Image by Getty Images via @daylife


In sifting through information related to aging, we find ourselves struggling with too much information, rather than too little. This is certainly the case when it comes to senior housing. One of the terms that crops up is continuum of care. The continuum of care definition is confusing because it means different things in different contexts.


HUD provides grants to communities to help them address issues related to housing and homelessness. Continuum of Care in the HUD context is usually referred to as a CoC assistance planning network. While HUD may address housing and homelessness issues for the elderly, HUD’s CoC is not the context for understanding and selecting senior housing.


Image by joeflintham via Flickr

In the health care industry, continuum of care refers to the delivery of health care over a period of time. For a patient with a progressive disease it refers to care from wellness to diagnosis to end of life. Health services are provided for all levels and stages of care, usually with increasing levels of intensity. The system is complex and encompasses an integrated network of guidance and treatment.


Typically an older person enters the continuum of care as the physical limitations of aging demand additional assistance. The entry point is often through a home health care service or through one of the social services. Some of those services are available through preventive public health services, primary care outpatient clinics, local general hospitals, and hospitals with specialty care units.

This continuum of care is a loose category of services, not a formal system of care delivery. The consumer is challenged because of money restraints, profit seeking by care providers, limited local services, transportation issues, and a lack of centralized information to help consumers make informed choices. Cultural and geographic factors also come into play.

The initial step into the continuum of care system for the aging usually follows difficulty in getting to and from medical appointments. Home health services allow someone to age in place in their own home. Moving to an assisted living facility makes sense when it is no longer safe for an elder to live alone, or the physical challenges of care giving become too much for the primary caregiver, usually a spouse or an adult child. In many cases the caregiver may have physical limitations as well.

When health degenerates to the level where access to 24/7 nursing care is needed, it is time to move to a skilled nursing facility. You may never reach this stage, but it is good to have the service if you do.

Entering into the continuum of care is simply a way to figure out if you need more care than you are currently getting and point you towards the appropriate services for your particular needs. The stages are clearly defined, and you don’t have to figure this out all by yourself.

Entry into the continuum of care takes place at the lowest level of service needed, such as home health . That level may be all that is required for a long time. However, if physical or mental changes demand a higher level of support, the system is in place to steer you in the right direction. This is a good thing because it allows for advance planning to address possible future scenarios.

DENVER - NOVEMBER 09:  Miguel Lopez, largely p...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife


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