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Assisted Living Facilities for Terminally Ill

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Assisted Living for Terminally IllAssisted living facilities play an important role in a senior's life during a terminal illness. Sometimes, this can mean offering palliative care while in assisted living or allowing a resident to accept hospice care. Terminally ill seniors are able to avail the regular services that assisted living communities offer, but it is important to think about the natural progression of the disease and future care needs. While assisted living for terminally ill is often a form of short term assisted living, not all assisted living communities accept residents that are terminally ill, and some only allow those with certain terminal illnesses to become residents. Even others may have special requirements and rules in place that allow a resident to stay if they develop a terminal illness after they are already residing in the facility. Every assisted living home is different and has different guidelines regarding terminally ill seniors and the care they can receive.

What Is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is a type of medical care for those who have serious and terminal illnesses. This form of care is available to patients of all ages, however for the purpose of this article, we are focusing on seniors with terminal illnesses. The point of palliative care is to help ease the stress and symptoms of the illness while still seeking a cure or receiving life-extending treatment. A team of nurses and doctors that are specially trained work to offer an extra layer of support to seniors suffering from terminal illnesses. The care is based on the symptoms a senior experiences as well as their daily needs as opposed to their prognosis. It can be used at any stage of an illness, and it is often paired with curative therapies. A person is not able to receive palliative care and hospice care at the same time.

Some terminal illnesses that seniors may receive palliative care for are;

Seniors that have a terminal illness that receive palliative care, on average, live much longer than seniors who don’t receive this form of care. Palliative care improves the overall quality of life and helps to reduce the suffering that comes with living with a terminal illness. Unlike hospice care, palliative care can be used alongside curative treatment and life prolonging therapies.

Palliative Care in An Assisted Living Facility

Seniors facing a terminal illness can elect to receive palliative care at any point. Unlike hospice care, palliative care is allowed in most assisted living settings. Some locations will allow a resident to start receiving palliative care while enrolled in assisted living while others may ask the resident to upgrade to a skilled nursing care facility. It is important to properly understand the end-of-life care terms and provisions for seniors who suffer from a terminal illness but are planning to move to an assisted living home or who may already be enrolled. Palliative care can be provided at a wide assortment of locations. A senior may receive palliative care at their private home, in a nursing home, at a local assisted living facility, or in a hospital.

Palliative care may be covered in full or partially with veterans' benefits or through Medicare and Medicaid. Most private insurance policies will also have a provision for palliative care for seniors with terminal illnesses. In addition, there may be other supplemental payment plans such as OSS that may help with the expenses of assisted living and palliative care. A social worker for the elderly may be able to help with understanding payment or funding sources if a senior is in need of help paying for palliative care for their terminal illness.

Assisted Living for Terminally Ill vs Independent Hospice

Life is always in a state of transition, and for seniors suffering from a terminal illness, the transition will be shorter than most. Some terminal illnesses may take years to develop while others may have a rapid onset that forces a quick change in circumstances. Regardless of the speed, when a senior's health takes a turn for the worse, it is important to secure the care they need. Several types of care are available for seniors suffering from a terminal illness. The most common are home nursing care, assisted living, palliative care and hospice care. Home health care is not often an option when faced with a terminal illness, though there are many nurses who offer hospice services in a private home setting. Palliative care is another common option that can be employed along with regular treatment and skilled nursing care. Hospice and assisted living are often confused, but they are actually very different.

Hospice is a form of care that is available to those who suffer from a terminal illness. Hospice is available to people of all ages, but we will focus on seniors for our purposes. Hospice care is intended for seniors who suffer from a terminal illness who has a life expectancy of six months or less. Hospice care can be provided in a hospital, nursing home, private residence, or in an assisted living facility. The purpose of this form of care is to provide emotional support and provide the senior comfort for the end of their life. It also seeks to relieve pain and discomfort caused by the terminal illness.

The cost of hospice care can be paid for by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. A senior who decides to enter a hospice program also agrees that they will no longer seek a cure for their illness or life-extending treatment. Pain and symptom management are not considered life-extending and are in fact a core part of hospice care. A senior may still receive physical therapy and other treatment that give them a better quality of life while allowing their terminal illness to run its course.

Assisted living communities are residential homes or apartments for seniors who no longer are able to live alone. Most assisted living facilities are intended for seniors who need assistance with daily tasks (commonly referred to ADLs) but are still functionally independent. Assisted living communities do not have high levels of skilled nursing care or extensive medical support. Caregivers will help seniors with grooming, eating, mobility and other tasks that become difficult as a person ages.

