Independent Living Vs. Assisted Living Vs. Memory Care

Independent living communities, assisted living facilities, and memory care units all provide a specific level of care for older adults struggling with mobility and daily chores. The question is, which option is best suited for your needs or the needs of your loved one? How do these options compare to one another?

Independent Living

Some seniors can live independently and continue to perform their daily chores, but what kind of life is that? 

Do you really want to spend your final years keeping your living space clean, mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, and taking care of the laundry? It’s not just about mobility, it’s about time, and your time is better spent going to restaurants, interacting with friends and family members, and going on vacation.

In an independent living community, you can keep your independence and your social life while someone else takes care of the gardening and home maintenance. Some facilities will even provide you with meals, so you won’t have to worry about buying groceries, prepping, and cooking, while others offer laundry services.

A senior living community offers many of the benefits of living in a hotel. You don’t need to worry about bills and upkeep, for instance. You can also choose an apartment that is small or big and opt for a host of different features, benefits, and amenities. In addition, these communities provide numerous social outings and the best ones offer everything from fitness classes and regular hikes, to games nights, and more.

The lack of constant round-the-clock care provided by some of the other options on this list means that senior living communities also tend to be much cheaper. The price typically starts at just $1,500, and while it can be three and even four times larger, it all comes down to what you need and what you’re willing to pay for.

Assisted Living Communities

If you’re not quite ready for a nursing home but need more care than can be provided by senior living options, assisted living facilities might be what you’re looking for.

The goal of these facilities is to assist with the activities of daily living, also known simply as ADLs. These include:

  • Mobility: Helping individuals to move from one place to the next
  • Food: Providing assistance with buying, preparing, and cooking food
  • Dressing: Assisting an individual with getting dressed and undressed every day
  • Hygiene: Ensuring the person maintains a proper standard of personal hygiene, including teeth brushing, bathing, and grooming
  • Continence: Providing assistance with bladder and bowel control and helping with all toilet-related needs

These are known as the basic ADLs, but these requirements can also extend to providing assistance with finances, shopping, medication management, and anything else that the patient needs to perform on a regular basis.

Assisted living facilities offer round-the-clock care as needed. Skilled nursing staff are always on hand to provide senior care services and are experienced in dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia care, and other long-term care requirements.

As with senior care communities, assisted living facilities also provide a wide range of social activities, games, and regular outings, and patients looking for a little more privacy can rent a private room.

These facilities average around $40,000 to $50,000 a year, but the actual price will depend on everything from the type of care required to the location of the facilities and if the patient has insurance or Medicare.

Memory Care Facilities

Memory care facilities are medical care communities designed to provide tailored and specific services for patients with memory loss and other memory problems. With many skilled staff members working around the clock, providing a high level of care to meet daily needs and help with cognitive function, these facilities are ideal for people suffering from all forms of dementia.

Special care units are secured to prevent patients from wandering off, and many different care options are offered to ensure every patient’s needs are met. These units can often be found within other care facilities, including assisted living facilities. On average, they cost around $1,000 extra a month.

Are These Options Safe?

The COVID-19 pandemic devastated assisted living communities, nursing homes, and other residential facilities. In the middle of 2020, when the first wave was at its peak in the United States, scientists estimated that as many as 40% of all deaths were linked to residential homes. It’s a staggering statistic, and it’s one that caused great concern in families of dementia patients.

Many second-guessed their decisions to send relatives to these homes and it’s likely that future admissions will be impacted by the wave of destruction that the Coronavirus caused. However, these deaths have more to do with the virility of the disease than the cleanliness of these locations.

If one guest makes a mistake, including a lapse in judgment, a virus like this can spread, and the lengthy incubation period means it can spread further before anyone realizes anything is wrong. Elderly people and people living in close proximity are more exposed to issues like this, and that, ultimately, is how residential facilities accidentally created a perfect storm for the virus.

Independent Living vs Assisted Living vs Memory Care: Which is Best and Why?

The ultimate goal of all these locations is to ensure that necessary levels of care are provided, and that the patient’s quality of life is improved. The “right choice” will ultimately be decided by the patient’s mobility, care needs, and the stage of their disease. 

Is the patient able to live independently without round-the-clock care? If so, senior living communities could be the best option. Alternatively, for a higher level of care, look into assisted living facilities. Finally, for patients with late-stage dementia and other serious mobility problems, there may be no option but to opt for a memory care unit or nursing home care.​

These options can be expensive but selling personal assets and getting assistance from friends and family members is often a better solution than the alternative. You can also get assistance from Medicare, long-term health insurance, and veterans benefits, if eligible.