Independent Living vs Assisted Living
As you begin to explore various living options for older adults, you may find yourself pondering the differences between assisted living and independent living. Perhaps you need a little help now and then; and you’re not sure how much assistance tips the scale when deciding between the two wellness options. Maybe an illness or injury causes you to wonder how your particular circumstance affects your choices when it comes to living in one or the other. Whatever your concerns or questions may be, it’s important to understand the difference between independent living and assisted living to help you make the best decision possible and to make your transition to your new home as seamless as possible.
Independent living communities are excellent for older adults who can live on their own but want to live in a community with other older adults. The main goal of an independent living community is to make the individual’s day-to-day life easier by minimizing their daily responsibilities. Independent living communities do not offer custodial care (personalized one-on-one care) or medical care.
Some of the benefits of an independent living community include:
- Eliminates the responsibilities of home ownership, giving older adults more time and opportunity to enjoy retirement. This may include such items as housekeeping, laundry services and on-site dining.
- Many social opportunities to connect with others who share common interests and who are of the same age group
- In the event of an emergency, someone is always close at hand
- A variety of stimulating and engaging activities are scheduled throughout the day, eliminating boredom
- Increased security around the community, including surveillance and security guards
Designed with the “independent” older adult in mind, the amenities and features in each individual living space are the same as one would find in an apartment or small home. Each living space typically includes a full-service kitchen and a small living area giving residents the opportunity to prepare and host their own private dinner parties when they so choose. Most independent living communities also offer multiple communal dining opportunities. Residents share common areas where they have the opportunity to gather and socialize with others in the community.
Some older adults aren’t cognitively or physically able to live without some form of assistance, which is where assisted living comes into the picture. Whether they find themselves developing or living with a chronic health condition (such as diabetes or heart disease) or they’re beginning to face cognitive decline (such as with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia), assisted living offers them the opportunity to get the assistance they need without giving up their independence.
Assisted living is the next step after independent living in the continuum of care for older adults. In an assisted living community, older adults are allowed, even encouraged, to live as independently as possible while having someone available to provide whatever assistance may be needed. Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is delivered by a staff of nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNAs). Examples of ADLs provided in an assisted living community include (but are not limited to):
- Dressing and grooming assistance
- Showering/bathing assistance
- Toileting and personal hygiene assistance
- Assistance with eating
- Housekeeping and laundry
- Medication management
In an assisted living community, you’ll still have the freedom to socialize and pursue your own unique interests. The benefit of assisted living is best experienced when difficulties arise. It’s at those times that it’s nice to have someone there to help you overcome whatever obstacles you face.
Although assisted living communities typically staff one or more full-time medical personnel, assisted living is not for someone who requires ongoing or intensive hands-on nursing or medical care. Individuals with illnesses and disease processes that necessitate nursing and/or medical care should seek out the services of a skilled nursing community.
In an assisted living community, older adults live in their own living space (private or semi-private) which generally consists of an apartment-style set of rooms which may or may not include a fully equipped kitchen. Entrees are served in a communal dining area. Residents generally also receive assistance in the scheduling of doctor’s appointments and transportation to those appointments.
Some assisted living communities may include specialized memory care units to assist older adults who have cognitive impairment typically caused by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. These units offer increased security measures – extra surveillance equipment and secured entrances and exits to prevent elopement. Due to safety concerns, resident’s rooms do not have kitchens.
Choosing Between Assisted Living and Independent Living
Trying to determine the best living option can feel overwhelming at times, but as you arm yourself with the right information, it becomes much simpler. For those preparing to make their first move into a senior living community, independent living or assisted living is generally the first place to begin your investigation. Of living options for older adults, independent living allows for and requires independence, making it the least restrictive living option. Next along the continuum of care is assisted living, providing supportive services and assistance when needed while allowing as much independence as possible.
Independent Living vs. Assisted Living at Edenwald
Which is best for you? Ultimately, the choice is often determined by the needs of the older adult. Many communities, such as Edenwald, offer both independent living and assisted living. Some also offer additional care options such as memory care and skilled nursing services. Edenwald offers these as well. Knowing that care needs often change, having access to all levels of care in one community can be comforting.