Senior Living: What Are My Options?

December 4, 2013

Watching an aging loved one struggle is extremely difficult. There’s an innate sense of helplessness, an overwhelming feeling of sadness and a desperate determination to find the best care and home for them.  But where do you begin?  Taking time to learn about your options is a good starting point.

In order to accommodate a wide variety of residents, senior living communities offer different levels of care. Understanding these levels will allow you to then determine which community and care package is right for your situation.

Keep in mind that while some communities specialize in things like independent living or moderate-to-advanced memory care, others, such as mainstream assisted living communities, tend to have several levels of care under one roof to suit a certain type of resident.  Later blog entries will tackle the specialists, but today let’s look at assisted living communities.

Traditional assisted living communities are perfect for an aging senior who is starting to have trouble maintaining or feeling safe in their home.  The average assisted living resident in the US is 84-years-old and female, though that age can swing by as much as 10 years in either direction.

Within the context of assisted living you typically have three levels of care: Independent, Assisted and Memory Care living.

Here’s a quick description of each:

Independent Living – This should NOT be confused with Over-50 communities or other fully-independent options.  These are folks who know they need to make a move, but are not sure they’re ready for Assisted Living.  They want the peace of mind of knowing that when they do start needing help, it’s right there for them.  Residents enjoy a private apartment with a kitchenette, can come and go as they please and can have a very active lifestyle. They also can receive three meals per day on-site, cleaning and laundry services, transportation, and a wide activities program.   Independent living is similar to retirement or hotel living, but comes with the added reassurance that when the time comes and more assistance is necessary, they can easily transition to Assisted Living without leaving their new home. 

Assisted Living – This option has all of the comforts and services of Independent Living, but also assumes that some assistance will be needed on a day-to-day basis. These services may include help with buttoning buttons, bathing, eating, medication management or other activities of daily living. Assisted Living offers residents the ability to live life the way they want to while having easy accessibility to services and care from community staff. 

Memory Care – Memory Care programs within mainstream assisted living communities tends to be for early-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia-sufferers.  Because most assisted living residences are NOT skilled nursing facilities, they cannot provide adequate care for advancing memory care issues.  Good Memory Care programs provide residents with comfort, structure and an active/engaging calendar to keep the mind and body as healthy as possible.  Maintaining a positive and safe environment must be the priority, and depending on the cognitive state of the resident, services for Memory Care will vary.

Deciding which level of care is best for your loved one can be difficult so talk to your family and start the conversation. For most, this is not something that happens overnight, it’s a decision that’s made over time and with great precision and care.  If you’d like more help or information about Senior Living please call Pam Crane at (781) 251-9330, or email her at  We’re happy to help.