The Difference Between Care Types at Senior Living Communities

A senior living caregiver sitting and laughing with an older lady as they discuss senior living care types.

Considering the idea that your loved one may need a SENIOR LIVING COMMUNITY can be an emotional process. Beyond this initial decision, the next choice of which senior living community is best can feel overwhelming.  

You and your loved one are probably worried about making the best selection, and you may not know where to start finding the information you need. The topic of senior living and all the available care types can seem complex, so this worry is completely natural. This transitional time is stressful enough without having to go through tons of research.

As your loved one is embarking on this new phase of life, the best place to start is to understand the primary senior living care types.


Top 3 Senior Living Care Types

As you’ve searched for senior living options, you’ve probably seen a number of terms and phrases that seem to all mean the same thing at first glance. Or maybe you’ve realized the same term can have a different meaning, depending on the state or the community where it occurs. For example, people often refer to all senior living options as “assisted living,” but assisted living is actually a specific senior living care type within a community, like memory care or independent living. 

Instead of adding to the confusion, let’s dive into the differences between the basic types of care and lifestyles for seniors. Your loved one may need one or more of these senior living care types:

Assisted Living

Assisted living balances personalized support with helping seniors enjoy a vibrant lifestyle filled with a variety of activities and amenities. Seniors in assisted living get the medical and personal help they need for daily activities while also enjoying new opportunities on their own, making new friends, and doing new things. 

ASSISTED LIVING may include a wide range of amenities and services that vary depending on individual needs and preferences. Most of these communities also provide services like housekeeping, laundry, and meals included within the monthly cost. 

The assistance your loved one receives depends on their unique requirements, whether it includes help with dressing, bathing, dining, escorting or transferring, or another type of care. Assisted living can also involve other care types such as assistive, comprehensive, and medication management. 

Is assisted living right for my loved one?

Ask some questions to determine if an assisted living community is the right choice for your loved one or if making that move is a few more miles down the road. For instance, is your loved one:

  • Having trouble with daily domestic tasks?
  • Not regularly taking their prescribed medication?
  • Falling at home or while out?
  • Not meeting their nutritional needs?
  • Experiencing feelings of loneliness?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” that might be a sign that they’d flourish in an assisted living community. 

Have questions about assisted living pricing?

Memory Care

Memory care is similar to assisted living, but it provides special assistance for people with progressive memory loss, dementia, or other issues that may impact their cognitive abilities. In memory care communities, residents are cared for by staff members who are accustomed to assisting individuals in varying stages of dementia and memory loss. 

Communities that specialize in this senior living care type are centered around routine to minimize stress. Routines offer predictability and make life less uncertain and stressful for those living with memory loss and the anxiety it can produce. Communities often include additional security measures compared to standard assisted living communities to prevent residents from wandering.

What’s the difference between memory care and Alzheimer’s care?

You may hear the terms “memory care” and “Alzheimer’s care” used interchangeably, but they’re not exactly the same thing. Alzheimer’s care is part of memory care, but memory care also addresses different types of dementia. If a community offers “Alzheimer’s care,” but your loved one has been diagnosed with mixed dementia, make sure the community has the resources your loved one needs now and in the future, as their condition progresses.

Does my loved one need a memory care community? 

Many families experience reassurance knowing that memory care in senior living communities takes care of a senior loved one’s needs while providing the routines and daily attention each individual needs to have the best day possible, each day. 

Here are some signs that your loved one might benefit from a specialized memory care community:

  • Behavior changes, such as mood swings
  • Confusion and disorientation, especially if it interferes with safety
  • Incontinence

The Insider's Guide to Understanding Memory Care Pricing

Independent Living

Seniors who want to leave behind the complications and difficulties of homeownership love the freedom they experience in an independent living community. As a matter of fact, many seniors report that the move helps them lose stress and keep their own active lifestyles. 

Independent living is perfect for seniors who don’t need active levels of assistance but want a lifestyle with less maintenance. Independent living can provide grounds maintenance, housekeeping services, and more while giving residents time to do the things they love instead. 

Is an independent living community right for my senior loved one?

The independent living senior lifestyle option is great for seniors who:

  • Are still responsible for their daily activities, such as managing medications
  • Enjoy a busy social schedule 
  • Love learning new things
  • Want to make new friends
  • Wish they had fewer chores and more fun
  • Are looking to downsize

Have questions about independent living pricing?

Pet Perks

We have to mention one more very important topic: pets! 

Pets are family, especially for seniors living on their own. That’s why many senior living communities invite residents to bring their pets, no matter what senior living care type they require. Pet policies vary by community, so be sure to understand pet policies if your loved one wants to bring along their furry best friend. 

Keep in mind that typically, pet policies come with additional costs. If Cookie the mutt or Winky the cat are deal-breakers for your loved one, make sure that the community you choose welcomes pets and the additional cost fits into your monthly senior living budget. 

Get More Senior Living Answers

Now that you know a little more about senior living community lifestyles and care options, you probably have new questions. 

Take a deeper dive into each of the senior living care types in our guide Understanding Senior Living Lifestyle Options. You’ll get more details about assisted living, independent living, personal care, and memory care. Find out about amenities, services, staffing, who needs which type of lifestyle, and more by downloading your free guide today.

Have questions about senior living lifestyle options?

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