Assisted living can be paid for in a number of ways including self-pay, SSI, OSS, life insurance plans and veterans benefits. Unlike hospice care, Medicare and Medicaid won’t directly cover the cost of residence in an assisted living community. There are specialized assisted living homes that offer memory care, wheelchair access, deaf and hearing-impaired accommodations, and assistance to those who suffer from various disabilities. Although assisted living homes are not set up to specifically manage seniors who suffer from a terminal illness, seniors may enroll depending on their level of care needs. Seniors may also receive hospice care from a skilled nurse while residing in an assisted living facility. Depending on the location, this may be provided by an on-site nurse or one who is contracted to work specifically with a senior at their preferred location.

What is Hospice Care?

Hospice care started in the ’50s in Britain by a nurse who was suffering from lingering health concerns. Through her experiences, she came to the need for terminally ill patients and seniors to receive compassionate care. This type of care goes beyond medical needs by also seeking to address the emotional and spiritual needs of those who are dying.

Hospice care focuses on caring for the patient as their illness runs its course. The total pain management concept moves away from treating the illness or delaying death to easing the discomfort caused by the condition itself. Caregivers in the assisted living facility will offer physical comfort and psychological support to the patient and their family. Though hospice care no longer seeks to extend the lifespan, medication is used to help reduce pain and ease the patient's symptoms. Hospice care is also intended for seniors or others who have an expected life span of six months or less.

Terminal illness is difficult for anyone, and it can be even harder for seniors who are in assisted living that are terminally ill. With palliative care and hospice care, seniors in an assisted living community are able to ease into death with less emotional strain.

Hospice Care in An Assisted Living Facility

Hospice is not an actual place like many may assume, but rather a form of care given to seniors and others who are terminally ill. Many assisted living communities will offer hospice care for seniors depending on the severity of their condition and their medical needs. Hospice care is provided by medical care professionals, skilled nurses, and other support staff. In an assisted living environment, these staff will work with the seniors to manage their pain and to deal with the feelings of being alone, regret, and their fear of death.

Most terminally ill residents in assisted living centers such as an assisted living home want their final days to be filled with family and comfort. Assisted living homes for the terminally ill also support the notion that seniors should spend their remaining time surrounded by friends and family. Hospice support is provided by a team of professionals and volunteers that work to help the senior transition to death peacefully. Caregivers in the facility, with the support of hospice staff and family members, will ensure that the senior is able to face their remaining days with grace, support, and dignity.

Do All Assisted Living Locations Offer Care for Terminally Ill Seniors?

A wide range of terminal illnesses can affect seniors. Some may require a great deal of medical support as the condition runs its course, while others may be less intensive. The choice of an assisted living facility to house a senior with a terminal illness will largely depend on the amount of support, both medical and in the form of caregiver assistance, that they will need as their illness progresses. Some assisted living locations will offer palliative care or hospice care, while others may allow outside skilled nurses to fill these roles. Some locations won’t accept terminally ill residents of any form, and some states also have specific restrictions on where hospice or palliative care can be administered.

Certain states bar assisted living facilities from extending hospice care services to their residents. Montana, Mississippi, Idaho, and North Dakota have laws in place that prevent those who are terminally ill and those that have chosen the route of hospice care from residing in an assisted living community. These seniors will need to enroll in a skilled nursing care home, a hospital, or remain in their private home. End of life care for those with a terminal illness such as palliative care is allowed at most assisted living facilities, but it is a good idea to double-check with your current or planned location if this is a concern.

Questions That Terminally Ill Seniors Should Ask the Assisted Living Facility

Terminally ill seniors must take great care when selecting a long-term care facility. Where a senior will reside depends on that senior's particular care needs and their future needs as their illness takes its course. Some terminal illnesses allow seniors to live a relatively normal life with only minimal additional assistance, while other conditions may require an increasing amount of medical support.

There are certain questions you should ask each assisted living facility you are considering. Ask the assisted care facility about their policies regarding patient care, hospice, palliative care, and alternative therapies. Find out if the location offers a care plan or other options for aging in place. Depending on the size of the location, the assisted living community may be able to transfer a resident to their upgraded care section. Ask about discharge policies, end of life regulations, and also inquire about state regulations. Some location will have strict rules that dictate at which point a senior must transfer to a skilled nursing care facility, while others may be equipped to manage a senior up until the end of their life.

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