Busting Senior-Care Myths: There’s No Privacy in Senior Communities

For many families, there comes a point in time when the adult children begin to worry about their parents’ safety and social isolation at home. Parents often respond, saying they don’t want to give up their privacy by moving into a senior living community. The notion that life in a senior community is like life in a fishbowl is a myth we’re happy to bust. Most senior living communities today cater to Baby Boomers with high expectations for quality of life — including a balance of privacy and social activities.Busting Senior-Care Myths: There's No Privacy in Senior Communities

Let’s take a look at the privacy options for residents in different types of retirement communities.

Privacy in Independent Living

Independent living communities offer just about the same level of privacy you’ll find in an apartment complex or residential neighborhood — but with many more amenities.

Most of these communities offer a range of apartment styles, so each couple or resident has a private space that’s just for them and their guests. For example, NewForest Estates in San Antonio, a SeniorAdvisor.com 2017 Best of Assisted Living award winner, offers eight floor plans ranging from studio to two-bedroom apartments, all with full kitchens for when you don’t feel like dining with a group.

Privacy in Assisted Living

Many independent living communities offer a continuum of care that lets residents transition to assisted living without a major move. Whether your parents are in a continuum-of-care community or a freestanding assisted living center, you can expect the same types of apartment layouts as in independent living — though in assisted living, private quarters usually have kitchenettes instead of full kitchens.

As with independent living, residents have the option to take part in social activities or enjoy some solitude. However, assisted living residents may get visits from staffers each day for help with medication, personal-care tasks and any other support they need for their health and safety.

Privacy in Senior Group Homes

Residential care — or senior group homes — are similar to assisted living but are set up like single-family homes rather than traditional senior communities. This is a style of care that’s gaining ground in some parts of the country, because it allows for private space and fosters close bonds between caregivers and residents.

In these small homes for seniors, which are often located in or near residential neighborhoods, people who are most comfortable in small groups may feel right at home. Typically, each resident has his or her own bedroom and possibly a private bathroom but the rest of the home and yard is shared space. Meals are served family style.

Privacy in Nursing Homes

So far, we’ve talked about senior communities where each resident has his or her own apartment or bedroom. Privacy levels in nursing homes are different, for two main reasons. One, residents and staff interact much more frequently for personal care and medical administration and care. Two, semi-private rooms are less costly than private rooms, and Medicaid will not pay for private rooms “unless medically needed.”

Even with these potential barriers to privacy, nursing home residents have the right to:

  • Be informed about treatments and decline them if they so choose
  • Choose which activities to take part in
  • Decide their own sleep schedule
  • Host visitors
  • Keep their belongings in their own personal space, even within a shared room
  • Make private phone calls and send emails privately
  • Manage their own money

You can read the entire Center for Medicare and Medicaid federal nursing home resident rights and protections list here.

Nursing homes are also supposed to take residents’ roommate preferences into account when placing people. A good roommate can enhance your parents’ sense of privacy, so if your parent has trouble co-existing peacefully with his or her roommate, try to help them reach a reasonable solution. Talk with the staff about your options, which may include switching rooms.

Want to know more about senior community options in your area? Speak with SeniorAdvisor.com’s experts at 1-800-805-3621.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

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