Assisted Living Facilities
Research shows that assisted living improves health and happiness for seniors. It provides a secure environment, supervised nutrition, significant opportunities for social activity, but also independence. Nonetheless, taking this step can be difficult or even frightening, whether you are an elderly looking for a facility or you are interested in enlisting your loved one. With so many options available, it is important to know exactly what the key-aspects of high-quality assisted living are to ensure that you or your relative will enjoy a safe and caring future home. To find out what these features are and more, read the comprehensive guide below.
What is Assisted Living?
When old age sets in we want to be able to feel healthy, peaceful and comfortable, as well as to be reassured that we are not alone and will be taken care of. However, we also want to still keep our freedom and remain as self-sufficient as possible. This is where assisted living comes in – offering a combination of housing, social support, meals and twenty-four-hour supervision, this type of care allows your loved one to receive the help they deserve, without them feeling constrained or smothered.
Aimed at seniors over the age of 55, assisted living facilities provide basic activities of daily living and create a restful, cozy atmosphere for its residents. The latter will be prepared three meals every day and will be receiving routine help with laundry, grooming, dressing and housekeeping. In addition, certain health-related services are also implemented or further accommodations are made at the client’s request (such as offering reminders or medical assistance). The size of the facility is largely dependent on your chosen location and community – some organizations put forth hefty campuses or buildings with hundreds of residents, whereas others have a collection of small houses.
The difference between Nursing Homes and Assisted Living
It is essential to understand that assisted living facilities do not offer the same services you would find in a nursing home. The former does offer supervision, care and specific accommodations, but it does not provide complex medical services. They also have a more homey setting, such as an apartment or one-bedroom model. On the other hand, nursing homes are primarily centered on full-time healthcare. They are more expensive, but they also offer nursing care and have a trained staff available 24/7. These facilities are designed for seniors who need constant medical care and are in a more severe condition than the standard assisted living candidate. It is important to note, however, that nursing homes are mostly geared towards solving or managing health issues and do not emphasize social activity, comfort, breathing space and creating a sheltered atmosphere as much as an assisted living facility would.
When is it time to join an Assisted Living facility?
There should be no rush in joining a senior care facility. This is a decision that should not be taken lightly, without weighing the cons and benefits of the different types of help available. It is crucial to analyze and compare the features provided by various locations in order to ensure that they match the individual needs and wishes of your loved one. Here are a few reasons or signs that it might be time to transition to a home which offers supervised care – decreasing health or mobility that can lead to in-house accidents or falls, isolation and loneliness, difficulties with maintaining proper nutrition, a desire to receive assistance with improving physical fitness, and health conditions which do not allow for personal care.
When it comes to assisted living facilities, most residents are seniors (predominantly women) which can no longer live alone or take care of themselves. This is due either to old age, mental health issues, diseases which affect cognition or other specific health conditions. If you or your loved one require help in order to perform one or more activities of daily living (such as bathing, dressing, toileting, moving around the house, eating or maintaining continence), then you should consider enlisting for an assisted living facility.
How do you know if Assisted Living is right for you?
Before making a final decision on the type of senior care you or your loved one will enlist for, it is essential to compare cost, efficiency, reputation and location of the various facilities currently on the market. Aside from assisted living, other options you can pursue include independent living, nursing homes and Alzheimer’s care. All of these have specific features and are designed to meet different needs for individual patients. Here you will find the unique aspects related to assisted living in order to make your decision process easier and the transition as hassle-free as possible.
While independent living offers seniors an active and thriving social community, it is usually targeted for those who need little to no assistance. On the other hand, there are also home health services which provide physical therapy, part-time assistance or hospice in the comfort of your own home. The staff generally includes nurses, social workers or therapists. Another option is the CCRC or the Continuing Care Retirement Communities, which put forth luxurious mansions or houses, a tight-knit social circle of like-minded seniors and life care models for residents.
For sufferers of dementia, Alzheimer’s or other health conditions which affect cognitive function, there is memory care. These facilities provide specialized help, highly-trained professionals and a patient-centered approach. If your relative needs uninterrupted supervision, then nursing homes are also an alternative and are ideal for those seeking rehabilitative therapy. Residents will also benefit from equipment, medication and other resources which are otherwise only found in hospitals (and are not part of other types of care regimens).
Assisted living offers personalized services, with emphasis on daily living and social interaction. They are intended for seniors who cannot live alone and want the convenience and reassurance of a community, but who also want to keep their independence. This type of care provides apartment-style locations (either individual or neighboring other elderly residents), as well as additional home-care support. A typical home includes a private bed and bathroom, a dining room, a mini-kitchen and a common area for socializing and leisure. Using a rental model, assisted living offers a full-package when it comes to personal care services. If you or your relative need health care, but not to the extent of joining a nursing home, then this type of facility is the perfect choice for you.
What are the types of care at an Assisted Living facility?
