Health & Wellness

Defining Vermont’s Senior Housing Options

Six levels of senior housing are available in Vermont, categorized by the type of accommodations they offer. They range from totally independent living communities to continuing care retirement facilities, and there is a legal definition of some, particularly if personal assistance is required for residents.

Independent Housing offers private residential units with kitchen and dining areas, bedroom(s), bathroom(s), and living areas. These are barrier-free with emergency call features, are complemented by housing management and maintenance services, and are geared toward independently functioning people. These facilities usually don’t offer regular meals, housekeeping, or home health services.

Congregate Housing offers private apartments in a complex that contains central dining and other common areas. This type of facility is for those who want or need some supportive services including dining, housekeeping, home health and other assistance.

Assisted Living offers private living units and bathing facilities in a complex with common dining and activity areas. Facilities are geared toward those who have difficulty functioning independently and who often require oversight. These residences provide an array of services, including 24-hour staff, full meal plans, transportation services up to three times per month, nursing assessment, care planning and oversight, medication management, as well as organized activities programs. The Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living licenses and regulates these residences.

Shared Homes offer private bedrooms and either private or shared bathrooms, with common living, dining, and kitchen areas. Geared toward seniors wanting a home-like setting, shared housing offers support services such as daily meals, service coordination, and light housekeeping. Residents can bring in hospice care, but these homes are not designed for those with intensive medical needs.

Residential Care Homes (RCHs) are licensed and regulated by the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living. There are two categories of RCHs in Vermont – Level III and Level IV. Unlike Assisted Living residences, RCHs are not required to be barrier-free or to offer private accommodations and baths, although many do. Both levels of licensure provide general supervision, personal care assistance, organized activities and transportation services up to three times per month. Level III RCHs also provide nursing oversight, medication management and 24-hour staffing, while Level IV RCHs do not.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) combine independent housing, congregate housing, and assisted living with the availability of nursing home care. These communities require a significant upfront investment, and residents also pay a monthly fee. CCRCs serve the entire older population and offer individual residents the benefit of remaining in their community as care-level needs increase.

This article was contributed by Don Manders with contributions from Veda Lyon, Manager of the Community Development Unit for the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living.

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