By Carrie Vittitoe
Illustration by Brittany Granville
The terminology surrounding senior care can be confusing. What’s the difference between assisted living and skilled nursing? What exactly is independent living? The industry happens to be in the midst of rebranding continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) as life plan communities, which may further contribute to the general public’s confusion.
Whether they are referred to as CCRCs or life plan communities, the concept is the same: they are senior living communities that provide different types of accommodations for seniors. Many offer independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing care, and even memory care. Not every CCRC offers every type of care, and it can be difficult for individuals and their adult children to know which community is a good fit for a senior’s needs. In order to allay some confusion, we’ve asked a number of experts from local CCRCs to help clarify things.
Jim Patton, vice president of mission advancement/general counsel, Christian Care Communities
Q: Mom wants to move somewhere, but we don’t want to have to move her multiple times because of her health situation. What should we do?
Seniors often feel the most secure during a housing transition if they can live in a community that provides various levels of care as they age. Health can change quickly, and that journey can be very different days, weeks, or months after the move. It’s so convenient and comforting to know that if a parent’s issues become more serious, they are able to lean on a trusted senior care community to provide continuum of care levels. Hopefully, through care and rehab, the senior will regain her independence, but that’s not always the case. Professional staff are able to observe and ask questions to help guide the senior and family through difficult conversations around the timing of needs around skilled nursing care, Alzheimer’s, and dementia care.
Senior care communities are very different across the region. Some have financial subsidies and take various forms of insurance, while others rely on fair market rates. Starting early with comparison shopping helps with finding the right amenities and levels of care to match the need and budget. It’s difficult to make big family decisions about housing when the pressure is on during a health crisis. There are differences, too, between nonprofit and for-profit providers, and each has value. Many of the non-profits have their roots in a faith tradition, so if spiritual care is important to the senior, that should be a consideration. Each brings something different, so it’s important for the families to visit early and understand what the mission and financial exposures are.