Posted December 4, 2006

A couple of months ago I was asked to speak on this topic and I readily agreed. Somehow time has flown and the day to give this speech in front of 50 or so of my peers is tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn. Anyone who knows me knows that mornings aren’t my thing. While I don’t mind speaking in front of groups, especially a group of people I know and assume won’t hang me out to dry if I make a mistake, it is the fact that its early in the morning when I am not completely awake that frightens me.

However, since this topic is a concern to families even more so than the professionals I will actually be speaking to tomorrow, I thought I would record what I talked about in my blog over the next couple of days. (As one long blog would just be down right boring!)

When I was originally asked to give the speech I came to the conclusion that the array of new choices in senior living is so great that it is becoming more difficult to know what is best for your family member. I also came to the conclusion that the people that asked me must think I know the answer as I deal with this question a couple of times a day.

The answer is that there is no right answer! Each one of these communities offers a great service to seniors and their families. What it comes down to is the level of care needed, the COST and my old favorite, family dynamics!

Lately it seems that there are so many choices out there. It’s my job, my life, and my business to know everything that is available (at least in the Chicagoland area). Just when I think I have toured every community and read every brochure and have a handle on it – I open up the real estate section of the Chicago Tribune and Jane Adler in her Over 55 column is writing about another new place that has just broken ground.

We also know that there is more to this than just the choices I listed above. There are residential board and care homes (Which I think will be a big thing in the near future). There are sheltered care, senior apartments, “catered living”, non-licensed assisted living, Continuum of care retirement communities (CCRCs) and active adult communities as well!


It is certainly hard not to mix up all the choices, even when you work in this industry.

A couple of weeks ago, Judy who works with me at Senior Living Experts, and I were on a tour of a lovely community out in the Western suburbs of Chicago. There were a number of other professionals on the tour as well.

The community had recently added a brand new assisted living building. We toured all of the floors and it was just lovely. We then walked to the older section of the building that happened to be attached. Our tour guide brought us into a model room and proceeded to explain that we were now on the floor for residents who needed assisted living. Admittedly, I have been on hundreds of tours of many communities and I have been known to wander and explore as the tour guide is talking. But I could have SWORN we just came from assisted living. The nice brand new assisted living.

So I asked the guide if we hadn’t just come from assisted living. She assured me that we had but that this floor was for those residents who couldn’t live in that assisted living anymore. I asked her if she meant because they wandered and needed a secure environment and perhaps this is what this floor offered? She said that no, this was simply just for those who needed more assistance than assisted living offered but who didn’t need nursing.

Now I can imagine that if I was confused, that any family would be more confused. I let her off the hook because she wasn’t the normal sales and marketing person but she had worked there for a number of years so she should have been able to explain to me that this particular floor happened to be for those who became overwhelmed in the newer area because it was so large. Technically, I would think this area we had been taken too would be called sheltered care, but I never did find out the answer.

So in an attempt to make this topic as easy as possible I am going to limit the conversation to the typical, run of the mill, independent living, assisted living and supportive living. My goal is that by the time you are done reading this you will know the main differences as well as the similarities. And also you will know what questions to ask (yourself) regarding care and cost.


Today we are going to talk about what they all have in common. I go on so many tours and see so many places – and when going through the common areas you can tell that they are all trying to keep up with each other or at least offer some of the same things.

So in most cases the following list includes things that are included in the cost of Independent Living, assisted living and Supportive Living.

1. Beauty shops! They all have them – gotta keep that weekly appointment!
2. Bingo – well not necessarily, what I mean in organized activities like games, conversation groups, cards, and exercise.
3. Scheduled Transportation – to shopping or shows – sometimes they have routes that go by hospitals or doctor’s offices.
4. Emergency pull cords or some sort of emergency call system for peace of mind.
5. Someone in the building 24 X 7 – could be a doorman but someone to help if there is an emergency.
6. Meals! 1- 3 a day plus snacks and all the free coffee in the world
7. Housekeeping (schedule varies – but its is sometimes used as another way to check up and ensure the safety of the resident
8. Some utilities
9. Some type of care – either included in the cost or available for purchase a la carte.
10. Common areas – activity rooms, libraries, parlors.
11. Private phone lines (usually paid for by residents)
12. The ability to choose and keep your own doctor.
13. The ability to bring in services such as hospice like you would in your own home.

Later we will talk more about Independent Living specifically.

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