A very simplistic explanation of how the whole system works and how you would navigate it all is to think of it in these terms…it starts with an independent community (or your own home). If managing day to day activities, such as cooking and bathing become difficult, you could either move to an assisted living community or you could hire a care aid to help you manage at home. From there, assuming that your health is on the decline, you would either need to move to a memory care community or to a residential care community. Once you reach the residential care level, the only care level left is palliative. Some people are able to stay at home right until the end…again, it depends upon the amount of care you will require during these stages.
1) Independent communities can also be assisted living communities, sort of. Independent buildings generally offer the same basic services as an assisted living community – meals, housekeeping, activities; however, the difference between the two is that independent buildings do not have their own nursing staff and assisted living buildings do.
**Please note** Independent communities are not the same as independent living – independent living is where you do all your own cooking and cleaning; think in terms of your own home, senior housing co-ops, 55+ trailer parks or apartment buildings, etc. The amount of support or lack of support the communities offer is the distinguishing feature.
2) Generally – not always – independent communities will allow you to hire your own care aide to assist you in your suite but the building will not in any way be responsible for your care or for the care of your employee (care aide).
3) Independent buildings will also be a little less accommodating should your health decline simply because their staff isn’t trained to assist with health concerns. An assisted living building, on the other hand, would have more appropriately trained staff available.
4) Independent buildings do not, necessarily, have younger or healthier residents — remember, most independent buildings allow residents to employ their own care aides so, as long as their nursing staff can accommodate them, they can (generally) stay.
5) All buildings have their own personalities depending upon the residents and the managers. Some buildings are very devout, some buildings are party palaces:) When touring these communities ask to speak with some of their current residents — they will be able to give you an idea as to the personality of the building.
6) Why would you choose an independent community over an assisted living community…
a) price – independent buildings do tend to be less expensive because they don’t have to hire as many staff. Also, no nurses = no unions. Unions offer a great many benefits but cost isn’t one of them.
b) independent communities are normally quite beautiful, quite fancy – they spend their money on appearance whereas, an assisted living community spends a large part of their budget on nursing staff, etc.
c) the big question to ask yourself is – am I prepared to move again? Assisted living – well, you can remain until you reach the residential care stage – with independent living you might have to move to an assisted living building and from there, to a residential care community depending again, on your health and how your health concerns need to be managed.
7) Sometimes, if you move out of your chosen neighbourhood you can save a lot of money. For instance, an assisted living community in Surrey would charge approximately $2300 per month (private-pay) for a studio (bachelor) suite, whereas in Agassiz you may find that you can get a big one-bedroom suite for the same price. Same with the health authorities – if you are more flexible as to what area you are willing to move to, you may find that you get placed a lot quicker and into a community that offers more…food for thought…