Senior Guidance

What is assisted living

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What is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is a difficult choice for many families to make.  Assisted living centers will vary greatly in their price, amenities, health options, and room availabilities.  Determining whether your loved one is ready for assisted living is a personal decision made upon your particular needs and budget. 

Overview of Assisted Living

When looking to examine the need for assisted living, you may first ask “what is assisted living”?  The definition of assisted living is “housing for elderly or disabled people that provides nursing care, housekeeping, and prepared meals as needed”.  Just as the name implies, assisted living is a type of senior living in which people who require assistance have the assistance they need to live healthfully and independently as possible, despite any medical or mental hardship. 

What is assisted living like? In generations past, housing for the elderly was mediocre at best.  Homes for the elderly or the handicapped were areas that lacked vitality and structure, were deemed unsafe, and unsanitary.  Through the need to improve the lives of seniors, assisted living homes and communities were developed.  Modern assisted living is not near the horrors of years past, and has been updated to reflect the modern medicine, technology, and housing options available.

An assisted living residence allows a person to remain in a home-like setting and as independent as possible, yet with help nearby in the event the need arises. 

For example, an assisted living home will have certified people on hand to dispense medicine and doctors to diagnosis and treat any ailments.  The assisted living home will also have a cafeteria and cooks on hand, meal service, and housekeeping.  Those who experience medical issues, mental health issues, or physical limitations will find an assisted living center has the support on hand to provide a clean and healthy life for those unable to complete all daily chores and tasks in a reliable and safe manner. Families are able to trust in the staff centered within the assisted living community and have a worry free existence in regards to the care of themselves or someone they love.

What is the difference between assisted living and nursing home?

Nursing homes are for people who need 24/7 medical and nursing care, while assisted living facilities provide only some nursing care. Nursing homes are ideal for those who are too frail to do most daily living activities by themselves. Assisted living, on the other hand, will be great for people who have some trouble with daily living activities, but not to the extent of what is required for nursing homes.

What is the difference between assisted living and independent living?

As its name implies, independent living is for senior citizens who are perfectly capable living on their own, while assisted living is for those who need some level of assistance with day to day activities. You can think of independent living communities as communities for seniors who are in general good health but want to be in a community and surrounded by people of similar age.

Is assisted living a good fit for my family?

When one is considering assisted living communities and facilities, there may be a lot of questions you have and need answers to.  Some of these questions may be:

What is assisted living?
How much does assisting living generally cost?
What does assisting living offer?
What is not included in assisting living?
Who is assisted living for?

The answers to these questions are addressed here, and will be discussed as generally as possible to ensure you have the information you are looking for and in one place.  The needs for assisted living homes range just as much as the benefits of the communities.  To best determine the right fit for you or a loved one, be sure to be fully understanding of all the needs required by the assisted living resident.

What is the cost of assisted living?

The cost of assisted living will vary, depending upon the needs of the resident and their family.  Costs related to assisted living centers in your area also vary depending upon the location, and whether health insurance is available to the resident.  Those who are of decent cognitive ability and have limited physical ability may pay less for their assisted living community services than someone who is bed ridden or suffering from dementia. 

Depending upon your individual requirements, an assisted living residence can cost from $1500 a month to more than $10,000 a month.  Medical insurance pays for some costs, on occasion, if you have the specific plan for assisted living.  In the event your insurance does not cover this need, you are expected to pay for the services out of pocket.  Those with military service fare better than others in this regard, and may qualify for more than $1500 per month in aid to cover costs.  There are also agencies available to help those on Medicaid better afford a quality assisted living plan.

How do you pay for assisted living facilities?

Just as cost will vary depending upon need, location, and services, the methods of payment will also vary.  Paying for services via health insurance or long term care insurance would be the best option for payment, if applicable.  Insurance will pay the bulk of the care cost as well as medical equipment in many cases.  Veteran’s benefits are also beneficial in the care of your loved one.  If the person requiring care has served in the military, be sure to determine if Veteran’s benefits are available.  Medicaid is another option of payment for assisted living for those who use this insurance. 

In the person looking to live in the assisted living home is without insurance, VA benefits, or Medicare, cash and savings are used for the final billing process in an assisted living community.  Those within each individual home will have a separate method of acceptable payments and plans available. 

What does assisting living offer?

Assisted living communities offer residents and their families the peace of mind knowing their loved one is cared for and safe throughout the day and night. The assisted centers tend to have locked doors with alarms to prevent anyone from wandering out and becoming lost. Assisted living homes also offer on staff medical help, as well as the company and social experiences needed to keep loneliness at bay.

The assisted living resident may find they become more social, physically fit, and energetic during their stay due to the many planned social events and field trips taken by those living there.  The assisted living center's staff are not only there to keep the resident healthy and safe, but also to provide a stronger social network and support system to prevent further cognitive and physical decline.

