As people age there are many different care options available to them. Choosing the right compassionate and respectful living situation is vital for the physical and mental health of your loved one. The right option depends on so many factors including their medical needs, mobility, access to resources, and nearby family members. Many people choose assisted living facilities because of the flexibility it affords families and residents to live a fulfilling life. There is often some confusion as to what it is and what it is not.
What is assisted living?
Assisted living is a type of live-in care facility where residents receive help from staff on site. It’s designed for people who need varying levels of care. It ranges from people who can live independently but like the community amenities, or those who need personal and home care throughout each day. These housing situations tend to be more like homes or apartments with individual living arrangements. Less often they may include resident quarters where people live together.
Assisted living homes are designed to give all the comforts of home and independent living combined with providing for medical needs. Each unit has their own kitchen and bathroom, and residents can include people with disabilities or simply those with mobility needs who struggle to care for themselves in their own homes. Most residences are designed with physical limitations in mind. The homes typically include bathrooms with walk-in showers, safety railing, wider hallways, elevators, and easy to reach cabinets in the kitchen. They also tend to have emergency call systems where residents can contact staff at the click of a button.
What services do assisted living facilities provide?
All of the services at assisted living facilities are created with everyday care in mind. They may include assistance with making meals or even a restaurant or dining room where residents can order meals. They may include housekeeping and laundry services. Staff may come in once a day to assist residents with bathing and dressing themselves. Additionally, residents in an assisted living home often need help with toileting and cleaning up after themselves. They also have maintenance staff available to take care of landscaping and repair needs so you never need to worry about fixing a clogged toilet or leaky faucet again.
Aside from the personal care aspect of assisted living, these homes also provide much needed interaction and community activities. The schedule at most assisted living facilities is bustling with group options to help older adults stay active and healthy. Some facilities have swimming pools with warmer than normal water. Other have exercise and fitness facilities and group classes. You can expect to find classes and programs to help retired seniors stay busy and connected. They also have transportation available to take residents to shopping and other leisure activities.
What are the benefits of assisted living?
Because the homes are designed specifically for older adults with different needs, they tend to be a safer option than living at home alone. Families no longer have to worry about whether or not their loved one is getting all their needs met.
We are designed to be connected to other people. As we age, it becomes more difficult to find a community of friends to engage with. Assisted living facilities help create a community with people of all different types of backgrounds. Whether you eat in the dining room or enjoy a game with friends, you can find something to do and someone to do it with in assisted living. They offer amenities like beauty salons, movie theaters, art studios, and even private fitness classes to help connect you with everything you need.
Daily care can be a struggle for some as they age. One of the benefits of assisted living is knowing that simple daily tasks like getting up and dressed will be taken care of. Not only that, but that someone will be there to help them remember their medications. If you need to get to an appointment, it’s easy to get a ride as well.
One of the great benefits of assisted living is that someone else can help ensure your loved one eats nutritious meals that they like. They still get to choose, which supports their dignity, but they will always be offered options to help them stay healthy.
What makes assisted living different from independent living?
Some assisted living facilities offer a range of services. From independent living all the way up to skilled nursing and memory care. Independent living is for people who can do almost everything on their own, but may want the community activities and amenities that are offered through assisted living homes. They may also want someone to handle maintenance and landscaping but they can cook, clean, and care for themselves. Independent living is simply that, and apartment or home where people can living independently.
Assisted living is intended for older adults who need more help managing the personal care aspects of their lives. It’s different in that staff will be assigned to care for daily needs for someone in assisted living whereas for independent living they may only need people on an on-call basis.
What makes assisted living different than a nursing home?
Nursing home care provides skilled medical care for people who have complex medical needs. These are more like long-term hospital situations where people live and are cared for all the time. People in nursing homes are often placed two to a room. These facilities do not provide individual kitchens, but may provide one bathroom per room. While others might have a communal bathroom and shower. While many people in assisted living can come and go at will, people in nursing homes usually must have a family or friend go places with them.
What makes assisted living different than home health care?
