What Does Independent Living Mean?
Understanding the differences between independent and assisted living environments can be confusing. This is especially true if you are trying to wrangle choices in living arrangements for a loved one. What is independent living, you ask? Let’s take a moment to explain…
An analogy might be helpful.
The Captain and His Boat
Imagine that the person who is considering a change is the captain of a sailboat. They have years of experience sailing. Their boat (body and mind), is crafted well and seaworthy. Living a normal life is like that boat functioning as it should on a body of water.
When the captain is spry, and the boat is in tip-top ship-shape, they can navigate in any situation together. If the captain loses the ability to manage the rigs, the boat will be in danger of capsizing. If the boat loses integrity, it will be faulty in certain situations.
Now, think of your loved one as the captain. Their physical and mental sharpness is the sailboat. What bodies of water do you believe they could safely and successfully navigate? Could they be set free on the open ocean, or could they only handle lazy rides on a calm lake?
A huge factor in deciding between assisted living and senior independent living is the unforeseen. Just as a boat captain must be prepared to weather huge storms, people who live independently must be able to handle the majority of life’s tough tasks. In contrast, a less-capable captain and vessel can still maintain their identities on water that is safe from storms and tempest.
This is a fantastical way to think about an important life decision, but it is accurate. The choice between independent and assisted living environments is made by measuring capability and need.
What is Independent Living?
Independent seniors are like seasoned boat captains who can handle the rigors of navigation, but often need help with the unforeseen. People in independent living communities are typically capable of caring for their bodies and personal safety. They do not need assistance with hygiene, taking medication, or taking part in social activities.
Centers for independent living often offer conveniences like restaurants, shops, bars, and sporting areas. They provide comfortable spaces where residents can “sail” as they always have, but the environment is less chaotic.
Though the goal is independence, structured communities make certain services available if they are needed. These services include housecleaning, transportation, fitness centers, and monitored medical care. It’s a bit like a captain and boat having access to supply dinghies whenever they are needed.
Aspects of Assisted Living
In contrast to independent living, assisted living facilities provide much more help and guidance to a captain. In an assisted environment, the person remains the captain, but there is a crew to help guide the boat.More help is needed with hygiene, meal preparation, safety, and social engagement. There might also be a need for memory loss counseling and support, medication administration, and other important aspects of senior living. Basically, assisted living is like the captain of ship enjoying his position as captain, but leaving the maintenance of the boat up to a qualified crew. Also, the ship will never need to sail on extremely rough waters.
There is Enough Ocean for Everyone
Fortunately, many excellent senior communities offer independent and assisted living options and spaces. People deciding how to progress with finding the right place for a “family captain” can learn a great deal from staff members operating these communities. Each community provides resources to help families understand what is independent living.Independent and assisted living communities are also excellent resources if families are looking ahead. Some captains will need specialized care when they eventually transition into a nursing home environment. Controlled living options make it easier to handle difficult decisions later on.
Remember, the idea is to keep your captain feeling like a valued family member forever. There is no need to wrestle the captain away from a beloved lifestyle at the first sign that help is needed. Senior independent living communities provide a way to enjoy a lifestyle with far less stress, danger, and responsibility.
Minimize the threat of capsizing, but don’t take away the captain’s brass! There is a perfect independent living environment for your loved one. It requires weighing needs against abilities. Take the time to research all of the options available.