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Understanding Senior Care
What is Assisted Living
Assisted living provides long-term housing and care for seniors. Assisted living residents are generally active but may need support with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, and using the restroom. Seniors in assisted living can expect personalized care, nutritious meals, a wide range of social activities to cater to a variety of interests, and a sense of community in a safe, residential setting.
What are the benefits of assisted living?
Peace of mind for families and improved quality of life for seniors are just a few of the many benefits of assisted living. While each community is different, assisted living offers services and amenities to focus on important aspects of senior wellness, including physical health, intellectual stimulation, and social connection. These three foundational pillars help slow cognitive decline and keep seniors healthier and happier longer.
Assisted Living Services vary by community, but many include the following.
- Assistance with hygiene and personal care
- Mobility assistance
- Health care coordination
- Transportation to appointments
- Medication management
- Social activities and outings
- Nutritious meals & diet accommodations
- Housekeeping and laundry services
- Social activities
- Exercise and wellness classes
- Medication management
- Help with daily activities (ADLs)
- Specialized care for patients with memory loss
- 24-hour care and supervision
- Secured entrances and exits to prevent wandering
- Unique facility layout and design to reduce confusion
Assisted living residents receive the support they need while enjoying the regular company of other seniors and staff members. Many facilities offer comfort and convenience and eliminate the need for transportation by facilitating access to necessary personal items and services.
Assisted living amenities vary among communities, but some may include the following.
- Beauty salons and barbershops
- Movie theater
- Communal garden or courtyard
- Pool or spa
- Fitness center
- Chapel or chapel services
- Private event spaces
What's the difference between assisted living and other senior care types?
Assisted living is a fast-growing type of senior care. More than 800,000 Americans live in an assisted living facility, according to the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA NCAL). While other senior care types may offer similar services to assisted living, there are some important differences worth noting.
Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes
Assisted living and nursing homes differ in many ways, although some people may think of these two senior care types as synonymous. Both assisted living and nursing homes offer housing, meal services, and help with ADLs, such as bathing, toileting, and walking. One of the biggest differences is that seniors in assisted living don’t require skilled nursing services like people in nursing homes.
Assisted living residents are generally active seniors who remain relatively independent apart from certain specific daily tasks. While they may have some health problems, seniors in assisted living don’t require 24-hour medical care and supervision. They may be interested in a maintenance-free lifestyle in a vibrant community that offers a variety of social activities and opportunities to stay engaged with friends and peers.
Like assisted living, nursing homes also offer activities for residents, but assisted living facilities usually have more diverse options to cater to all tastes and preferences, including exercise classes, cooking workshops, outings to theaters, and more. The lifestyle at an assisted living facility is very different when compared to a nursing home. Assisted living accommodations may feel homier and more spacious, while nursing home residents often must share a hospital-like room.
The cost of care at nursing homes is also significantly higher when compared to assisted living. This is because seniors at nursing homes often need a higher level of care than what is offered even at a luxury assisted living community. In fact, seniors need a physician’s prescription to be admitted to a nursing home. Some may be debilitated and need intensive skilled care and supervision. Others may be bedridden or need a feeding tube.
Assisted Living vs. Memory Care
Like assisted living, memory care is also a residential facility that provides meals and help with daily activities. The main difference between assisted living and memory care is the specialized support memory care facilities offer for people with memory loss.
Assisted living may be a good solution for some seniors with early-stage dementia or Alzheimer’s. However, as their symptoms worsen, they’ll likely need the support offered at memory care facilities. Memory care staff receive regular, thorough training in dementia care to help prevent and manage difficult dementia behaviors, like sundown syndrome. Memory care also provides a secure environment with locked entrances and spaces designed to prevent wandering, along with memory-enhancing therapies to help seniors keep their cognitive skills as long as possible. Increased security, specialized staff, and more one-on-one time for residents make care at memory care facilities significantly more expensive when compared to assisted living.
Many assisted living facilities also offer memory care. These communities may have a separate wing designated for residents with memory loss, where trained staff provide the care, therapies, and support elderly adults with memory loss need. The transition to memory care may be easier for these seniors as they’re able to stay in the same community even as their disease progresses. Bellerose Senior Living is an example of assisted living home that accepts memory care and dementia patients for complete continuity of care.
Assisted Living vs. Independent Living
Independent living and assisted living cater to different senior needs. Both senior living options offer safe, senior-friendly housing and amenities, with social activities, outings, and restaurant-style meals. However, independent living differs from assisted living as it doesn’t provide help with activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing, and grooming. This means independent living is often less expensive than assisted living.
Independent living is for older adults who can live on their own, but may desire convenience, community, and peace of mind. Independent living communities provide many on-site opportunities for community involvement and social engagement without the difficulty of arranging transportation. It also offers a maintenance-free lifestyle, where seniors can choose to delegate household chores like laundry and housekeeping, so they can spend more time pursuing their passions.
