Levels of Care and Accommodation - What's the Difference?

How many different ways can one say; “Retirement Home”? Whether it’s because there are too many interchangeable terms, or that new terms are being developed constantly to replace outdated ones that don’t quite have a positive or upbeat twist – it’s confusing! Hopefully, I can help to clear up some of the confusion and also inform you on today’s modern-day lingo within the industry. Most importantly, I hope to provide you with the basic differences between the various accommodations offered by different Seniors Residences. To start off there are 4 main types of accommodations available to you:

1.           Independent Retirement Living

2.           Assisted Living

3.           Alzheimer’s Care

4.           Long-term care

Each type of accommodation will offer a different level of care. I’ll start off by saying that there are a number of variations of definitions to these terms. I’ve simplified the definitions of each type of accommodation for you below.

Independent Living Independent Retirement Living, is essentially a Retirement Residence that offers accommodations for independent seniors who want to remain active, social, and who need very little assistance in terms of nursing care or extra services, if any at all. Included in the monthly accommodation fee; are usually meals, weekly housekeeping, laundry, shopping, recreational programs, and sometimes more. It’s more or less, ‘the art of independent living’, while not having to worry about daily tasks, such as; cooking and housekeeping.

Assisted Living is a term, which implies a higher level of care, which is offered often times within an Independent Retirement Residence. Assisted Living can include all the activities and services mentioned under the Independent Living care model, as well as; personal support services, such as; medication administration and/or supervision, bathing assistance, dressing assistance, toileting assistance, personal laundry, and sometimes more. Some Retirement Residences have the assisted living residents on a separate floor(s) than the independent suites. Often times, this is to better accommodate the residents living on the assisted living floor, being within closer proximity to a nurses’ station or the doctor’s office within the Residence. It also allows for the independent residents to live in an area with other independent seniors. Often times, the Assisted Living area of a Residence, has a nurses’ station near by to provide the nursing services, which are often included in the Assisted Living care packages.

A la Carte – As a side note, there are a group of seniors who fall in between the Independent Living care model and the Assisted Living (all inclusive) care model. For these seniors, many Retirement Residences offer accommodations under the Independent living care model, but allow the families to choose only the extra services that are needed, such as; medication administration, or bathing assistance once or twice weekly. This allows families to design their own care package. Ask the Retirement Residences you choose to tour, what your options are. Alzheimer’s Care is another level of care provided by some Independent Retirement Residences.

Alzheimer’s Care can be separated further, into two parts; Alzheimer’s Care (unlocked floor), and Alzheimer’s Care within a locked area (usually a locked floor). Not all Independent Retirement Residences offer Alzheimer’s Care, because many of them want to remain as Independent as possible, meaning; they can only provide care/services to independent seniors and do not have the means to provide extra services, such as; memory stimulation programs, or even just the man power to keep a watchful eye on those residents that are wandering risks. Alternative Options Some Retirement Residences have what I refer to as; “A Transitional Care Model”, whereby residents living on an independent floor can transition to a higher care floor/area/package if needed, without having to move to a new residence that offers a higher level of care.

Some Residences offer care up to the palliative level. Some employ what is commonly known in the industry as; an “Age-in-place” program, which is basically what I just explained – a transitional care model. An Age-in-place program can also mean that the senior does not have to move out of their original suite, they can have the needed care brought straight to their rooms. Ideally, what you would want is a place where your loved one can grow and “age in place” without having to worry about moving outside that Community or even outside his or her current suite, and just have the care increased without having to move even internally within the building. Some Retirement Residences offer this type of transitional model. It is easiest for both the family and most importantly the senior, when he/she doesn’t have to move once again, especially at a time where their health is declining – hence, the need for increased care.

Long-Term Care (LTC) Long-term care is a whole different ball game, played on a whole different field (played by totally different rules). Not to sound biased in anyway, but wanting to be quite frank about the differences between Long-term care and Retirement living. The above three categories of care are all offered under the category of “Retirement Living”. Retirement Living Centres, Retirement Residences, Retirement Homes, Retirement Communities – all different terms that mean the same thing, more or less – operate privately by either one owner or a corporation, which is currently not subsidized by the government, and are currently self-regulated. Long-term care is offered by facilities or places that are regulated, funded and managed by the government. Normally there are 3 main reasons one would choose to move into a Long-term care facility;

1. You weren’t fully aware of all your options when faced with the decision to move yourself or a loved one into a “home”;

2. You required some financial assistance from the government to help pay the accommodation fee, or;

3. You or a loved one was in hospital for one reason or another, and you were assigned to a Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) representative who assisted you in getting you on the waiting list for an available bed within a Long-term care facility, and after a while, you were called and accepted the placement.

CCAC is an organization that can also help seniors remain in their homes, by assigning a certain amount of care based on an assessment done by one of their workers. CCAC is also the go-through organization one must use in order to be placed on a waiting list for a Long-term care placement.

For more information on CCAC and Long Term Care, visit: http://www.toronto.ccac-ont.ca/

For more information on services that can assist in finding the right Retirement Residence for a loved one contact Elder Care Transitions at http://www.ectransitions.com/contact/