Moving to a Retirement Community

Types of Retirement Communities

This is a major life transition; it is completely normal if this feels overwhelming.

This transition is about getting the right kind of support and care in an environment that helps you maintain your quality of life. There are countless options available, which can make the decision even more difficult. As with any major life change, it’s normal for you and your family members to feel anxiety and grief about this move. It’s OK – and important – to talk about how you feel.

Common types of retirement communities:

Terms and definitions vary by state. The following descriptions are specific to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:

Independent living communities offer the social aspect of a retirement community without the physical and financial demands of home ownership and maintenance. This type of community is ideal if you are in relatively good health.

Personal care communities offer the social aspect of a retirement community with additional services like help managing your medications and support with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, and getting in/ out of bed.

In Pennsylvania, there are different licensing requirements for assisted living vs. personal care, but in many other states the two terms are used interchangeably. Assisted living provides all of the support of personal care, plus some skilled health care services. Assisted living residences must ensure that you receive skilled nursing care if your needs surpass standard assisted living services.

Skilled nursing refers to care that can only be performed by licensed nurses with oversight by a physician. The goal of care in a skilled nursing facility is to help you maintain your quality of life by meeting your daily physical, social, medical, and psychological needs.

Skilled nursing facilities can provide 24-hour, long-term care and short-term options for after surgery or a hospital stay. Skilled nursing facilities are covered by Medicare and must meet stringent requirements to be licensed. Skilled nursing facilities can be designed as neighborhoods where you can feel comfortable, find familiar faces, and build relationships while getting the medical care you need.

Retirement communities have changed a lot over the years, and “nursing home” isn’t the catch-all term it used to be. The level of care that used to be associated with this term is now commonly referred to as “skilled nursing” though you may still see the term “nursing home” in some resources.