Many retirees avoid assisted living because they see it as the equivalent of a nursing home. In the past, going into such a community meant losing independence and freedom over your life, but this is no longer the case. In fact, today’s assisted living communities can be vibrant and active.
The Difference Between Assisted Living and a Nursing Home
Assisted living homes are essentially supervised homes that offer support above and beyond a traditional community. Residents in assisted living homes may receive meals through the facility, engage in planned activities, and can receive help with daily tasks such as taking medicine and getting ready for the day. The homes are designed to provide elderly citizens with a social community and a semi-independent lifestyle.
Most assisted living homes do not, however, offer expansive medical programs or health care provided assistance. Some may have a licensed health care provider on premises, but the law does not require these facilities to offer medical care. In fact, nurses on many of these properties cannot legally provide comprehensive nursing assistance.
Nursing homes, on the other hand, offer medical support for individuals who don’t require the care of a hospital staff but who cannot function properly in a home or assisted living environment. They are licensed medical facilities offering around the clock care for residents.
Assisted living homes provide the perfect opportunity for seniors to transition away from a personal home environment into a space with a social environment, assistance, and freedom from home maintenance.
When to Think About Assisted Living
Adult children often help aging parents make the decision to move into a different living environment. A senior may not have much trouble with mobility or daily chores but will still benefit from assisted living. Living in a home, particularly alone, can be isolating and slowly lead to depression. The social aspect really stands out as a benefit of modern assisted living centers. Maintaining a strong social life improves the health and wellbeing of individuals of all ages and particularly in keeping seniors healthy and mentally alert.
In addition to the social benefits, assisted living is an ideal environment for seniors who may struggle with weakness, severe arthritis, or a chronic disease such as diabetes. At an assisted living home, seniors and their loved ones don’t have to worry about getting through the day without falling, maintaining the house, or driving to the store with increasingly poor vision.
Assisted living also provides a transitional environment for people experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s. Wandering, home safety, and increasing caretaker needs are all signs that a loved one needs additional support.
Finding the Right Assisted Living Home
Assisted living environments vary widely in the services and amenities they offer. Experiencing the environment firsthand is an important step in finding the right assisted living home for yourself or a loved one. Consider:
● Cleanliness. In assisted living homes, housekeeping takes care of all or some laundry, vacuuming, and other cleaning activities. Look at the facility carefully for indications that the facility does not maintain a high standard of cleanliness. Odors, dust, and resident feedback can help you identify potential problems.
● Friendliness. An assisted living home will usually put on a good face while they’re selling. Take time to watch caretakers interact with the current residents. If the staff seem too preoccupied to listen, they may not provide the best emotional care for the people who live there. Talk to management about the company’s mission, core values, and their approach to daily activities.
● The food. Nobody wants to live somewhere with terrible food and limited dining hours. Eat at the facility to experience the quality of the food and the food staff’s assistance. While you’re there, talk to some residents about their experiences on the property.
● Safety. Safety is a top concern in any group home environment. Look at lighting, emergency procedures, fire safety precautions, staff hours, and nighttime security. Some assisted living centers have limited visiting hours while others provide a more open environment.
● Price. Retirees and adult children must carefully balance the price of a facility with the value. Assisted living communities can be costly, especially if the community provides a range of amenities. Medicare may offer some financial assistance, but consider planning ahead for future assisted living needs.
● Amenities. Once you’ve explored basic care, think about what daily life will be like for you or your loved one. If church is important, ask about onsite or offsite services. Find out about available transportation into town, the types of activities offered, and any above-and-beyond services such as an onsite salon or massage therapy.
Other Living Environments
Assisted living may still threaten a senior’s independence too much. Seniors can also choose a continuing care retirement community, which works a little differently. These communities provide care on a continuum. Retirees can move into the community and maintain full independence but still have access to some senior community amenities.
As needed, they can transition to an assisted living area and then into a nursing home without moving into a completely new environment. These communities strike a balance between finding a social community and receiving the care every aging individual may ultimately need.
Preparing for the Move
Choosing to move into an assisted living environment does not mean that a senior is giving up or getting ready to move into a nursing home. In fact, many individuals enjoy moving into an environment that better supports their emotional and physical needs and they may never need to transition to a nursing home.
Turn the process into an adventure, and focus on the benefits of a move. Seniors can go and come as they please, receive freshly cooked meals every day, and meet new people along the way. The right community will feel like a natural transition and not like a forced experience.