Assisted Living vs. Home Care
Home care offers care for seniors who wish to age in place and provides support and respite for caregivers. Home care aides are trained in senior care and can provide companionship, help with ADLs, light housekeeping, cooking, transportation, and more. However, home care differs from assisted living when it comes to socialization, intellectual stimulation, and cost.
Socialization. While home care offers one-on-one care tailored to individual needs, seniors in assisted living enjoy a variety of social programs and outings in a community of peers.
Intellectual stimulation. Assisted living facilities offer classes and continuing learning opportunities for seniors that home care can’t provide, including art and craft studios, cooking workshops, brain games, and more.
Cost. The level of care provided by home care aides is based on needs, and costs are calculated by the type of care provided. Home care fees are charged by the hour. This means that home care may be an expensive alternative to assisted living, depending on how much care is needed.
Caring for an aging loved one at home may also require modifications to make their home safe and accessible. These could include simple additions such as grab bars, to more costly and difficult updates, including ramps, wider doorways, chair lifts, walk-in showers, and elevators.
Is assisted living right for my loved one?
Assisted living is for older adults who need some help with personal care. It’s common for senior assisted living staff to provide help with bathing, dressing, toileting, bed transfers, and more. For most asking themselves whether it’s time to consider assisted living, the question becomes one of safety and quality of life for both care givers and senior loved ones. Stress and exhaustion among senior care givers are very common problems with significant consequences.
Older adults in assisted living often have a health condition that limits their ability to live independently, but they’re generally active and engaged. Common health conditions among assisted living residents include high blood pressure, arthritis, heart disease, and early dementia. Relying on an assisted living facility with staff trained to support the conditions of aging, provide socialization and handle daily living tasks for your loved one can offer tremendous ease of mind and a best care scenario—for both of you. More info
Assisted living may be the right choice for your aging loved one if they:
- Need help with personal care, such as bathing and grooming
- Don’t require 24-hour nursing care
- Need help managing medications
- Are at increased risk of falling
- Feel isolated or lonely
- Want to be a part of a community of peers
- Enjoy social activities and programs, but don’t have transportation
- Prefer a maintenance-free lifestyle
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What are assisted living requirements?
Before determining whether assisted living is the right choice for your aging loved one, it’s important to understand the requirements for admission at a senior living facility. Unlike skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities don’t require a physician’s prescription for admission.
While each facility has their own admission process, most will:
Review your loved one’s medical history to get a complete picture of your loved one’s health.
Perform a functional assessment to fully understand the potential resident’s skills and care needs.
Develop a care plan to outline what type of care services will be provided.
Require admission forms to be filled out before moving in.
When is it time for assisted living?
Some families may struggle with the decision to transition a parent to senior assisted living, but there may come a time when it’s no longer safe for a senior loved one to live on their own. As you call or visit, pay attention to signs that your aging relative may need help.
A decline in cognition — the ability to think clearly, learn new skills, and remember — may lead to unsafe and sometimes life-threatening behaviors. When visiting a parent, look for signs of cognitive impairment:
Do they seem more forgetful or confused?
Have you noticed mood swings or changes?
Do they often lose their train of thought during conversations?
Are they getting lost in familiar places?
Do they seem more anxious or irritable?
Do they lack energy or motivation?
Are they depressed?
You may also notice changes in your loved one’s appearance and hygiene that indicate it may be time to talk about a different living arrangement. For example, you may notice your parent has unintentionally lost weight quickly. Sudden weight loss in seniors could be a sign of a serious medical problem, but it may also signal depression, cognitive problems, or behavioral changes that impede good nutrition, like limited mobility or financial constraints.
If a loved one who’s typically well-groomed looks disheveled, or if their usually clean house seems cluttered, dirty, or disorganized, these could be warning signs that it may be time for assisted living.
Families who are caring for an aging loved one at home may find living with their parent isn’t working out and may realize this living arrangement is hurting their relationship. Or they may reach a point when the stress of caregiving is affecting the caregiver’s health.
Caring for an aging relative vs. assisted living
Caring for an aging relative is a major commitment that can sometimes cause friction. It’s important to consider several factors:
Can you provide the care your parent needs? Some people may be willing to do the laundry and clean but may not feel comfortable providing the personal care a parent needs, such as bathing and toileting.
Is caregiving affecting your relationship with your spouse and children? Caregiving is time-consuming. Is providing care for a loved one straining your other relationships?
Are you feeling burnt out? Do you feel like you’ve been neglecting your own health? Caring for an aging loved one can put a caregiver at risk for stress, depression, and chronic conditions, like diabetes or heart disease.
If you can’t care for an aging parent any longer, it may be time to consider assisted living. While many caregivers feel guilty about their decision, it’s important to remember that moving your loved one to senior living may result in improved relationships, health, and quality of life for both yourself and your aging loved one.
We’re available to talk about your concerns.
If you need further guidance on finding which community is the best Assisted Living facility is right for you or your loved one, don't hesitate to call us today! Our loving staff is on standby to answer all of your questions, and give you the absolute best advice, and consultation that you could get anywhere.
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