As independent living residents’ needs rise, providers are identifying the incorporation of “lite” care services as a way to bridge the gap between independent and assisted living.
Providers are gearing much of these efforts toward the independent living aspects of their communities, where residents can receive mild care services without having to move from one wing or building of the community to another wing or building that more traditionally suits their needs.
For providers, the key lies in extending their communities’ licensure beyond the assisted living and memory care segments to incorporate independent living units.
“By licensing all of the units in our building, including those largely inhabited by IL residents, we can easily accommodate maintaining independence by providing underlying services as people may need them,” says Patricia Will, founder and CEO of Belmont Village Senior Living.
Belmont Village, which incorporates some component of IL in about one-third of its total 25 communities, finds that having all care segments under one roof, rather than annexed in separate buildings, puts the company at an advantage compared to other providers.
“It gives us a tremendous advantage to allow residents as they begin to need assisted living services—albeit while they’re currently in independent living—to receive those services wherever they live in the building,” says Will.
Medication management or administering insulin shots for diabetic residents, which are generally AL-licensed services, could be some of the care provided to those living in IL, says Will.
Since these apartments would have to be licensed as AL for residents to receive services, individuals living in IL would have to pay a bump in apartment cost for the expanded services, says Patricia Foran, vice president of clinical services for Senior Lifestyle Corporation.
Although IL units might have more amenity features than AL units—such as full kitchens equipped with stovetops, ovens and even outdoor balconies—the one-roof licensure model opens up opportunity for residents to age in place longer before rising care needs force them to move throughout the continuum.
“Residents still want things like stovetops and ovens in their units. Those features are familiar to them,” she says. “Residents feel like they already made the move. They don’t want to have to do it again.”
Senior Lifestyle Corp., which uses an approach that separates IL from the various care segments within its communities, has experienced its buildings morphing over time as IL beds transition to accommodate the needs of aging residents, says Foran.
She cautions, however, that providers looking to expand licensure to incorporate IL run the risk of having their independent living segment look like assisted living if the resident population isn’t managed well.
A community that looks too much like a long-term care center filled with wheelchairs and walkers could also dissuade prospective residents who tour the community looking for independent living arrangements, she says.
To protect against this, providers looking to expand licensure throughout their communities should define what services they are willing to offer in assisted living “lite” programs, Foran says.
“With assisted living ‘lite,’ you’re bringing services that are already available to accommodate independent living residents,” Foran says. “It not only expands economy of scale, but gives providers more control. You become a one-stop shop.”
Written by Jason Oliva