Determining the “Right” Kind of Care for Seniors

When caring for an older loved one, the choices can seem limitless, and consequently, overwhelming. We are very fortunate, in the Atlanta area, to have so many great options available to us. But just how can you decide which one is right for your family? What are the differences between Independent Living and Assisted Living, and just where does the nursing home fit in?

First it is important to know what the needs of your senior are, and then you can narrow down how to best meet those needs. One method to determine what they require is to have a comprehensive evaluation done by a professional, either a physician or a geriatric care manager. After you know what you need, then its time to shop for the best options. Here are some guidelines to help in your selection.

To begin, the lightest amount of care is provided in an Independent Living Community for seniors, also known as a Retirement Community. You get no outside assistance, and you have complete privacy, but you must pay privately.

The next level of care is Assisted Living. In Assisted Living, you are provided with basic assistance such as prepared meals, light housekeeping, and usually linens service. If you need more “personal” care you may get it, but at an additional fee. Such things as medication management, help with Activities of Daily Living, etc. BUT they are not able to provide any direct skilled nursing, like wound care or tube feeding. For Assisted Living you either pay privately, or use LTC insurance.

Then a possible need would be Dementia Care. This is much like Assisted Living, but it is only for persons with some form of memory loss. It is usually an all-inclusive fee, because of the level of care required, so you will know up front what you will be paying for. They are also not permitted to do any “skilled” nursing care, but they are a locked, secure unit, to ensure the safety of the residents. For dementia care you pay either privately or with LTC insurance.

There are choices for those who want to remain at home as well. Home Care is also known as companion care. A non-skilled person comes to the private residence to do light housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, bathing assistance and occasional transportation (the grocery store, hairdressers, etc.) It can become expensive for the hourly service, which is private pay, although some LTC insurance will pay.

Home Health Care sounds similar, but is very different. Home Health is skilled nursing that comes into the home to address care issues that others are not able to provide. It is very costly, and Medicare only pays when the senior is “home bound.” So it is usually private pay or by LTC insurance.

So, that leaves Nursing Home care. Nursing homes have been given the dubious honor of being the last resort for many. But they are able to provide the level of care that families at home are just not able give. It is skilled nursing, plus all of the Activities of Daily Living. It can be paid for through private pay, LTC insurance, or Medicaid. Medicaid can by tough to come by, as many Nursing Homes limit the “number of Medicaid beds”, you must qualify and there can be long waiting lists, but it can be done.

So as you can see, there are truly many choices in the type of care available, and making the appropriate selection can save you time, money and heartache. If you are unsure of the right choice, seek professional help, and they will assist you in finding the most beneficial options for your loved one.

17 replies
  1. Ridley Fitzgerald
    Ridley Fitzgerald says:

    It’s great to know about different senior care options. I like how you said that the lightest amount of care is given at independent living places. We want our mom to be taken care of, but she doesn’t need a ton of help yet. We’ll look for a facility like that.

  2. Liz
    Liz says:

    What kind of doctor does the evaluation to determine the right level of care?

    What if you don’t have LTC insurance and can’t afford to pay out of pocket?

    • Lisa Kaufman
      Lisa Kaufman says:

      The “right kind” of doctor could include the Primary Care Physician, a Geriatric Psychiatrist, or a Neurologist. It depends on the reasons for the need for care and the primary diagnosis or presenting problems as to which doctor would be best suited.

      Assisted Living and in-home care are generally private pay. LTC Insurance can help with the costs, as can eligibility for VA Aid and Attendance Benefits.

  3. Sonia Moorehead
    Sonia Moorehead says:

    Professional health care is important to every elders nowadays for the maintaining of their healthy diet, physical activities and other healthy tips that for them. Thank you for the great blog you shared I learned.

  4. Joy Butler
    Joy Butler says:

    Thank you very much for the information on how to determine the right care for seniors. I love and do care for the elder people as I was taught by my sweet grandmother to do so. I believe that we should look for a place wherein they could still feel that they are being loved, their needs are being attended to. A place where they could relax and feel so comfortable to stay with.

  5. Bethany Birchridge
    Bethany Birchridge says:

    I like that you can hire dementia care to watch after loved ones with dementia and memory loss problems. I’ve also heard that being home alone could cause elderly people to be at risk for accidents and depression. My grandmother is having walking problems, but refuses to use her cane. It sounds like a senior care service may be best for her, as it will let her have more friends and freedom.

  6. Amethyst Boheur
    Amethyst Boheur says:

    It sure was nice that you talked about the assisted living community and how the senior will receive basic assistance, like prepared meals and housekeeping. That seems like a place where my grandma will receive more freedom. It might be good if I suggest this to her. After all, she was the one who said that she does not need much help.

    • Lisa Kaufman
      Lisa Kaufman says:

      Thank you for your feedback, Amethyst. I hope the suggestion is helpful and that your grandma gets the support she needs without impacting her independence.

  7. Charles Mitchell
    Charles Mitchell says:

    It was nice that you explained that assisted living facilities only provide the person with basic assistance, like housekeeping, prepared meals, and such. That is exactly what my grandma wants since she claims to be strong enough to care for herself. She just needs help with cooking and cleaning since she can’t afford to be tired. I will suggest this to her.

  8. Michael Lee
    Michael Lee says:

    Before reading this article, I didn’t know the difference between the different types of home care. I had thought that there was no difference between a retirement community and an assisted living community. By my parents, there is a retirement community that has a range of services which include assisted living.

  9. Caden Dahl
    Caden Dahl says:

    You are right that seniors do need to have the proper care. I know that once my mom gets to the age where she’ll need it, I would want to find the right care for her. As you said, there are different types so it important to choose the right one for your situation.

  10. Ellie Davis
    Ellie Davis says:

    My mother isn’t able to do much on her own anymore and as her only daughter, I want to make sure we get her the best care possible. I really appreciate that you point out that there are independent living communities that will allow her to have some independence. I’ll have to look into finding the best facility for her.


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