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Case Study

The different levels of elder care: A brief guide


Over the course of your life, you’ve likely heard about many different types of elder/senior care. As a child, you may have visited a grandparent or other elderly relative in a nursing home. Your own parents may have spent a few years in independent living. Perhaps your aunt has a caretaker who stops by a few times per week to help with household tasks.


There are many levels and types of care available to the aging population, both at home and at an elder care facility. We wrote this brief guide to help you understand all the options available to you and your family. Of course, there are always nuances and special circumstances to consider, but this can serve as a starting point as you decide how to move forward.


Total independence.

This is exactly what it sounds like. A totally independent person can handle all of their daily living activities without any caretakers or extra support. This includes getting dressed, bathing, using the restroom, preparing meals, driving, and household chores, among many others.


Of course, plenty of independent people see doctors or specialists on a regular basis, but they can follow the doctor’s orders on their own.


Total independence can be achieved at home or at an independent living facility. Many senior care facilities have an independent living wing for older adults who don’t yet need extra services but may in the future. It’s similar to living in an apartment building. The tenant may call the facility for maintenance or repairs, but the facility doesn’t provide any personal care services.


Levels of home care.

You may have heard the term “aging in place.” It simply refers to the practice of growing old in one’s own home, rather than moving to any type of assisted living facility. Aging in place comes in many forms, from total independence to intensive, round-the-clock care. Here is a brief explanation of the different levels of aging in place.


Occasional home care.

Some older adults require only occasional support from a nurse or caregiver. There is no formal definition for occasional home care, but generally, it applies to a specific, non-daily task or type of support. For example, someone with mobility limitations may need help with laundry once a week. Or a nurse could stop by a few times per week to administer an injection or oversee other medications.


Regular home care.

Regular home care is much more frequent and covers more tasks than occasional home care. A caretaker may visit several times per week or even daily to help with a wide range of personal care and household tasks. This could include bathing, meal prep, chores, and transportation.


The timeframe of regular home care is not defined. A caretaker could spend four hours a day or twenty hours a week with the elderly person. But the elderly person is still able to be home alone for extended periods, including overnight.


Full-time home care.

In a full-time home care situation, someone is present with the elderly person 24 hours a day. The elderly person receives near constant care, often including medical attention.


The intensity of full-time home care can vary significantly. In some situations, the elderly person may be confined to a hospital bed most of the time, set up in the living room. This person may be hooked up to monitors and IVs and rely heavily on a nurse to manage their needs. But this is not always the case. An otherwise spry and alert elderly person may fall and sustain a severe injury, such as a broken hip. While that person is healing, they may require constant care to help with trips to the bathroom, bathing, and other daily activities.


Levels of senior facility care.

As mentioned, the first tier of senior facility care is independent living. There are senior living facilities that function almost exactly like apartments or townhomes, where there is no interaction or care provided beyond what is outlined in the lease. However, there are many other levels of senior care available in specialized facilities.


Assisted living.

Assisted living is loosely comparable to regular home care. An assisted living resident has their own living quarters at the facility, akin to an apartment, with a private bathroom and kitchen. However, they receive regular support from on-site staff for daily activities, such as bathing or dressing.


It’s also worth noting that assisted living facilities often provide a wide range of additional on-site services, such as a cafeteria, regular events, and social gathering spaces for residents. Additionally, individual living facilities are specifically designed around the needs of the elderly. Living quarters may include features such as grab bars in the bathroom and low-pile carpeting to minimize tripping hazards.


Nursing care or a nursing home.

The nursing home environment is usually more “clinical” than assisted living and is the highest level of care available outside of hospitalization. Individuals may have their own bedrooms and bathrooms, but no private kitchens or living spaces.


Generally speaking, nursing homes are best for elderly people with more complex or significant health needs, such as respiratory care or cognitive decline. Many nursing home residents are unable to handle any of their own personal care, such as eating, bathing, or using the bathroom, without significant help.


Memory care.

Memory care refers to specialized care for elderly adults with memory issues. Many memory care residents have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and these facilities are designed to keep these special patients safe and healthy.


For example, elderly people with memory issues, especially those with dementia, are likely to wander. Memory care facilities use a variety of tactics to keep these people from getting lost or wandering into a dangerous situation. This may include:

  • Access codes for doors and elevators.

  • Tracking bracelets.

  • Fenced-in outdoor areas.

Memory care staff also spend much more time checking on residents to make sure they’re getting enough to eat and are sleeping.


Hospice care.

Hospice care is designed for elderly people who are nearing the end of their life. There are several reasons why a patient may go into hospice care. In some cases, a cure or treatment may not be possible for the patient. In others, the patient—or their family—may choose to stop or forego treatment. The priority of hospice care is keeping the person as comfortable as possible so they can enjoy a little more time with their loved ones.


Choosing the right level of care.

Choosing the appropriate level of care—and the right facility—for an elderly loved one can be both challenging and heartbreaking. You may feel a lot of pressure to make the right decision and feel under-qualified to do so. That’s where we come in.


Caresultants is a team of elder care specialists and experts who can help you navigate these tough decisions and take the anxiety off your shoulders. We will conduct a caring, comprehensive assessment of your loved one’s needs and use that information to help you choose next steps. We can research senior care facilities in your area and help you find the right fit for your loved one. You can also count on us to stop by the facility on a regular basis to ensure your loved one is comfortable and receiving appropriate care.


With Caresultants on your side, you are no longer solely responsible for doing the research and making decisions about your elderly loved one’s care. You can count on us to ease that burden for you and be by your side, every step of the way.





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