Independent living. Assisted living. Skilled nursing. Memory care. Whatever you call it, senior housing is confusing. What do these terms mean and what’s the difference between them? Here’s a basic overview of four types of senior housing:

  • Independent Living – Independent living includes active adult living communities, life plan communities (also known as continuing care retirement communities) and rental senior apartments. Independent living is designed for people who manage their own personal hygiene, health care, food prep, finances and home safety. They maintain an active lifestyle without the assistance of others.
  • Assisted Living – Assisted living is for people who need help with bathing, dressing, meal prep and medication management on a daily basis. Their living arrangements can vary from a studio to a two-bedroom apartment located in everything from smaller care homes to large facilities. Meals and activities are usually shared with others living at the community.
  • Skilled Nursing – Skilled nursing provides 24-hour nursing care. IV therapy, feeding tubes, pain management, post-surgery wound care and rehabilitative services are often included. Private and semi-private rooms are available. Residents eat in their own room or in the dining hall, depending on their personal needs and abilities.
  • Memory Care – Memory Care communities are for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. They provide highly trained staff. These communities also feature a secure environment to keep people safe, meal service and help with dressing, bathing and medications. Many offer daily activities designed to engage residents physically, mentally and socially.

Of course, these are only four types of senior housing. Small board and care homes are also available in almost every city, and “aging in place” at home is always an option. If you need help determining what level of care your loved one needs, check out AARP. Another good resource is A Place For Mom.

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