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The Difference between Independent and Assisted Living

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The Difference between Independent and Assisted Living
For anyone starting to shop for senior housing, there can be an overwhelming amount of terminology and lingo to become familiar with. One of the biggest questions you may have is, "What is the difference between independent and assisted living?"

The answer to that may vary from community to community, and licensing and requirements for senior housing are regulated by the state. However the major differentiators are the way they are structured, the amount of care provided, and the type of care provided.
Assisted living falls under the umbrella of Personal Care Homes. These are residential facilities that offer personal care services, assistance and supervision to four or more persons. They are inspected and licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. Sometimes they are advertised as "assisted living residences," "retirement homes" or "boarding homes." There are no federal regulations for personal care homes. There is no third party reimbursement for personal care homes, but many personal care homes accept residents of low income who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Independent senior living communities, also known as retirement communities, senior living communities or independent retirement communities, are housing designed for seniors 55 and older. In an independent living community, residents have the physical and mental capacity to live independently but want companionship from others his/her age. Independent living communities also offer specific services and amenities that cater to senior citizens and promote active, healthy lifestyles for the golden years.

Assisted Living
Let's first take a look at Assisted Living. Assisted Living Residences (ALRs) are designed to help people who require assistance with the activities of daily living. While they cannot live alone, they also do not require such extensive care that they need to reside within a nursing home facility. Typically, staff is available at all times to help with tasks such as cleaning, changing sheets, laundry service, help with bathing or dressing, meal preparation and transportation, to name a few. Residents can choose they level of assistance they need; for example, they can choose how many meals a day they prefer to prepare for themselves. Often the facility plans social activities and outings.
Different types of arrangements are available in assisted living facilities. For example, a smaller facility may be very home-like and house just a few residents. Alternatively, some facilities are very large and house hundreds of seniors. Some places may offer private rooms or apartments, and others have more shared space.
In January of 2011, ALRs started to be licensed under 55 Pa. Code, Chapter 2800 by the Office of Long-Term Living. Similar to Personal Care Homes (PCHs), ALRs have an initial assessment, development of a support plan, and a written contract between the resident and the residence

Independent Living
Independent Living Residences are structured to allow residents to live on their own. This concept is rapidly growing in popularity, as more seniors are choosing this alternative due to the fear of living alone or desire to be around people more regularly. Most often, Independent Living facilities offer private apartments for seniors, with several different floor plans to choose from. Meal plans are usually offered, although most apartments have fully-equipped kitchens. Similar to Assisted Living, an Independent Living facility typically plans social events and outings for residents to participate in as frequently as they choose.
Note: Nursing homes are in a classification separate from Assisted Living or Independent Living. Nursing homes are licensed medical facilities that are inspected and licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. They must meet both state and federal regulations. There is third party reimbursement (Medicare and Medicaid) for those who qualify based on income.