hand at a nursing home or skilled nursing facility to offer this level of care. 

Some services provided by skilled nursing facilities are medication management, wound care, rehabilitation services, physical and occupational therapy, and support. Skilled nursing homes prioritize their patients’ health and happiness by providing medical attention and social and recreational activities.

Memory Care

Memory care refers to services designed specifically for persons suffering from dementia-related conditions like Alzheimer’s. It is similar to assisted living and skilled nursing but designed specifically for persons with memory loss. 

This care provides a secure, structured environment for people with cognitive and memory impairments. These instructions are meant for those needing prompts for all ADLs. Recreational and educational programs are designed to improve residents’ social and cognitive abilities. Memory and mental decline-focused activities are planned.

Memory care facilities aim to ensure the safety of senior citizens with memory loss while also strengthening their independence and quality of life. Seniors with memory impairments may benefit from the extended use of their cognitive and physical skills when they get the specialized care and assistance available in memory care facilities.

Determining How Much Care a Senior Needs

Determining the right level of care for seniors isn’t an easy task. There are many factors to consider, not to mention their personal feelings about the matter. However, when you look at a loved one’s situation objectively, you can best decide what they truly need.

At St. Dominic Village, we recommend that loved ones consider these factors when determining how much care the senior in their life needs:

  • Medical Needs— These are essential in determining the level of care a senior needs. The specific medical needs of an old will vary depending on their health status, medical history, and any chronic conditions they may have. In general, seniors with more complex medical needs will require a higher level of care.
  • Behavioral Needs— As people age, they may experience changes in their behavior due to various reasons, including cognitive decline, physical limitations, or emotional issues. Therefore, assessing a senior’s behavioral needs is crucial to determining the appropriate care level.
  • Cognitive Needs— Cognitive abilities can affect a senior’s ability to perform daily activities, communicate effectively, and make decisions. As people age, they may experience changes in cognitive skills, and some may develop conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease that can impact their cognitive functioning. Therefore, assessing a senior’s mental needs is crucial to determining the appropriate care level.
  • Functional Needs— These refer to a senior’s capability to carry out ADLs (activities of daily living) and IADLs (instrumental ADLs) (IADLs). ADLs include bathing, dressing, eating, and toileting, while IADLs include managing finances, cooking, cleaning, and transportation. A decline in functional abilities can impact a senior’s independence and quality of life, making it essential to assess their practical needs.

Signs a Higher Level of Care is Needed

Regardless of what level of care your loved one is currently at, the following questions may indicate a higher level of care is needed.

  • Has the senior experienced any recent falls or other safety concerns, such as wandering or leaving the stove on?
  • Have there been any changes in the senior’s cognitive abilities, such as memory loss, confusion, disorientation, or difficulty with decision-making?
  • Have there been any changes in the senior’s ability to carry out basic activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, grooming, or toileting?
  • Have there been any changes in the senior’s cognitive abilities, such as memory loss, confusion, disorientation, or difficulty with decision-making?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may want to consider the previously mentioned levels of care and revisit them to determine what senior level of care makes the most sense for your loved one.

Let St. Dominic Village Help You Determine The Right Senior Care

Determining the best level of care for your senior is a huge decision. At St. Dominic Village, we understand the ins and outs of each level of care, not to mention the emotional weight of the decision to move your person into a living community. 

If you are unsure what the best decision is or you simply need someone to talk to, we recommend scheduling a tour so you can connect with our staff and see what options are available. We can show you what each level of care (independent living, assisted living, and long-term skilled nursing care) looks like, then help you make the best choice.