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Living arrangements for the golden years

There is no question that medical advancements allow people to live longer, fuller lives. Many people require specific levels of support to maximize their independence while maintaining optimal health care. To meet these needs, the options for seniors can seem endless and bewildering.

Four of the main living arrangements for those who need services are senior housing, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and memory care communities for those with Alzheimer's or dementia.

Senior housing

Each state has laws concerning how Medicaid programs can assist seniors to age in place, or in other words, continue to live in their homes. Seniors who need support may receive funds to cover a specific amount of housework, daily meal preparation and hygiene care. For those who are not able to safely remain in their homes, senior housing is another good option; these communities provide cottages or lodging with meal service, scheduled activities and outings, housekeeping and personal care.

Assisted living facilities

Many people use assisted living facilities to help with their daily needs. ALFs provide private living spaces with common areas for group dining, social activities and supervised recreation programs. These facilities can accommodate seniors who are still largely independent but need help ambulating or require assistance with bathing, eating and other tasks they may not be able to accomplish on their own. Assisted living facilities usually have skilled nurses on site to dispense medications prescribed by a senior's doctor. A staff of ALF assistants helps residents 24 hours a day.

Nursing homes

When older adults need increasing care due to cognitive decline or medical conditions, a nursing home--also called a skilled nursing facility--provides special treatment. Medical professionals are either always on site or on-call. Each resident has a care plan and a licensed physician assigned to monitor changes or the need for treatment adjustments.

Alzheimer's communities

Seniors with Alzheimer's or dementia live in self-contained communities called memory-care units, secured to keep residents safe. Trained memory care staff assist seniors with full-time supervision, as well as specialized medical treatment such as dialysis or diabetic care. Seniors receive full assistance with activities of daily living. Nursing staff dispenses any medication in the patient's care plan. Licensed physicians supervise care for each resident. Seniors receive therapy and exercise, as well as other enrichment activities.

Families can include arrangements for senior living as part of a comprehensive estate plan that includes Medicaid planning, advance directives for health care, a life care plan and other important protections for seniors.

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