How Do I Decide Between
Independent Living and Assisted Living?

How Do I Decide Between
Independent Living and Assisted Living?

If you’re researching supportive living options for yourself or a family member, you may have difficulty making a decision. With many factors to consider and often-subtle distinctions, the choice between assisted living and independent living can be complex.

In fact, these two types of supportive living environments share many characteristics. In both types of communities, you or your family member can expect a range of services and amenities for your convenience and enhanced quality of life.

You also can expect to participate in many planned activities that provide you the opportunity to socialize, make friends and support your physical and emotional wellness.

Independent living and assisted living do have important differences, however, primarily relating to the types and level of support offered. By understanding the critical distinctions, you can make the best decision for you, a friend or family member.

Personalized Levels of Care

Although independent living and assisted living demonstrate many similarities, they cater to different needs. Independent living communities are best suited for individuals who enjoy a high degree of self-reliance in attending to their daily activities and needs.

In most cases, independent living residents can maintain most of their necessary daily activities such as bathing, dressing, managing their medications and cooking their meals. However, independent living communities do provide a variety of services to make life easier and more convenient, allowing their residents to spend their time how they wish.

Assisted living communities strive to meet the needs of individuals who require some degree of help with the activities of daily living. Residents of assisted living often remain independent in many ways, but they may need support for activities like dressing, bathing, managing medications, cooking meals and transportation. Highly trained team members are available around the clock to help residents of assisted living.

Payment Methods

Costs for independent and assisted living communities can vary depending on location, the specific services and amenities provided, the types of residences available, and other factors.
In most cases, residents of independent living pay for their accommodations from their own private funds in the form of a monthly service fee or rent. When independent living is part of a continuing-care community, residents also may pay an entrance fee or membership fee to gain access to all the supportive services offered in the community.

Individuals entering an independent living community often fund the entrance fee, and sometimes the monthly fees, from the proceeds of selling their home. Most also receive some type of income — in the form of a pension, Social Security or dividends on investments — that contribute to covering their ongoing expenses.

Some residents of assisted living also cover their ongoing expenses with their own personal funds, whether the proceeds are from a home sale, other investments, or monthly income.

In some cases, additional financial resources may be available for helping pay for assisted living. For example, some insurance policies cover long-term care, which may include assisted living. Veterans’ Aid and Attendance benefits also may help pay for assisted living for individuals who have served in the military and their survivors.

Services and Amenities

Independent living communities offer a comprehensive range of premier services and amenities to support optimal quality of life for their residents. While individuals who choose independent living typically can provide for their own needs and live autonomously, they enjoy the benefits of services like maintenance, housekeeping, transportation, dining, scheduled programming and activities, fitness classes and more.

The services provided in independent living communities make it easier for individuals to live well on their own for as long as possible. In many cases, individuals may retain the ability to attend to their own affairs and manage daily activities, but driving, home maintenance, landscaping, housekeeping, meal preparation and other chores may become a challenge.

Independent living communities are fully staffed with professionals who provide a wide array of services and amenities, including 24-hour security. However, independent living communities usually do not provide nursing care. In most cases, independent living communities offer meal plans that allow residents to enjoy some of their meals in community dining rooms and prepare other meals in their own private residences.

Assisted living offers many of the same services, but with an eye toward supporting older adults who may no longer have the capacity to live independently.

Residents of assisted living have access to all the supportive services provided in independent living — including transportation, maintenance, housekeeping, landscaping, security and activities. In addition, they receive personalized care services that may include assistance with bathing, dressing, toileting, medication management and laundry.

Team members in assisted living have oversight by licensed nursing personnel and are on duty 24 hours a day to provide services as needed. Assisted living communities usually do not provide intensive nursing care for individuals with serious illnesses or debilitating physical ailments.
Assisted living communities usually provide residents with all their meals, and some communities even offer all-day dining.

Residence Styles

The types of residences and living arrangements available can vary between independent and assisted living. In independent living, you’ll find many different types of housing styles, including freestanding cottages, villas or apartments in a range of different floor plans.

Generally, independent living residents enjoy private living spaces that most commonly are configured as apartments. Residents also have their own full kitchens, and they have access to all the common spaces in the community, including pools and fitness areas, auditoriums, classrooms, dining rooms, outdoor areas and more. Some independent living apartments include washers and dryers, and they may have private patios or balconies.

Assisted living communities also generally offer apartment-style residences. In some communities, assisted living residences may be smaller than in independent living.
Most assisted living communities do not include full kitchens in residences, although they often come equipped with a kitchen area that includes a refrigerator and microwave for preparing snacks and simple meals.

As in independent living, assisted living residents have access to a variety of community amenities. Pools, fitness centers, outdoor walking trails and sitting areas, classrooms, auditoriums, lounges, dining rooms, and libraries often are among the offerings.

Choosing the Right Option for You

While independent and assisted living communities share many features, they also have significant differences. If you’re thinking about a move for yourself or a relative, consider the level of services that you need to enjoy your ideal quality of life.

Gull Creek offers a variety of supportive living options, including both independent living and assisted living, on a beautiful campus in Maryland’s Eastern Shore. To schedule a visit, please contact us today.