When you begin to research senior living options, you will quickly realize that there is a jargon within the industry. Instead of getting confused or overwhelmed while navigating the world of phrases like “community engagement,” “quality of life,” “preventative health measures,” and “residents,” let us help clear up any anxiety you may have about the fundamental differences between assisted living and independent living.

While both are options that offer social opportunities and housing for seniors, that is where the similarities end. Before you can make a commitment to one or the other, you need to understand what needs you currently have and may have in the future. Once you know your needs and preferences, you can see if assisted living or independent living offers the best senior living situation for you.

Download The Complete Guide to Assisted Living

Availability of Medical Professionals

While some independent living communities do offer a nurse on staff during weekday business hours, assisted living offers a greater access to trained medical professionals in the community. Assisted living communities have nurses, either Registered Nurses (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) on site 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. These nurses are active in the assessment process for residents, and they write and maintain a care plan full of interventions that are tailored to each resident need and preference. Nurses keep up with resident doctor appointments and communication, which can be very helpful if you come down with bronchitis and don’t have the energy to head out to your doctor’s office.

Beyond nurses, assisted living communities often offer regular visits from geriatricians and other primary physicians in the greater community. Podiatrists and optometrists are often staples in the assisted living community each month or quarter.

Safety and Emergency Response

Independent living communities do offer a sense of security when it comes to emergencies like falls or accidents. Pull cords or emergency pendent systems are common in independent living communities, and residents benefit from having those readily available. However, assisted living communities enhance the safety and emergency response factor with staff onsite who are ready to help and assist residents who have fell or had an accident.

While independent living communities usually only have a security guard on the premises overnight, assisted living communities offer nurses, caregivers, and certified nursing assistants (CNA) in the community every hour of every day. These caregivers are just steps away, ready to rush in and check in on a resident who has pulled a cord or requested assistance. Caregivers and nurses are equipped to respond in these type of emergencies, knowing when to call further emergency assistance and when to follow up for treatment of injuries. This immediate access to emergency care offers peace of mind and eliminates the worry of falling without access to help.

Access to Delicious and Nutritious Meals

Depending on the specific independent living community, most offer no more than one or two meals per day in the dining room. More often than not, residents must pay additional fees to eat in the dining room or restaurant more often than what is included in their rent. Assisted living communities, however, offer three meals per day at no additional cost. Meals are prepared under the direction of a Chef and with medical and nutritional needs of individual residents taken into account. Assisted living communities offer specialized diets to support and complement your medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Even better, snacks are also offered throughout the day.

Planning for the Future

Assisted living communities often offer access to memory care services, which can be helpful if you or your loved one experiences memory issues that affect judgment and safety. Residents with Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementias often thrive with memory care services that are rooted in reminiscing, routinized days, and lifestyle programming. Knowing that there are memory care services on the same campus can be a relief if the time comes to seek out those specialized services.

Community Life

Life in an assisted living community has more opportunities for socialization, making new friends, and experiencing new adventures than an independent living community does. Not only does assisted living offer trained activities staff, it also comes with a monthly event calendar chocked full of trips, events, and groups that are meant to encourage socialization and past leisure pursuits. Further, events are geared to support overall wellness and often include exercise classes to cooking demonstrations. Being bored in a good assisted living community is nearly impossible!

Now that you have a better look into the differences between assisted living and independent living, you will be better equipped to make a decision on senior housing that will keep you healthy and happy for longer. 

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