The main benefit of assisted living is that it makes the transition to senior communities smooth, relaxing and easy for your loved one. When it comes to personal care, here are the main services provided to residents: transportation, assistance with personal needs like grooming, showering, dressing, eating, toileting or bathing, incontinence management, reminders, scheduling activities and escorting (helping residents attend meals or recreational activities within the home). Additionally, well-trained, professional staff is on-call every hour of the day for emergencies. Assisted living facilities also accept wheelchairs and may take in patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia as well. You can also request supplementary services, but these may require extra fees.
Compared to nursing homes, assisted living communities offer resort-like conditions. This includes three delicious meals with proper nutrition served every day, as well as snacks available outside of dining hours. Personal laundry is usually taken care of within the building and the residents benefit from housekeeping services. Moreover, the facilities frequently organize leisure activities and daily life enrichment programs. Depending on the location, you will be able to enjoy social and cultural events, educational classes, fitness workouts, evenings in the city with other residents and wellness programs.
Lastly, these facilities provide high-quality health services in order to ensure that residents stay in good shape, receive urgent care when needed and are able to manage any chronic conditions or diseases they may have. Although this differs from organization to organization, the staff will most likely include a licensed nurse which is available at any time in case of emergencies. Residents will also receive medication support, downtime if recovering from hospitalization or surgical intervention and consistent monitoring of their overall health.
Assisted living facilities are concerned with tailoring their services to meet individual needs and making patients as comfortable as possible. This means that your loved one would receive a personalized evaluation and a comprehensive, custom-made plan that will ensure they lead a healthy, happy and soothing life. There are also intervention programs in place in case of accidents or for weight management (tracking nutrition, exercise and making adjustments).
The transition to a senior care facility can be hard and intimidating. Receiving gifts, visitations or spending time with familiar faces can help residents enormously when it comes to fitting in and getting used to the environment. As such, assisted living communities offer family members options for a short-stay at the house. This means that you can accompany your loved one, spend additional time with them and help them accommodate in their new home. Furthermore, most facilities recognize the positive impact animals have on our mental health and allow residents to keep a pet as long as they are able to care for them. Seniors are also encouraged to bring personal belongings or even furnishings in order to make their new living space resemble their former homes. This helps accommodate patients and makes them feel safe and at ease.
The term assisted living is regulated in all fifty states. However, since it is complex and implies a number of different factors, the definition varies according to the state you are in. When looking for a home for your loved one, you need to take into account that each facility provides distinct levels of care. Remember that every community is unique. You should also keep in mind that a higher standard of licensing generally means better care.
How much does Assisted Living cost?
The average cost of an assisted living facility is $3,000 per month ($36,000 annually). However, the price for this type of care varies greatly depending on your location. For instance, states like Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts have the highest rates at $5,000 or more, whereas states like Alabama, Michigan or Kentucky are valued at a little under $3,000. The most expensive assisted living facilities are in Alaska (around the $6,000 mark), and the most low-cost are in Missouri (median monthly of $2,228).
What is included in this price and what expenses do these costs cover? Firstly, rent or mortgage will no longer be an issue as these are replaced by the assisted living fee. Meals are also part of the monthly payment, as well as utilities. The latter include water, heat, electricity, sewer and air conditioning. Maintenance is also covered – housekeeping, yard work, repairs or emergency interventions are all provided by the facility. Personal care is worth $15 per hour on average, but it can increase to up to $25 hourly, depending on the state you are in, as well as the resident’s health condition.
What if I can’t afford Assisted Living?
The safest way to have a peaceful and secure retirement is to plan ahead. Whatever stage you are at in your life, it is wise to begin thinking about the costs of senior care and your future home. If you are trying to take care of a loved one, it is best to create a budget beforehand and start saving early on. A useful tip is also to do your research well initially. Moving around from facility to facility because the previous ones were not high-quality, reliable or a good match is a surefire way to burn through your savings and also cause considerable distress to your family member. So make sure that you gather as much information about your desired location, visit the facility, meet the staff and do proper research before committing to it in order to avoid complications.
Nonetheless, sometimes life catches us off-guard and we are simply not financially prepared for such a costly agreement. If this is your situation, here are a few approaches you can take to minimize or receive support for the expenses of assisted living – you can use private or long-term care insurance, get financial advice from a professional, change the location of the facility (certain states are cheaper than others) or ask the community if the price is flexible or negotiable. You can also share a room with another senior and split the costs. If you are a veteran, you may be a candidate for benefits – make sure you check with the Department of Veteran Affairs to find out if you are eligible.
How to choose an Assisted Living community
Finding the right facility for yourself or your loved one can be a lengthy and strenuous process. But it certainly pays off to put in the effort and do extensive research on the community you are about to join. There is an overwhelming number of options available, depending on where you currently live, which might make it hard and intimidating to choose the facility that is right for you. In order to make this process easier, we have prepared a list of key-points you should take into account before you make your final decision:
Safety comes first
First and foremost, a good assisted living facility should be able to ensure the safety of its residents. You can find out about the building’s security features, the guidelines of the community, as well as how medication is managed and what type of professionals will be on-call for emergencies by asking questions and checking with the staff. Additionally, you can look into emergency procedures and see what changes there are during the night. This is not only to help you or your loved one to gain peace of mind – security should always be your top priority, just as it would if you were searching for a private home or a new house.
