By Julie Chetney, Director of Senior Services

This month, I wanted to share my knowledge in response to a question asked all the time – what are the various housing opportunities available locally and which level of care and services should I be exploring for a loved one or myself?

As I am sure you are aware, St. Luke, as well as other service providers offer a variety housing options for seniors in our area. I am often asked to define the differences between skilled nursing, assisted living and congregate/enriched housing. Really, the differences are based on the level of services provided along a continuum of care, from dependent care to independent living.

Let me start at one end of the continuum of care, with a level I think we are all fairly familiar with, residential skilled nursing or dependent care. Residential skilled nursing care represents the highest degree of care and services provided to an individual.

Skilled Nursing

A person requiring residential skilled nursing usually needs assistance with a number of activities of daily living, such as 24-hour supervision due to a medical condition, help with bathing or grooming, assistance with eating and medication dispensing and monitoring. There are a number of residential skilled nursing facilities including St. Luke from which to choose in our area.

To find a qualified provider, use Medicare's Nursing-Home-Compare Web portal ( to evaluate providers on a variety of measures. Moreover, if everyone decides that a home is the best option, be sure to stay involved with the facility.

Assisted Living/Memory Care

For individuals who do not require skilled nursing care, semi-dependent care or assisted living is an option. An assisted living residence provides private or shared rooms, and services generally include dining, laundry and housekeeping services. Help with daily routines like eating, dressing or bathing can be provided and medical services can be accessed. In addition to enjoying the peace of mind that comes from this maintenance-free lifestyle, residents can take advantage of a full calendar of events, activities, out-trips, and countless opportunities for social engagement. Additional care services, such as medication management or assistance taking a shower, are also readily available.

Memory loss does not have to mean all is lost. Assisted Living residences like  St. Francis Commons provides apartment-like homes, premium safety features, and the comfort of being surrounded by peers and nurturing caring staff members, these communities offer residents and their family member’s peace of mind.

 Enriched Housing/Independent Living

Lastly on the continuum of care are independent living options. “Congregate living” fits in this category and can be describes as a large senior residential center. Accommodations can range from studio apartments to 1-bedroom, and/or 2-bedroom models with meals in a central dining room, weekly housekeeping, and local transportation. These facilities are like hotels. Many provide a number of services to accommodate a more active independent lifestyle without the tedium of cooking and cleaning.

Independent living in a congregate or enriched housing setting is ideal for individuals who can still live independently but enjoy having access to assistance when needed. Independent living communities like Bishop’s Commons provide their residents with convenient access to dining, medical care, entertainment and more. The independent living lifestyle offers residents a safe living environment, but with minimal assistance. Hospitality services, such as housekeeping, meals, and laundry may or may not be included in the monthly rental, but are typically available.

Day Programs

For seniors who only need care during part of the day, a senior care day center may be a good option. Providing supportive services as well as social activities for gathered seniors, these programs can help to bridge the gap if family care is already available during the evenings and on weekends.

I hope this overview is helpful. As our aging population continues to expand, the variety of specialized housing accommodations in our area may grow to reflect this trend in demographics. As with any of the options I outlined above, I urge you to visit and get a sense of any residence you may be considering. Ask questions and pay attention to how staff interact with residents.

Next time, I will share information about the various ways you can pay for each of the housing or service options our community offers. In the meantime, if you have any questions about senior housing options or just need some advice my twenty years of experience might offer, please give me a call at 315-326-0840 and I will be happy to help.

About Julie: Julie Chetney is Director of Senior Services for The St. Luke Family of Caring affiliates. Julie has served in various roles with the organization over her twenty-one year career including Volunteer Coordinator at St. Luke, Senior Living Coordinator at Bishop’s Commons, and Director of St. Francis Commons. An expert in residential care options for older adults, Julie can be reached at 315-326-0840 or by email at