Every life is filled with change. What works for us today may no longer work tomorrow, and the art of adaptation becomes an essential survival skill. For seniors, the ability to continue living at home may change too. There may come a time when safety becomes a key factor. They may be more susceptible to falling, or taking the wrong medications, or eating unhealthy food because of an inability to continue cooking. So they must move to a residence that provides greater safety and assistance with the activities of daily living. But precisely what kind of residence — an apartment in a standalone assisted living community? A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), also sometimes called a Life Plan Community?
STAND-ALONE ASSISTED LIVING OR ASSISTED LIVING WITHIN A CCRC?
A community that focuses solely on assisted living will provide residents with their own residence, and some common areas. They offer daily supervision and a range of services including meals, housekeeping and laundry, and some assistance with personal care and medication management. And that may be enough for right now. But as time passes and more care or supervision are needed, your loved one may have to move to a different type of community or even a different town.
A Continuing Care Retirement Community usually consists of a campus-like setting offering a variety of housing options that support various stages of life. The levels of living typically include independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing care, and sometimes memory care, enabling residents to remain in a single community as they age, without having to relocate as their needs evolve. Nurses and therapists trained in geriatric care carry out tailored care plans that adapt as the resident ages. This aspect — never having to leave home to receive a higher level of care — plays an increasingly important role in staying physically and mentally healthy over time.
THE ACCUMULATING STRESS OF REPEATED RELOCATION
For older people especially, changing their address can be quite stressful. Moving from an independent living location, where they may have lived for years, to an unfamiliar, less predictable environment like assisted living may cause hesitation. For people beginning to show a cognitive decline, it can cause confusion and behavioral changes. The irony is that the stress of moving to an unfamiliar location can discourage some people from enjoying what is actually a better living environment. And having to move every time there’s a change in health status is just unnerving and difficult.
By choosing a CCRC, residents don’t have to move when their need for care increases. Continuing Care Retirement Communities accommodate people with a wide range of needs, from those living independently to those who need full-time, long-term nursing care. Assisted living is but one level on a continuum of increasing care. How much assistance is provided can also be adjusted, and if the need eventually calls for support for Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, this level of care is also available. At a CCRC, one may be required to move to a different area of the community when need calls for it, but that’s much less stressful than moving to an entirely different community or city. Residents can remain with the same group of friends and caregivers, allowing them to continue their familiar relationships.
THE SOCIAL ADVANTAGES OF A CCRC
A factor that often contributes to the need for assisted living is the social isolation of living alone. Meeting new people and establishing new friendships can be more challenging as we grow older. And although a stand-alone assisted living community may provide some opportunity to interact with others, chances are it won’t quite compare with what’s offered at a modern Continuing Care Retirement Community/Life Plan Community.
Often the community design and layout, the volume of amenities, and opportunities to engage at a CCRC simply eclipse what’s available at a solo assisted living community. And because a CCRC typically has a substantial number of residents in independent living, everyone benefits from engaging with a population of people with diverse interests and varied backgrounds.
A CCRC today is likely to offer multiple dining venues, a fitness center that includes an indoor pool and spa, programs and classes in yoga, aqua fitness and other health-related interests. It may feature dedicated spaces for clubs, games, and special interests, even an in-house cinema. Entertainment and educational events are available regularly, and all this is there for residents in assisted living as well, creating a vibrant, uplifting atmosphere that adds to their quality of life.
OPEN UP TO A LARGER ASSISTED LIVING EXPERIENCE
At Mary’s Woods, the goal is to support and assist when appropriate, empowering residents to remain as active and independent as possible. Residents enjoy a variety of enriching social activities that help make life interesting and meaningful. Kellogg Assisted Living and Friendship Place, our assisted living neighborhood within the Marie Rose Health Center, both provide support with the tasks of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and medication reminders; this allows more time for leisure activities and making new friends while enjoying our lovely, serene surroundings.