A Guide to Levels of Care in Assisted Living

If the idea of a senior living community brings to mind thoughts of old-fashioned nursing homes, think again. These days, seniors have more options than ever before when it comes to retiring and staying active. 

Learn about the types of senior living options you have. And if you need assisted living, we’ll share the levels of care you can expect while still enjoying your independence. 

What is Assisted Living? 

When you or your loved one is ready to consider moving to a senior community, you have many options. How do you know which one you need? 

Generally speaking, there are four types of communities when it comes to senior living:

  • Independent Living
  • Assisted Living
  • Memory Care
  • Skilled Nursing

Independent living (IL) is for active seniors who need little to no assistance with activities of daily living (ADL). That means they can climb up and down stairs independently in case of an emergency and handle all their own bathing, grooming, and hygiene needs. If they need medications, they can take them without (or with few) reminders and can socialize without help. Think of IL as living fully on your own but with chores such as lawn mowing and housekeeping taken care of.

For those who need a little more help with ADLs, assisted living (AL) is available. This lifestyle is similar to IL but with the addition of some assistance for various purposes depending on the individual. We’ll discuss this in greater detail below.

Memory care (MC) is a special type of community set up for residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Memory care staff is specially trained and equipped to support the residents in their daily activities.

Finally, skilled nursing (SN) is sometimes available in senior communities for those who are injured and need 24-hour in-patient care to get better. SN usually involves daily rehabilitation, physical or occupational  therapy, as well as on-site nursing care for help with ADLs. 

Levels of Care in Assisted Living

Just because you’re in AL doesn’t mean you’re being monitored day and night or restricted from moving around independently. In many ways, AL is similar to IL. You live in your own studio or one-bedroom apartment. While you may need to sign in and out when you leave the building, you’re otherwise free to come and go, enjoy activities, and meet up with friends. Assisted living isn’t for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s, and it’s not for residents who are entirely unable to care for themselves. 

At AL, you still have dining plans, housekeeping services, and all of the events and amenities available in IL. The only real difference between IL and AL is that in AL you have the assistance you need to get through the day. 

There are different assisted living levels of care provided depending on your needs. Residents move to a higher level of care as they require more assistance with ADLs. And while each community might differ slightly in the specifics or have more than three levels of care, most communities generally have levels such as:

Level 1

Level 1 is for those who need very little assistance with ADLs. Care at level one could include a morning wake-up visit and simple reminders throughout the day to eat or engage in social activities. Someone who needs help managing their medications but can otherwise live with complete independence, for example, is a good candidate for level 1.

Level 2

At level 2, a little more assistance is required. Level 2 seniors typically require full hands-on assistance with at least one ADL, such as bathing or dressing. They may also receive assistance with more than one ADL at this level, usually a combination of hands-on assistance and supervision. For example, someone who needs help getting into and out of bed and remembering to bathe. Residents are still free to participate in community activities and be as active as they wish.

Level 3

At level 3, residents need help to complete most or all of their activities of daily living and require full-time assistance with most or all ADLs. As they move through the day, supervision is required at all or almost all times, or caregivers must complete most or all of the ADLs. This level still isn’t for those who require memory care or who need full-time skilled nursing care. At level 3, residents may still participate in community activities but with constant help or supervision.

Finding the Right Level of Care 

A quality assisted living community makes sure you or your loved one receives the care they need, whatever that may be. We want you to live as independently as possible, and we respect your dignity. That’s why there will be questions and assessments to determine your assisted living level of care.

Assessing Care Needs 

A healthcare professional will assess your level of care by observing your behaviors and responses to specific questions. They’ll also speak to close family members who are aware of your potential problems or limitations. 

Some assessments may require you to take a few steps to determine your steadiness and agility, indicating the level of assisted living care you need. If you use a cane or a walker, the test will show the assessor if you’re using it properly.

There will be a discussion of chronic illnesses, dietary needs, the need for assistive devices, mental conditions or confusion, and more. This is to make sure you get the help you actually need without interfering with the rest of your life. It’s not meant to be invasive or to take away your autonomy. Instead, we help you fill in any self-care gaps so you can be as independent as possible.

Consultation with Healthcare Professionals

In addition to questions and observations, your assisted living coordinator will probably speak with your doctors to better understand underlying conditions and potential complications. For example, if you’ve been hospitalized for a fall recently, that needs to be considered when determining your level of care. 

Financial Considerations for Assisted Living Care

The higher the level of care you need, the higher the costs of AL. In most communities, there is a base cost for assisted living, with the level of care cost added on. The level of care costs takes into account:

  • Which ADLs you need help with
  • Whether you only need supervision or require hands-on assistance
  • How often you need help (only in the mornings, for example, or all day)

Find the Right Level of Care at New Perspective

At New Perspective, we’re committed to providing you or your loved one with the senior living experience you deserve. From delicious, home-cooked meals to off-site events, we’re here to make sure you live your best life. So, enjoy your golden years in a fun, relaxed, and safe environment that’s designed with your needs in mind.

Contact us today for pricing and availability, or find a community near you!