How do I find an assisted living facility that fits our needs?

Looking into a moving your loved one into an assisted living facility is a major change and can seem overwhelming.  The process of moving is stressful, but determining the right assisted living home can add to the stress and compound fears.  When looking for retirement facilities near you, and determing who you can trust, be sure to look for the following:

  • Facility that is close to family, friends, and social obligations
  • Facility in line with current quality of life
  • A facility that encourages the value system the resident believes in
  • Visit facilities that have been referred to you by family and friends
  • Ask your trusted doctor for a referral
  • Be sure the senior living home is able to meet the safety needs of the resident as well as the medical needs
  • Read as much as possible about assisted living communities in your area

Assisted living community visits

When visiting facilities that have been deemed appropriate for your unique circumstances, there are many areas of concern to look for before determining if the facility is right for you.  When visiting the assisted facility and meeting the staff, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • How long has the assisted living community been in place?
  • Are there current or past infractions?
  • Have all the staff members been trained in the event of an emergency?
  • Are the doors locked?
  • How are the rooms secured?
  • Does this assisted living community offer the medical attention required?
  • How is the staff turnover rate?
  • Are the staff members friendly and supportive?

While the home itself and the staff are important to interview and be comfortable with, the actions of the current residents may also be taken into account.  The residents of the assisted living residence generally tell the truth more than a staff member with other interests may be incline to do.  Watching and speaking with current members of the assisted living community can be a good indicator of the overall health and wellness the home offers its residents.

Take away knowledge from the visit

During and after your visit to a prospective assisted living residence, be sure to take the following into account:

  • Are residents happy and engaged?
  • Are families pleased with the treatment of their family member?
  • How is the assisted living facility beneficial to your family?
  • Is the facility clean and smelling fresh?
  • Is staff friendly, caring, trust worthy and trained?
  • Is the food well balanced, cooked thoroughly and according to potential dietary or religious restrictions?
  • Are there enough medical personnel on hand?
  • How much social and recreation time will be made available to residents?

What is not included in assisting living?

Depending upon the assisted living facility you choose, there may be items and services not included in the plan of the home.  There are many residences that do not include direct medical care at all times; rather than have a doctor on staff 24 hours, a doctor may be on staff during day hours, then on call during the night.  Some assisted living communities may not plan social outings and gatherings or guarantee the mental help needed to prevent depression and isolation.

Who is assisted living for?

Assisted living residences are for a variety of people and their individual needs.  Some may be in assisted living for a short time, recovering from an injury or illness.  Other residents may require a longer stay in assisted living due to a variety of factors.  Those who reside best in an assisted living center are those who are mostly able and relatively independent.

When looking into assisted living care, one should need help in personal tasks and personal care more than any other circumstance.  For example, some may need help in the shower, getting dressed, tying shoes, or cooking, whereas the resident is otherwise independent and capable.

Assisted living is for anyone who needs an extra hand to help themselves or a loved one with their life’s tasks.  Everyday chores such as cooking, cleaning, shopping, and yard work may become too difficult for those with physical and mental limitations, and by utilizing the services of an assisted living residence, one may be better able to live an independent life free from worry.  Without the need to do all of one’s own chores, one is able to focus on the joys of life and in socializing.  One may also be freer to take on a new hobby, or retrain parts of the body that have been injured or required surgery.  Another aspect of needing assisted living services is when dementia sets in and a person is less likely to be trusted to be safe at home.  Assisted living centers can help those with mental limitations by keeping dementia sufferers away from dangers such as stoves, heaters, hot water, and unlocked doors.

Types of services offered in assisted living facilities

Services of assisted living communities vary greatly depending upon location, needs of the residents, and overall values of the community.  In all assisted living centers the basics of safety and care are covered.  Laundry and room cleaning, shopping and meal planning should also be offered in a reputable assisted living residence.

In addition to the basics, other services may be offered such as:

  • Exercise classes
  • Field trips
  • Continuing education
  • School visits
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Hair care and salon visits
  • Massage
  • Water therapy
  • Pet care

In our modern times, pet therapy has been thought to be a valuable asset to young and old, sick and well.  Therapy pets are often welcomed into the assisted living center for their therapeutic benefits and their potential to relieve depression, anxiety, and loneliness among resident.  Many centers also allowed residents to bring their personal pets into the assisted living community when becoming a resident.  Pet care is a growing industry and the assisted living communities have not taken this fact lightly.

There are also centers that provide a luxurious experience for those accustomed to a certain lifestyle.  The basic services are offered, but also high end design, food, activities, and transportation are provided.  These centers are not the most common type of assisted residential homes, but the options are there for those who require high end services.



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