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Independent Living 'Makes It Easier'

By Lois Thomson



Nanci Case of UPMC Senior Communities understands the false impressions some folks may have about independent living facilities. "People may equate them with what previously used to be thought of as nursing homes. So there are some misconceptions on their part – because nursing homes from a long time ago were a very different profile from what they are now. So we see a lot of that type of thinking, particularly with the generation that currently uses these services, because they know that's what was available for their parents. But independent living is designed to help with socialization, transportation, and eating; and maintenance and housekeeping are included as well."







With all of the options available, people may be confused about independent living facilities and the difference between them and personal care, assisted living, skilled nursing, etc. What is their purpose, what do they provide, what don't they provide, do they differ from place to place?

As Nanci Case, vice president of sales / marketing / fundraising / development for UPMC Senior Communities, clarified, "Independent living is for people who are looking to downsize and who are looking to have more support with daily functions." Those functions range from having meals prepared to transportation to lawn care to snow removal – all of which can become cumbersome as we age. "Personal care, assisted living and skilled nursing, on the other hand, are the next levels of support as your needs progress."

Other conveniences offered by independent living include social activities both inside and outside of the residence. "There's a full calendar of daily activities that you can either participate in or not. They're totally optional – activities such as outings, sightseeing, maybe the ballet, as well as a variety of activities scheduled at the facility, such as speakers, movies, card games, plus spiritual activities for all denominations. There's a wide variety, and it's a way to stay socially connected and develop friends."

Case said independent living is also beneficial for people who prefer not to drive any more. She said most facilities provide transportation services, either regularly planned outings to the grocery store or the mall, or rides that individuals can schedule for doctor appointments. Weekly housekeeping and linen service is available as well.

What's not included, according to Case, are medical-type needs. "Independent living facilities do not have clinical staff as part of the package. They do have life enhancement services available for an additional cost that provide private duty services such as assistance with medication, dressing, bathing and other needs that are separately arranged. And when a person's health needs reach a certain level, personal care or assisted living levels are the next step, which include medical staff."

However, she emphasized that in the UPMC's independent living facilities, residents' apartments are designed with pull cords that alert the management when they need assistance. Additionally, some of the facilities offer pendants to wear that also alert the management when there is a need.

With such wonderful amenities, why would anyone not want to move into an independent living facility? "I think people might resist because they struggle with giving up their homes," she said. "They struggle because they might perceive it as a loss of independence, a loss of control of their life. And change, people are fearful of change."

Case added, though, that, "People who pro-actively plan these stages adjust really well because they've had some control over making the decisions and planning for them, as opposed to a lot of situations where people will wait until there's an emergency. Then the family has to scramble to quickly find a place, and there's no time to really plan and mentally adjust to the transition." Whereas independent living is usually available to anyone 55 and older, Case said the age range is generally 70 to 85 or 90, and the average age at their facilities is about 84.

The best thing, she concluded, is to do research, take tours, make comparisons and find out which one best suits your needs. "The goal is to age in place where you are for as long as possible. Independent living is just that next step to making it easier."

For more information, call (412) 864-3519 or visit www.upmcseniorcommunities.com.

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