The Levels of Care You Need to Know

By the time you finish this sentence, three older Americans have fallen. And those falls are dangerous. According to the CDC, an adult 65 years or older falls each second, and that is the number one cause of injuries and death from injury among older Americans. The financial impact of those falls is shocking — $67.7 billion by 2020. CDC Director Tom Frieden said, “Older adult falls are increasing and, sadly, often herald the end of independence.”

Whether your loved one lives independently and is in good health or your loved one is showing signs of slowing down, you need to know what levels of care are available for them. Eventually, they will need extra help. Maybe not tomorrow. Or next week. But maybe in a few years, your mom or dad will start to forget basic things like the day of the week or who the United States’ president is. This is why you need to know what kind of assistance is available.

There are generally four levels of care: independent living, assisted living, short-term rehab, long-term care. Because your loved one’s needs will eventually change, you need to know the answers to questions like “What’s included in assisted living?” and “What does the day of an independent living resident look like?” With this knowledge, you’ll be prepared to help them make the best decisions for their future.

Keep reading to meet June (an independent living resident), John (an assisted living resident), Linda (a short-term rehab resident), and Roger (a long-term care resident).

Independent Living

A Day in the Life — June Wessell, 77 years old

June and her dog, Lady, live in a 1-bedroom apartment inside a senior living community, and her days begin at 7 a.m. After sipping coffee on her small patio, June takes her dog on a walk. During the spring, they walk outside. But if snow is on the ground, they stay indoors. As she passes her neighbors, she often stops to chat about yesterday’s events and the day’s activities. When the two-mile walk is over, June and Lady take a quick break in their apartment before the chapel Bible study at 10 a.m.

At lunch, June sits in her usual seat with her four closest community friends. They reminisce about the good ole days —5¢ Coke drinks and drive-in movies.

At 2 p.m., June listens to a local school’s choir in her community’s event room. Later that afternoon, her two grandchildren visit, and they play their favorite board game Monopoly.

After dinner, June and Lady enjoy reruns of The Andy Griffith Show and I Love Lucy before starting the bedtime routine at 8:30 p.m.

The Basics

As you can see from June’s story, independent living residents don’t need any assistance with daily activities. They’re able to exercise, cook, and do anything they want to do all on their own. Most independent living communities offer many activities and encourage their residents to maintain an active lifestyle. With minimal housekeeping and no internal or external maintenance responsibilities, independent living residents can maximize their retirement by not being bogged down with the inconvenient tasks of homeownership.

Since these private living spaces are for older adults who don’t require assistance, you’ll find amenities like a washer and dryer, patio, and a full-service kitchen just like you would find in a small apartment.

Also, independent living residents are typically offered:

  • Restaurant-style lunch & continental breakfast
  • Emergency response pendant system
  • Transportation to scheduled activity outings
  • All-inclusive utilities (except phone)
  • Washer and dryer
  • Individually-controlled central heating and cooling system
  • Weekly housekeeping
  • Storage unit
  • Complimentary outdoor parking (underground parking is available for an additional fee)
  • Full kitchen with modern appliances
  • Daily activities

A Word from a Team Member

Chelsea Freie, the marketing director at Terrace Glen Village, says, “Our independent living residents are full of energy and always involved in community events. Many of them do some of our best marketing work by telling their friends about us because they love living here. Occasionally they’ll need assistance when their television stops working or a light bulb that needs replacing is out of reach. But, for the most part, they live their own lives and have a lot of activities outside of this community.”

To learn about independent living options, call (515) 369-2100 or click here.

Assisted Living

A Day in the Life — John Greene, 89

In his 553 sq. ft., 1-bedroom apartment, John begins each day by watching the morning news. Sometimes he forgets where he last placed the remote so when a nurse checks in on him every morning, they help John find it. He eats breakfast in the assisted living dining room and usually eats cheerios, yogurt, or scrambled eggs.

John loves the morning activities so you can typically find him in the activity room making a new knickknack or craft. At lunchtime, a certified medication aide helps John take his diabetes medicines with the appropriate amount of liquids and food. In the afternoon, John rides to his doctor’s apartment via the community bus where he and the bus driver usually have the same conversation each trip.

