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Understanding Senior Care Options: Spectrum of Care

Posted by CaraVita Staff on July 9 2015

Understanding Care: Part 2

Why an accurate assessment is mission critical.

The first thing to understand when assessing your senior care options is the spectrum of available care.

Here is the basic spectrum of care (beginning with the most independent lifestyle).

  1. Home Care and Aging in Place
  2. Independent Living Communities
  3. Assisted Living Communities
  4. Continuing Care Communities
  5. Skilled Nursing Facilities
  6. Hospitals and Rehabilitation Centers
  7. Hospice Care

When we're asked where loved ones fit best within that spectrum, our answer is always the same! At the lowest level possible for their personal independence capability. To make self assessment a bit easier, we've outlined a few things to consider. To what degree can my loved one manage the following activities?


It is a critical early step to assess mobility. There are many reasons why we need a degree of mobility; from emergency evacuation from fire or gas to the avoidance of injury in falling. If we can’t protect our own safety through movement, escalated care is an immediate need.

  1. How much help does your loved one need to get out of a chair or bed?
  2. Does moving around mean danger?
  3. Are there stairs?
  4. Do they go up and down the stairs, or does it seem like a once-per-day chore?
  5. What is the frequency of emergencies (such as falling, illness or sudden agitation) that need immediate attention within the last six months?
  6. Is anyone else living in the home?
  7. Is your loved one still driving?
  8. How do they safely navigate the outside world? Do they have an assistive device and do they use it safely?
  9. Can they safely navigate the bathroom and around the home?


Just like the mobility concerns above are the hygienic needs we must retain control of to stay independent. Lack of hygiene for self or environment can lead to very serious diseases and infections that are often life threatening in the elderly. If loved ones are no longer able to care for their own sanitation, bathing and toileting needs, escalated care is an immediate need.

  1. Does your loved one need help with bathing or personal hygiene?
  2. Do they remember to bath?
  3. Do they resist bathing?
  4. How many times a day does the individual require help in using the bathroom?
  5. Hygiene isn’t limited to the bathroom either. Is your loved one capable of doing their own cleaning, or are others in place (family, friends or professional cleaners) to manage property, cleanliness, trash, and other needs?


We need to eat, and we need to dispose of the things that are finished or inedible. Without adherence to those rules, life cannot be maintained independently. Assess for yourself - is my loved one able to feed themselves three meals a day, or does someone ensure that they are fed?

  1. Does your loved one still cook?
  2. How are meals provided?
  3. Is your loved one relying on sodium-heavy frozen meals?
  4. Does their refrigerator seem to have lots of expired items?
  5. If they are not cooking a meal how does your loved one eat?
  6. What degree of support is available at home with meals?
  7. Do ovens and ranges get let on for hours after cooking?
  8. Are the dishes piling up for days in the sink?
  9. Do medical conditions require your loved one to manage what they eat? Are they successfully sticking to those plans?

Life Maintenance

Oftentimes, we just assume that life and its many to-do’s are being managed. It’s only after something unforeseen occurs that we find out the opposite. Try to consider these life questions, and imagine the many ways that life can slowly become more challenging as memory, confidence and reasoning slowly round at the edges.

  1. Who pays the bills?
  2. Are they paid on time?
  3. Is your parent susceptible to telephone, television or online scams?
  4. Does your loved one manage their medications?
  5. Do they remember to take medication?
  6. Have you witnessed a change of personality or any increased confusion?
  7. Does your loved one have a tendency to wander off or get lost?
  8. Is you loved one able to keep up their home maintenance and repairs?
  9. Does anyone assist your loved one in maintenance?
  10. Does your loved one keep their door locked?
  11. Will they unlock doors only to known visitors?
  12. How much time does family or friends spend each week providing care?

Now What?

You’ve gotten a clear sense of where your loved one is at as an independent senior. From the preliminary questions provided last chapter, and from the expert opinions you've sought from our staff and others, the seriousness of issues has been triangulated. Doctors have weighed in, and you’ve even taken our online care needs assessment. You can say with confidence that "we are here."

Where your loved one ought live as a senior with care needs depends entirely on how much independence they can retain, how much they would like to retain, whether there are home alternatives and the implications of financial choices. If you have any questions at all, just give us a call!

Topics: Home Care Resources, Caregiver & Caregiving Resources, Featured, Guest Blogger