Long-term Care Facilities: You Have Options

nursing home sign Selecting a nursing home or long-term care facility is a little bit like shopping for a car. Most of us begin with an idea of the type of vehicle we need, then we dream a bit. Eventually, we settle for something practical that fits our budget. Of course, choosing a nursing home where you or a family member will live is a far more important decision than buying a new car. But there are a great number of choices depending on cost, needed services, and living preferences.

A Growing Number of Options

Nowadays, independent living communities, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and the like are catering to more and more people with a variety of care needs. Below are brief descriptions of some of the different types of facilities available.

Home Care

Home care provides a limited amount of assistance with routine activities (such as shopping, meal preparation, and getting to medical appointments) to individuals who desire and are able to live independently in their own homes, and who do not require constant medical care. (Home care may also be provided when a higher-level of care is necessary, but this can prove to be expensive and difficult.) You may be able to take advantage of community services in your area that are provided by volunteers.

Independent Living and Assisted Living

Often termed “congregate care,” there is a broad spectrum of independent and assisted living care options available to seniors with varying needs. “Independent living” facilities are specifically designed to accommodate social and recreational activities within a community of seniors; they do not offer any complementary domestic services (such as meal preparation).“Assisted living” or “residential care” tend to combine independent living facilities with shared services such as dining, laundry, and housekeeping—and in some cases, medication management and other personal services. They also include some shared living spaces and provide access to social and recreational activities and transportation. Unlike nursing homes, assisted living communities do not provide extensive medical care.

Intermediate Care and Nursing Homes

Intermediate care facilities provide additional assistance with daily activities beyond what assisted living provides, such as help with bathing and eating. “Board and care” homes are subsidized group living arrangements that provide help with daily activities to low-income seniors who do not require the level of care of a nursing home. Nursing homes go a step further by providing true nursing care at a full-time level once only available through hospitals. Unlike at hospitals, however, residents of nursing homes are still free to come and go as they please.


The mission of hospice care is to provide supportive, as opposed to curative, care to terminally ill patients in order to make them as comfortable as possible. It is specifically funded for those whose life expectancy is six months or less. As such, hospice combines care at medical facilities with varying degrees of homecare in order to provide around-the-clock assistance and/or monitoring.

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