Pay attention to your surroundings
During your visit, make sure you observe the overall environment of the facility and take mental notes regarding its cleanliness. How do the windows, rooms and furnishings look? Is there a fresh feel to the location? Are there any strange smells? If so, is this due to some recent incident or is it due to lack of sanitation? Feel free to ask the manager how often you will be receiving housekeeping services, as well as what the laundry and other maintenance procedures are.
Don’t overlook the staff
Oftentimes families see a facility that looks perfect on paper, offers luxurious accommodations or has a fairly positive reputation and decide on it without further investigation. Even though the building may be close by, the rooms spacious and modern-looking and the pricing in-budget, you should not jump the shark and commit to the community until you have taken a hard, cold look at the staff. A facility can be everything you’ve ever wanted in terms of features, but as long as personal care is neglected and the staff is rude, irresponsible or abusive, enlisting for it can be a costly and damaging mistake. It is essential that you interact with the staff there to see if you are a good fit, as well as observe how they treat other residents before joining. You can also meet with the manager in order to get a better grasp of the facility’s objective.
Check with other residents and families
A great way to get objective feedback on an assisted living facility is simply by asking the residents who already live there or the seniors who have lived there the longest about it. You can also get in touch with some of the families there and ask for an honest opinion on the community. This will help you uncover any potential problems or shortcomings of the location and either determine you to change your mind about a certain place or to be more prepared for future issues. You can also check how your desired facility ranks on many websites, as well as read several in-depth reviews from former or current residents. This will help you get a better feel of your future home and can also be of significant assistance if you cannot choose between two different locations.
Test it out – what is it like to live there?
The best approach to knowing if a certain community is suitable for you or your loved one is to actually experience what it would be like to live there. So take a walk with some of the other residents, eat a meal at the property and come over during one of the scheduled activities to see what it is like. You can learn a lot about dining hours and menu options by doing this, but also whether or not the recreational events match any of your interests. Remember that if you are searching for a home for a relative, then you should take into account what appeals to them and what serves their needs and preferences, not yours. Try to focus on what they want instead of what would work best for you in a certain situation. Do not forget to also visit the outdoor area and ask about safety procedures. If the location does not include this, you might want to consider a different facility (depending on your loved one’s desires).
Don’t underestimate the importance of pricing
When it comes to assisted living, you need to think of the costs from a lifelong perspective. This means that more expensive accommodations, albeit beneficial, might not fit into your long-term budget. You may need to make adjustments and compromise on certain features in order to afford housing over a longer period of time.
Location is not as important as you think
Many families settle for mediocre or subpar communities simply because they are near their neighborhood. While it is important to be in the vicinity of your loved one and transportation is indeed faster and makes it easier to keep in touch, you should never compromise on quality or social environment for the sake of location. The few extra visits you would pay your loved one will not make up for poor living conditions, inadequate care or isolation due to not fitting in with the other residents. Keep your relative’s best interest in mind even if it might cause you slight inconveniences.
What do I look for in an Assisted Living facility?
You might still be confused as to what specific questions you should ask the staff at your chosen facility. Or maybe you need some guidance on the checklist of a high-quality assisted living community. Here are the main aspects you should consider before making your final decision:
- Are the building and interior rooms clean?
- Is the neighborhood pleasant and peaceful?
- Does the location have a safe outdoor area?
- How is the pricing compared to my budget?
- Is there any dirt or strange odor in the area?
- Do the residents look well-groomed, friendly, and happy?
- Is the staff friendly and qualified?
- Are there any scheduled social activities that pique my interest?
- How are the services billed here?
- Can I own a pet here?
- Who is on-call at all times? Is it a registered nurse or another professional?
- What factors can force a resident to move out of the community?
- What happens to my residence if I am hospitalized for a longer period of time or have to undergo rehabilitation therapy?
- How many rooms are currently available?
- What are the visiting hours here?
- Are there any prohibited activities?
- Is there a contract available? A brochure, floor plan or a price list?
- Do the common spaces look suitable and appealing to you?
- Do residents here share a room or do they have private rooms?
- Do the dining rooms look clean and tempting?
- Does the cuisine cater to specific dietary needs?
- Can you find a posted schedule of recreational or social activities?
- Are the rooms easy to navigate?
- Is there any socialization outside of the programmed events and activities?
Making arrangements to move in
Once you have decided on a community, you will be given material to review about the location and will be asked to sign a contract. You will meet with the director of the facility and be provided with several documents. This is the final and most critical step: read carefully through every line of the contract and make sure you compare the information you have gathered on the facility with what is stated in the legal document. This file represents the conditions, treatment and setting that you are agreeing to live in, as well as the obligations you have to respect. Do not be fooled by marketing gimmicks or promises you might have been made – always read the document attentively and do not skip any details. If you have anything that is unclear, ask questions before signing. Also make sure that you wait a certain amount of time before sealing the deal – do not give your signature on the very first day of your visit or when you first see the contract. Think it through, take the file home with you and review it with family, friends or loved ones. You can also hire a lawyer or a financial advisor to help you read through it and make an informed decision.