senior with family on the couch considering live-in care, in-home care, assisted living care, or independent care and memory care


A guide to the different types of home care and senior living communities.

What care does your loved one need today, and what care might they need in the years to come? Do they prefer to age at home or in a community? Here’s what to keep in mind if you’re choosing between at-home (live-in) care, senior independent living, and senior assisted living.

The right support, in the right place: Choosing where to age

As we age, we face a lot of decisions surrounding our health and well-being.

Do you want to age at home, or move into a retirement community? Either way, what level of care do you need, and what other services might enhance your quality of life?

If you’re weighing your options, here’s quick breakdown.

An active community for aging: Senior independent living

If you don’t need personal or medical care, but would like to live in an active community with other seniors, senior independent living could be right for you.

What it is:

  • Living in a community with other seniors, either in a shared home or a private apartment or home
  • Housing and campus typically designed to be convenient for aging adults
  • Planned community events and built-in social network
  • Usually includes services like housekeeping and maintenance
  • Does not include personal or medical caregiver services (although you can usually hire in-home help separately, if needed)

Daily support, in a convenient setting: Senior assisted living

If you need help with certain daily activities and 24/7 access to nursing staff, assisted living provides a balance of care and independence in a shared senior community.

What it is:

  • Living in a community with other seniors, typically in a room or apartment
  • Access to 24/7 nursing care
  • Personal services as needed, ex. bathing, medication management, mobility
  • Services like meal preparation, housekeeping and maintenance
  • Planned community events and built-in social network

A continuum of aging care needs: Continuing care retirement communities (CCRC)

Want to transition from independent living to assisted living without having to move to a different community?

To that end, continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) offer multiple levels of support within the same community. Learn more about CCRCs.

Any level of care, right at home: Live-in care

If you choose to age at home, a variety of home care aides and medical professionals can come to you.

These types of in-home care services are offered for just about every level of support, from help with basic household chores like meal preparation to special medical care like daily visits from a nurse.

What it is:

  • Living at home
  • Varying at-home services, based on needs and preferences
  • Basic caregiving: Light housekeeping, help with errands, companionship
  • Personal care: Assistance with daily activities like bathing, eating and mobility
  • Medical care: Skilled nursing, first aid, wound care

Here’s AARP’s guide to choosing in-home care services.

How memory care fits in

When aging at home or in a senior independent living community, you can consider:

At many assisted living facilities, including the Pavilion at the Masonic Homes, memory care is offered alongside assisted living services.

Here’s a checklist to help your search for dementia care.

How do I choose between live-in or at-home care, independent living, and assisted living?

At first, you’ll need to weigh your present and future health needs to decide what level of care you need. A geriatric case manager can help.

Then, you’ll need to research the cost of care in your area. Prices vary widely based on where you live, your unique needs and your eligibility for programs like Medicaid or Medi-Cal.

Finally, if you’re considering aging at home, talk with your family about how much they can step in to help with your care. At-home care can get expensive quickly, so if you need 24/7 care, assisted living may be a more affordable option.