Assisted living communities often refer to “levels of care” when talking about the care needs of their residents. While these levels are important to understand how best to meet the needs of community members and their families, it can be confusing to know what they are referring to.
Below, we’ve defined each level of care so your family can understand the nomenclature commonly used in assisted living, and how that changes the day-to-day life of your loved ones within communities.
What are Levels of Care in Assisted Living?
In assisted living, “level of care” refers to the amount of assistance a resident needs with ADLs, or activities of daily living. ADLs include everyday tasks like:
- Ambulating, or walking
- Transferring, such as getting in and out bed
Levels of care also include assistance a resident needs with managing their health, such as any medications or monitoring of health conditions, like diabetes or hypertension. A senior’s ability to remember to take medications and perform health-related activities like checking their blood sugar is taken into consideration when determining their level of care.
While some residents may only need reminders from time to time, others may need supervision or assistance with one or more of their ADLs. Each resident’s needs are unique, but there are three broad categories communities use to define level of care:
- Level One: Lowest Care
- Level Two: Moderate Care
- Level Three: Highest Care
Importance of Levels of Care in Assisted Living
One worry families have about moving a loved one into a senior living facility is that they won’t receive the right care. In a nursing home, for example, all ADLs and medication administration is usually taken care of for the residents, but your loved one may only need assistance with a few tasks.
Assisted living communities use levels of care to make sure their residents receive support where they need it and allow them to remain independent for other activities. These communities also provide a continuum of care, meaning if your loved one’s health changes, their level of care can be reassessed to receive different or additional support.
Level One: Lowest Amount of Care
Seniors who need level one care are mostly independent. They may need to be reminded to perform some tasks, such as taking and refilling medication. They can get from place to place on their own or with an assistive device like a cane or walker, such as from their room to the dining room. They may need supervision or assistance for certain tasks, like checking their blood sugar or giving injections.
Level Two: Moderate Amount of Care
Seniors who need level two care need more support with some ADLs, but they are still capable of doing some on their own. For example, a resident’s mobility may be limited so they require assistance with dressing and getting around, but they are still able to eat on their own. Level two care also includes medication management, either in reminding residents when to take prescriptions or administering medication.
Level Three: Highest Amount of Care
Seniors who need level three care need assistance with most of their ADLs. They have severe limitations to their mobility or memory that require more comprehensive assistance with daily living. They may have more complex medical needs that require monitoring by a staff member, and staff administer their medications.
In addition to assisting with ADLs, memory care helps seniors living with memory loss from Alzheimers and dementia. Memory care units have staff members who are trained to work with individuals living with memory loss, and the activities they offer give residents opportunities for socialization and active lifestyles that are important to keeping the brain active and slowing the progression of cognitive decline. A community built for memory care may also be laid out and designed differently than other facilities to help residents find their way around on their own for as long as possible.
Assisted living communities use levels of care to refer to the care needs of their residents. When you’re researching assisted living communities with your loved one, it’s important to understand what these levels mean and what kinds of care your loved one will need, both now and down the road. Choosing a community that can support potential future needs gives you peace of mind and allows your loved one to age in place.