Home health care provides for personal care at home. Home health aides and other medical staff visit patients in their home and then leave. These support staff can offer physical therapy, occupational therapy, changing IV’s, making meals, cleaning the home, toileting, and mobility. Home health care is similar to assisted living except that older adults remain in their homes instead of moving to a new facility. They also do not have access to the community activities at an assisted living home.
Why should I choose assisted living?
If you’re looking for a safer living arrangement for your loved one but they can do some things independently, you may want to consider assisted living. It’s important to look at all the options available to you to decide what works best for your budget and your loved ones needs. Some of the reasons to choose assisted living include access to 24/7 staff for emergencies, someone else to take care of repairs and maintenance, and opportunities to make friends and be social everyday.
Other reasons to pick assisted living are the healthy meals, access to exercise facilities, and even restaurants just down the hallway. If you want to be able to get your hair done and walk right over to meet a friend for dinner, then assisted living is an excellent choice. Additionally, the independence that residents of senior living enjoy is appealing to anyone. You can get as little or as much help as you need to live a full and beautiful life.
What questions should I ask an assisted living facility?
When you’re looking at assisted living homes, here are some of the most important questions you should ask:
Are there any units available now? If not, when will you have one available? It makes no sense to get your heart set on a place if they won’t even be available in the timeframe you need.
What living arrangements are available? You want to know if they offer housing with one person, two people, if they have independent living units and other skilled care facilities on-site.
How much does it cost? At the end of the day, price matters. You’ll want to know not only how much it costs but what is included in that cost as well.
What amenities are included? Access to a gym is great, but you need to know if those amenities come with an added cost to assess whether it’s the best option for you or your loved one.
What is the staff ratio? It’s important to know how many people each staff member is expected to care for so you can get an idea of the level of care you’ll receive.
Does your staff have experience with the medical issues we need assistance for? It’s no good to go to a place when you need care for something like MS if they’ve never cared for an MS patient before.
What kind of training does your staff receive? Staff training is a valuable investment for any employer. It also helps ensure everyone is on the same page about how to handle care and emergencies.
Do you have places to go outdoors on site? Independent living is important as you age. The ability to get outside for a walk is important for good mental health and physical health.
What does the intake process and assessment look like? You’ll want to know what documentation they need as well. Get a big-picture view of what this process looks like.
What’s the turnover rate for staff? Places with high turnover rates indicate that it may not be a very warm environment. Places with low turnover rates provide much-needed stability for residents and staff alike.
Are your staff members qualified to give medications? One of the services most assisted living places offer is help with medications. You’ll want to know who is qualified to do this to ensure your loved one takes their medications daily at the right time.
Do you allow pets? It can be hard to give up a beloved cat or dog. If your loved one needs their pet, make sure you find out if they’ll be allowed to stay.
How many meals are included in the cost? Much like a college meal plan, some assisted living facilities offer different levels of plans.
Are residents able to choose from a menu or does everyone each the same thing each day? Everyone loves a choice. Make sure to ask about all the different food options available.
How do you handle food allergies? For those with food allergies, it’s important to know if their food needs will be attended to.
Can residents keep food in their own apartments? While it may sound odd, some places do not allow food in the units for safety reasons.
Do the apartments have their own kitchens? Because many assisted living facilities offer meals and a dining room, they do not always have kitchens in the units. It’s important to ask.
Do the apartments have their own bathrooms? Some do and others have shared bathrooms.
What times of day are meals served? Medications and habits may make it difficult to change eating times. It’s important to know what to expect.
How can I pay for assisted living?
There are many ways to pay for assisted living. State services like Medicaid may be able to help pay for some of the cost. Other use their VA benefits or the proceeds from the sale of a home to pay for assisted living.
How do I transition to assisted living?
It starts with having those difficult conversations with your loved one. Once you decide on a place together it’s important to help them downsize their belongings to sell or go into storage. Most assisted living homes are not large enough to bring everything. Once you decide on a move date you need to make small steps to get there. This means changing over addresses for bills, closing out accounts where necessary, and even scheduling movers to help. It can be a tough transition, so be available to provide love and support. You may also be able to leverage staff from the assisted living facility to ease the transition.