Florida long has been known across the United States and beyond as a retirement mecca, and it’s easy to see why. With near year-round sun and warm weather, scenic vistas and white sand beaches, and a notable lack of state income tax, Florida is a shining beacon for retirees. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn the state’s retirement industry also is its second largest economic sector, according to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.
There are 5.5 million seniors aged 60+ currently living in Florida and more than 5,000 senior housing options available to serve them. With 77 million baby boomers already retired or poised to do so in the next decade, the influx of seniors also has increased demand for new senior housing and senior care services in Florida.
Today, roughly 1 million Americans live in senior care communities, but that number is expected to double by 2030 with many more using in-home senior care services. While the available senior housing and elder care options continue to improve and expand, the sheer abundance of senior care services can prove overwhelming when navigating it alone.
Luckily, you don’t have to! Lee and Sarasota Counties consistently rank in the Top 10 Florida counties for seniors, and we’re proud to be a part of that wonderful tradition.
If so many senior care choices have left you wondering where to begin, we created this brief overview of senior housing and elder care options:
Assisted living communities and assisted living homes are elder care living options for seniors who can no longer live independently but require only minimal assistance with their daily lives. These apartment-style communities evoke a sense of home while providing a sense of security through 24-hour professional staffing and emergency response procedures. Assisted Living communities often offer regularly scheduled activities for seniors to interact with their neighbors in the comfort of the assisted living complex or get out into the neighborhood for recreational entertainment. Assisted Living homes, sometimes called personal care or board and care homes, are found in residential neighborhoods and offer a more intimate home-like atmosphere. They offer the same care and services, in a smaller environment. Both communities and homes typically supply an array of supportive services to their senior residents, including three healthy meals each day, plus snacks, housekeeping and laundry services and help with daily activities such as medication management, dressing and bathing as they become needed.
For loved ones suffering with memory-related symptoms or illnesses including dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, memory care homes are residential senior care communities that provide 24-hour security, trained specialists and peace of mind. Some memory care communities are
stand-alone, while others are housed in separate, secure wings of assisted living communities. Like assisted living communities and homes, memory care communities provide personal care, including assistance with dressing, bathing and medication management, as well as three meals a day, housekeeping and laundry service. However, memory care homes and communities are a more specialized long-term elder care option designed specifically to meet the needs of seniors living with memory problems. They are an excellent alternative when caring for a loved one becomes too difficult to manage alone.
INDEPENDENT LIVING & RETIREMENT APARTMENTS
Independent living and retirement apartments (sometimes called retirement homes, senior housing, 55+ communities or congregate care housing) are as widely varied as the baby boomer generation they were created to satisfy. These senior housing communities are designed for active, independent seniors with limited health problems. They typically are apartment-style complexes restricted by age (normally 55+) that provide some assistance, as well as planned activities, outings and more. Depending on the independent living community you choose, there also may be options for exercise programs, meal plans, laundry services, housekeeping and shared transportation. Today, there even are graduated care facilities (or continuing care retirement communities) that begin as retirement communities but allow transition into assisted living when it becomes necessary. Finding an independent living community that is a good match is paramount.
Senior caregivers are special people, but even the most dedicated caregivers sometimes need a break. Respite care allows primary caregivers to take time away without worrying if their loved one is safe and happy. Whether you just need a mental health day, would like a weekend to do home repairs or are planning a three-week dream vacation, respite care services provide short and long-term senior care solutions (from 24 hours up to a month or more) to help balance your life and reduce stress. Be sure to discuss your respite care plans with your loved one and, if possible, involve them in the decision. This way, when you head out to run errands or to cross something off your bucket list, you can be assured your loved one is happy and in good hands.
IN-HOME CARE & COMPANION CARE
There are two types of in-home care: Medical and non-medical. Non-medical in-home care often is referred to as companionship care or homemaker services. This senior care service is provided by trained caregivers who act as companions offering non-clinical assistance, emotional support and friendship to generally healthy seniors living independently. Elder companions are an excellent way for your loved one to enjoy social engagement, including games, exercise or just talking, from the comfort of home. Depending on the arrangement, companions also may help with other aspects of daily living, including light house work, meal preparation, pet care, driving and more to keep your loved one living independently at home. Alternatively, in-home senior medical care is provided by skilled clinical staff, including nurses and speech, physical or occupational therapists. Whether medical or non-medical, in-home care can range from only a few hours a week to full-time.
ADULT DAY CARE
Being the primary caregiver to an older adult is extremely rewarding but also can be stressful and challenging. Adult day care centers give caregivers the peace of mind to go to work, run errands or just re-charge, while knowing the daily social needs of their loved ones are being met in an engaging environment. Adult day care facilities typically are non-residential, professionally-staffed centers designed to create a safe place for older adults during the day Monday through Friday. During these hours, adult day care services operate a pre-planned program of activities intended to encourage optimal senior health and wellness— physically, emotionally and socially. Nutritious meals and snacks usually are provided, so you can rest easy knowing your loved one is well taken care of. Please note adult day care centers are different from adult day health centers, which are more medical in nature.
Nursing homes, sometimes called skilled nursing facilities, are residential senior housing accommodations designed to provide elder care to people who can no longer be cared for at home but who don’t need to be in a hospital setting. Nursing homes are typically staffed by medical professionals, including nurses and nurse’s aids who are available around the clock to ensure residents get the necessary medical care and speech, physical and occupational therapies. Skilled nursing facilities are usually the most comprehensive level of senior care outside of a hospital. They offer assistance with what is commonly referred to as custodial care, including dressing, bathing, feeding, medication dispersement and management and other health-related treatment and monitoring. This extensive level of senior care also can be used for temporary rehabilitative care following an illness, accident or recent hospitalization.
Transitioning into a new living arrangement, whether that means relocating into a retirement community, assisted living facility or nursing home or simply participating in adult day care or in-home and companion care, can be a frightening time for seniors and a taxing time for their loved ones and caregivers.