Levels of Care
There are many factors to consider when assessing a person’s needs and preferences for care. It may be difficult to know which care setting is best for your loved one, so the following list is designed to describe various types or “levels” of care in general terms. Please note that within each level of care described, there are many choices in terms of types of care and care settings available. OC Elder Law, together with a Geriatric Care Manager, will customize their recommendations based upon the specifics of your particular situation.
Independent Living (IL)
The name of this category seems to say it all – that this living situation is appropriate for individuals who are still able to manage their lives independently. In this setting, the most common services provided are meals (anywhere from 1-3 meals per day), housekeeping, activities, maintenance, security, and transportation. In response to an increasingly aging population with growing care needs, many communities are now offering care services to their “independent” residents. Examples of add-on services include assistance with bathing, dressing, and medication management. An Independent Living community is ideal for individuals who are capable of living alone, interested in having more social contact with their peers, perhaps no longer driving, and who wish to live a “maintenance-free” lifestyle.
Assisted Living (AL)
As the name suggests, this setting is for individuals who need assistance around the clock. Care needs vary greatly from person to person within Assisted Living, and there are many different types of communities (see below) that offer this type of care. Services provided in this level of care generally include:
housekeeping, maintenance, security, transportation, meal preparation, periodic monitoring around the clock, shower assistance, dressing and grooming assistance, toileting assistance, medication management or reminders, and activities.
An Assisted Living community is ideal for individuals who need assistance throughout the day due to physical and/or cognitive limitations and yet have some ability to move on their own (even if with the help of assistive devices such as walkers or wheelchairs).
Dementia Care or Memory Care (MC)
Dementia or Memory Care communities are Assisted Living communities that specialize in caring for individuals with dementia. These communities are held to strict state regulations regarding how the community is staffed, how employees are trained, and how the community secures the safety of its residents. As a result, there are lower staff/resident ratios, extra precautions to ensure residents’ safety at all times, and added security to prevent elopement from the community. All Assisted Living services mentioned above are offered in Memory Care settings.
Some Memory Care communities may also offer the ability to continue to care for residents who become bedridden or need assistance with eating. They may also offer a lot of services on-site by medical professionals (e.g., physicians, dentists, and geriatric psychiatrists) to reduce the need to transport residents away from the community. A Memory Care community is ideal for individuals who have moderate to severe dementia, who have a tendency to wander, or who need heavy care.