Levels of Care for the Elderly

Written by Ari ParkerUpdated: Monday, August 15, 2022

There are more than 800,000 Americans residing in assisted living, but assisted living isn’t the only option for seniors looking for support. Some retirement communities offer completely independent living for residents as young as 50, who may be looking for support from a community. Help at home also enables many elderly Americans to age in place for as long as possible to avoid disruption to their day-to-day life.  

When looking for support, it’s common to wonder about the different levels of care available. Depending on your age and health, you may be looking for assistance at home, a community without assistance, constant care, or something in between. Understanding the six most common types of care for the elderly can help you determine the right level of care for yourself or a loved one.

1. In-Home Care

In-home care involves someone (usually a family member, friend, or skilled caregiver) visiting the person in need at their home to help them with daily activities. In-home care is best for those who don’t want to disrupt their lives and prefer to live in the comfort of their own homes and communities as they age. 

Research shows that most seniors would prefer to stay in their own homes (age in place). Unfortunately, aging in place isn’t possible for everyone. As people age and experience more health complications, it becomes increasingly difficult to live and maintain their health at home. Additionally, home modifications may be necessary to help a senior live comfortably at home. 

2. Short-Term (Respite) Care

Everyone has their limits and while it can be difficult to admit, caring for a loved one can be a burden. Short-term, respite care is meant to provide relief for primary caregivers who are still capable of providing necessary care, but may need some assistance in doing so. 

Respite care is flexible and can be arranged for when and where you need it. You can schedule respite care for one afternoon or for several days a week. Additionally, the care can be provided at home, in a healthcare facility, or at an adult day care center. 

3. Independent Living

Independent living is the lowest level of care available in senior living communities and is popular among younger and healthier retirees. Independent living is a good option for those who no longer feel comfortable living alone or want to downsize. Independent living is also good for seniors seeking to:

  • Reduce the upkeep of their home

  • Find a community of elderly individuals

  • Make use of services that help with daily activities

4. Assisted Living

When you say, “retirement community” or “senior living,” many people think of assisted living. While assisted living doesn’t encapsulate every level of care offered at most retirement living facilities, it is sought by many seniors seeking some level of support. Assisted living is best for seniors who can no longer perform their routine tasks alone. 

Many retirement communities make it possible to personalize the services that a senior receives day-to-day, making it easier to receive the care you want while feeling a sense of independence. 

Common support includes:

  • Bathing and grooming assistance

  • Meal prep and delivery

  • Help getting dressed and moving around

  • Prescription and blood sugar monitoring

5. Memory Care

The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s and dementia is rising. Currently, it’s estimated that more than 7 million seniors have dementia in the US, with 6.5 million cases attributed to Alzheimer's disease in 2022. With the population aging, the prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is also rising, causing more demand for memory care.

Seniors with dementia often need round-the-clock care and organized activities to maintain their health and well-being, and this level of care is often too much for a family member or at-home caregiver to handle on their own. Memory care provides dementia patients with long-term care from trained professionals in a safe and structured environment. 

6. Skilled Nursing Home Care

Nursing home care is intended for patients who require support beyond their regular daily activities. Seniors who require nursing home care may be hospitalized often or fighting serious medical conditions that require consistent monitoring. In many cases, seniors may transition from one form of care to nursing home care when their previous level of care is no longer enough. 

Addressing senior living needs can be a touchy subject, and many people underestimate the amount of time required to provide care. Understanding the different types available can help you ensure that you or your loved one is receiving the right level of care to live a happier, healthier retirement.

Get Medicare, Maximized