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Senior Housing: Understanding Your Options

Advice and Tips on Aging WellCaregiverCountiesIdeas and Advice When Caring For a Parent or Loved One
  • Older adults in Michigan have an array of choices when it comes to where they want to live — facilities offer “independent living,” “assisted living,” and “memory care.”
  • Understanding what these senior-living terms mean and what kind of care you or your loved one can expect to receive in each can help when sorting through your options. 

Independent Living

Independent living communities are designed for seniors who are generally healthy and able to care for themselves. In most cases, residents can communicate with doctors and caregivers by themselves, prefer to live among their peers, and no longer want to maintain a house.

Independent living options range from condos to one- and two-bedroom apartment homes to smaller studio apartments. Some independent
living communities offer the following amenities (some may be at an additional cost):
• Housekeeping and maintenance services
• Community activities
• Full kitchens
• 24-hour emergency response
• Transportation services
Some independent living communities have an onsite home health care company that will charge for their services.

Affordable Independent Living Communities

Affordable independent living communities for low-income seniors may offer shared activity and laundry rooms – or simply be ordinary apartments that are less expensive. There may be a waitlist to get in. Eligibility requirements include:

• You must be 62 or older.
• Your income must be less than 50% of the median income in your area.
• You are expected to pay up to 30% of your adjusted gross monthly income toward the rent, so if your income is $1,000 per month, you would pay no more than $300 per month.
• If you are seeking a housing voucher you must apply through the local housing authority.
Call the AgeWays Information and Assistance Line ((800) 852-7795) for more information about housing vouchers.

Assisted Living

Assisted living is designed for people who do not require 24/7 skilled medical care but may need help with activities such as bathing, medication
management, dressing, personal care, cooking, eating and housekeeping. Many communities offer a variety of apartment floor plans — private
or shared rooms or studio apartments. They may provide services (some at additional cost) that include:
• Housekeeping and laundry services
• Meal plans/community dining
• Transportation
• Social and recreational activities
• Coordinated trips and tours
• Health assessments
• 24-hour emergency care
• Supervision
• Medication management

Assisted Living facilities are not required to be licensed

Michigan requires assisted living facilities to be licensed only when they provide a certain level of care and supervision. This means that many communities
offering supportive services a-la-carte and identifying themselves as assisted living may not require licensing. When communities are licensed, they are licensed as either adult foster homes or homes for the aged.

Adult Foster Homes

Adult foster homes provide a supervised home environment for adults with special needs. This can include disabilities, mental health issues,
and aging-related conditions, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. An adult foster home generally houses no more than six people and provides round-the-clock help with daily activities such as transportation and cooking. Residents may have the option of hiring a skilled nurse, but most adult foster homes require residents to transition to a place where they can receive a higher level of medical care when they need it.

Homes for the Aged

Homes for the aged house 21 or more unrelated people 60 years and older and provide meals, housekeeping, supervised personal care (though
not 24/7), social activities and transportation. These may also be attached to a licensed nursing home.

Memory Care

Memory care units/centers provide specialized care for people with progressive dementia such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease who require
round-the-clock supervision. These units provide personal care, medication management and monitoring to ensure residents don’t wander away.
Other services typically offered in these specialized units include:
• A private or semi-private room
• Three daily meals
• Cognitive and physical therapies
• Exercise activities
• Social activities
• Housekeeping and laundry

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Continuing care retirement communities provide a spectrum of care in one location — from independent living and assisted living options to
skilled nursing and memory care. A person moves to a continuing care community when he/she is still able to live independently. If additional services are required, the person can easily move within the same community to receive a different level of care. Because of the range of living options under one “roof,” continuing care residents remain part of a single community, often among longtime friends, as they age and require additional levels of care.

Some communities may also offer additional levels of care, such as rehabilitation services and memory care or dementia care services.

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes, also called skilled nursing facilities, provide medical and personal care services such as nursing care, 24-hour supervision, three meals a day and assistance with everyday activities. Rehabilitation services, such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy, are also available for people who are transitioning from the hospital. They require a state license to operate and are regularly inspected.

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