Retirement Living Made Easy

The Best Alternatives to Assisted Living

When considering the type of senior housing for your next move, an assisting living facility is a popular choice. But what other options should be considered when researching this choice?

As mentioned in our types of senior housing guide, assisted living is a situation designed for seniors who need help with some daily tasks but don’t require full-time care. This living arrangement has 24-hour help available, but residents won’t always need or even want it. The extra help can come at an additional fee or be included in the housing program’s fees.

Assisted living is the right option for many people, but not for everyone, especially younger seniors. Other may simply not want it or have a situation in which family members are able to step in and help with some tasks.

Assisted living can be quite expensive as well (usually over $2500 a month), so financial considerations may mean that it’s not the right choice for everyone.

Here are some top alternatives to a move to assisted living…

At-Home Custodial Care

At-home custodial care is when a non-medical helper comes to a person’s home in order to assist with daily life tasks. These can be important tasks, like dressing, cooking, and bathing, but ones that don’t require a medical license to administer. This means custodial care is a type of “non-skilled care” so it could not help with injections, IVs, or physical therapy.

Custodial care is common in assisted living facilities, where a nursing home would shift that focus over to medical care, with trained nurses and other staff always available. At-home custodial care simply shifts this help to a visit at one’s own home. The benefits are the same, but the care is not available all the time and the burden of outfitting one’s home with wheelchair ramps, stairlifts, and other necessary changes.

At-home custodial care is a form of long-term care that is not covered by Medicare. If a person qualifies for prescribed at-home skilled care then a provider may do custodial tasks in addition to offering their skilled help. Some types of long-term care (LTC) insurance will coverage at-home assistance.

Respite care is similar to custodial care in that a caregiving can come to your home and help with daily tasks, but respite is a temporary solution, means to be used then the primary caregiver is not available (due to sickness, tiredness, vacation, or similar circumstances). It can be done for hours, days, or weeks, but remains a temporary solution and not an alternative to long-term care.

Medical Alert System

A medical alert system or “personal emergency response system” can be considered as the lowest cost alternative to moving to assisted living. These devices, sometimes called a “fall detector” will alert a monitoring service when the wearer is in need of assistance. This commonly happens after a fall, but isn’t limited to that.

Starting at about $250 a year for the simplest plan (and sometimes costing up to twice that amount) these can detect falls, work with GPS tracking, and have a mobile phone connection built-in so a landline phone is not necessary.

These are to be used only in the case of emergencies, so they offer peace of mind and help in the case of a mishap, but don’t offer any active help. This sort of reactive response to requiring assistance is affordable, but won’t help seniors with their daily tasks.

Social Adult Day Care

Adult day care, or social adult day care, is a non-residential program that gives seniors a place to spend time, socialize, and receive some assistance each day.

The most common scenario for these is social day care, which will offer meals, activities, recreation, exercise, and other non-medical tasks. Some counseling and transportation services may even be available. The other option to this would be day health care, which also includes health assistance and supervision for individuals that require medical help. Typical adult day care facilities are social-focused, health-focused, or focused on care for a specific condition, such as dementia.

Day care services range from $25 to $100 a day, but little is possible in the way of assistance, except for in the situation of financial hardship. This option is ideal for people who live with family but who can benefit from socializing and activities outside of the time. Seniors who live on their own but want a structured program a few days a week and can handle the transportation to a care center are also good candidates for such a program.

Adult Care Home

An adult care home, sometimes called an adult foster home, is a long-term residential facility for seniors who need non-medical support. The people who are best served by such a home will have some form(s) of age-related limitations but don’t require full-time nurse services or on-site medical treatments as the facility are not licensed for these. A typical scenario will provide room and board, plus housekeeping and supervision for 5 or more seniors.

A type of this home would be New York State’s Enriched Housing Program which is a set of licensed, community-focused homes that are designed to provide safe, friendly living environments for seniors who desire company and services but don’t require frequent or on-site medical care.