Throughout the day, John keeps his emergency response pendant system around his neck in case he needs immediate help because he does struggle with dementia. While he’s out of his apartment, community team members go into his apartment and wash his clothes, replace the linens, and clean and dust. John needs assistance bathing and dressing so a nurse always helps him take care of those needs.

The Basics

Assisted living residents need some help with daily activities like bathing, dressing, and taking the right medications at the right times. Although these residents are given more assistance than independent living residents, they’re still encouraged to be as independent as possible.

Most communities offer the following amenities for assisted living residents:

  • Spacious 1- or 2-bedroom apartments
  • Three restaurant-style meals
  • Emergency response pendant system
  • Wellness checks and a service plan supervised by a registered nurse
  • Kitchenette with a refrigerator and a microwave
  • Transportation to scheduled activity outings and appointments
  • All-inclusive utilities ( (except phone)
  • Weekly housekeeping, laundry, and linen services
  • Individually-controlled central heating and cooling system
  • Complimentary outdoor parking (underground parking is available for an additional fee)
  • Daily activities

A Word from a Team Member

Jill Lamb, the marketing director at Colonial Village, says, “Some of our most active residents live in the assisted living part of our campus. Just because they need help with a few tasks doesn’t mean they aren’t active and engaged. If you’re thinking about moving your loved one into an assisted living community, don’t think you would be limiting their independence. In an assisted living community, they have more independence with a team member’s help, and they can enjoy life more.”

To learn about assisted living options, call (515) 369-2100 or click here.

Short-Term Rehab

A Day in the Life — Linda Blackburn, 58

Linda lives in a three-story house with her husband of 31 years, but she fell and broke her leg while walking down the front porch steps on an icy day. So after successful surgery, Linda was transferred to a rehabilitation facility in hopes to return home within a few weeks. At this facility, Linda works through physical therapy each day with a licensed physical therapist. She receives three daily meals and is visited by the community medical doctor each week.

Since this facility is Medicare-approved and certified, Linda will only pay for her stay after the 20th day (as long as she is making progress). After five weeks of slow and steady improvement, Linda returned home.

The Basics

While the above example is very specific, short-term rehabilitation offers other kinds of therapy like occupational and speech therapy. Each therapist works with the patient on their specific needs and goals because everyone’s rehab situation is different.

Most communities offer the following amenities for short-term rehab residents:

  • Private, semi-private, enhanced semi-private rooms
  • Three restaurant-style meals
  • Daily activities
  • Physical, occupational, and speech therapy
  • Individually tailored goals

A Word from a Team Member

Judy Baxter, the marketing director at Westchester Village of Lenexa, says, “I’m so thankful our community offers short-term rehabilitation because I am inspired by those who work hard in their therapy to eventually return home. The nice thing about a continuing care retirement community where short-term rehab is included is that an independent living resident who might fall and break a bone can receive rehab right down the hall — they don’t have to worry about moving to a new community because it’s all under one roof.”

To learn about short-term rehab options, call (515) 369-2100 or click here.

Long-Term Care

A Day in the Life — Roger Hutchins, 84

Roger’s stroke made daily tasks like showering, trips to the restroom, eating, and changing clothes especially difficult. His stroke also worsened his Alzheimer’s symptoms. So Roger’s family moved him to a long-term care facility where the staff could give him 24-hour skilled nursing care. Each day, Roger uses their help to eat, bathe, and change clothes.

His favorite part of the day is the afternoon walk in the courtyard. A nurse will help Roger transfer to a wheelchair, and Roger is pushed through the courtyard for about 20 minutes. The facility does a great job scheduling events for their long-term care residents, and Roger enjoys those events every day before dinner. He especially loves listening to the local elementary school choir sing holiday songs each December.

The Basics

Long-term care is for those who are unable to perform daily activities on their own like eating, bathing, dressing, etc. Ultimately, the purpose of long-term care is to help the resident maintain their lifestyle as they age. Medicare usually does not cover long-term care costs.

Most communities offer the following amenities for long-term care residents:

  • Private, semi-private, enhanced semi-private rooms
  • Three restaurant-style meals
  • Daily activities
  • Electronic medical charting
  • Enclosed courtyard

A Word from a Team Member

Summer English, the marketing director at Northridge Village, says, “Even though our long-term care residents need a lot of assistance in their daily lives, they still share so much joy. They teach me each day how to enjoy life to the fullest.”

To learn about long-term care options, call (515) 369-2100 or click here.

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