Independent Living vs Assisted Living: How to Make a Choice

Updated on August 29, 2019

The average age of American citizens is getting older each year. Right now, 47 million seniors are living in the U.S.! Much of the world is seeing a similar population aging trend.

Getting older is a fact of life! Some people age faster than others based on lifestyle and genetics, but no one is immortal. 

At some point, an elderly person will not be able to care for themselves. They find it more difficult to move around their environment. If someone you love has gotten to this point, you may have already debated independent living vs assisted living facilities.

But how do you decide which kind of facility is best for your loved ones? What are the differences between the two? What would your loved one want?

We are here to help sort everything out and answer all your questions. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about elderly living facilities before deciding where your elderly loved ones should live.

When Is It Time to Discuss New Living Arrangements for an Elderly Loved One?

Aging is different for everyone and it is very hard to know when it is time to put someone in a home of some sort. If you notice any of these problems, it could be time to start talking about living arrangements for your elderly loved ones.

  • aimless wandering
  • unfounded aggression or “Sundowners syndrome” (aggression that increases later in the day)
  • decreasing physical abilities
  • Current home is no longer safe
  • The caregiver is becoming stressed (Note: this is not something to feel ashamed of. Many caregivers become overwhelmed as their loved one needs more and more care.)

What Is an Assisted Living Facility?

An assisted living facility is like an apartment complex where only elderly people can come to live. Each person has a living area (either private or semi-private).

Some assisted living homes allow couples to live together in their unit. Contact an assisted living facility near you to find out more about their policies.

Residents in an assisted living facility live normally, but they have access to care and help with daily activities. Though these aides are available at all hours of the day (and night), staff encourages the residents to be as independent as possible.

Medical care is also a major consideration for the residents and staff at an assisted living home. Staff help schedule and transport residents to and from their doctors’ visits. For emergencies, there is usually a trained medical professional like a certified nurse or doctor on staff at all times.

Elderly people often experience memory problems such as dementia. These people should find an assisted living facility with a dedicated wing for residents with memory loss. These wings have heightened security and no kitchens to ensure the safety of those who live there.

What Is an Independent Living Facility?

Independent living is pretty much like it sounds. Residents completely independently, but the whole community is around the same age.

There is a focus on social events and community involvement at an independent living facility. Staying active is key to maintaining mobility and youthfulness, so living in an active community is crucial for many seniors!

The in-house staff takes on many of the daily chores like housekeeping, meal planning/ cooking, and laundry. This leaves the senior residents free to focus on their physical and mental health.

It’s a great gig when you think about it! It’s like a permanent vacation where seniors get all the fun and none of the responsibilities.

Independent Living vs Assisted Living Facilities

Here’s the tough part, deciding which style of senior living arrangement is best for your loved ones. Be sure to discuss the options with them so they get a say in where they will live. No one wants to feel forced out of their homes, so be patient as they get warm to the idea of residing in a senior living facility.

Some elderly people are pretty healthy and do not need much medical attention yet. Living alone is expensive for elderly people who are on a fixed income and maintaining their homes won’t get any easier as the years go by. For seniors who can care for themselves, an independent living facility is a perfect fit!

If someone you love is having serious medical problems, or if they are unable to take care of themselves any longer, assisted living is best. This is also helpful for when/if their health declines because the medical staff can keep a close eye on them.

Another thing to consider is how many more “healthy” years your loved one has left. It is a morbid thing to consider, but your loved one may only have a couple of years of independent living left before they need more intensive care. It might be best to go for the assisted living facility now instead of moving into independent living for a couple of years and then to assisted living.

Age Is a Case of Mind over Matter; If You Don’t Mind, It Doesn’t Matter!

Making a choice for a loved one that will affect the rest of their lives is a difficult task. Even after knowing all the pros and cons of independent living vs assisted living facilities, it’s complicated. There’s no black or white choice either, this issue is all shades of grey.

We hope this article helps you during this difficult time. If you know someone else who is placing an elderly loved one in a living facility, please share this article on your favorite social media pages.

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