What is an assisted living facility?
An assisted living facility provides housing to seniors who require help with day-to-day, self-care and custodial tasks. They may differ greatly in the services and floorplans they offer, but assisted living typically comes with the following:
- 24-hour supervision
- Help with personal care, including dressing, bathing, eating and toileting
- Three meals every day
- Help with managing medication, including administering medication
- Housekeeping and maintenance
- Social services
- Wellness activities, including exercise programs
- Spiritual and recreational programs
- Help with laundry and linens
- Help with arranging transportation
In addition to the above, many assisted living facilities also provide support and supervision for seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Is an assisted living facility the same thing as a nursing home?
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities do share some similarities, but they serve two different types of residents. Some assisted living communities do offer additional medical care services, but most focus on custodial care and supervision. Nursing homes are more appropriate for seniors with medical conditions that require constant monitoring. As such, they staff skilled nurses and provide additional medical resources for their residents, which may not be required for seniors who just need some extra help.
Also, nursing homes may have a sterilized appearance due to the care they provide, while assisted living facilities are designed to look more like a nice apartment community.
Why should seniors and their families consider assisted living?
Assisted living offers several advantages to seniors, even those that only need minimal custodial care. Some of those advantages include:
As seniors age, it can become tough to maintain a balanced diet and monitor nutrition. The effort required to travel to the grocery store and cook a meal may be too much, especially among seniors with mobility issues.
Assisted living facilities provide healthy meals for their residents and monitor nutrition intake, so if supplements are needed, they can be provided. However, many communities offer units that have kitchenettes in them, for seniors that enjoy doing their own cooking. In either case, seniors have easy access to healthy food, which isn’t always the case for seniors aging in place.
With age, it become more difficult for seniors to maintain a social life. Family moves away and grandchildren grow up. It can be tough to get outside and travel, so visits with friends may become infrequent. This isolati on can be distressing for many people, including seniors.
Assisted living gives seniors many opportunities for socializing. Mealtimes are generally communal affairs, so seniors meet to eat and catch up with each other. Assisted living communities also schedule entertainment and encourage seniors to meet others to share games, listen to music or exercise.
Safety and peace of mind
Many assisted living facilities are designed for safety, from intruders and from seniors wandering away from the area. Continuous supervision, often in a special wing, is also available for seniors suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, so families know that their loved ones are safe.
Further, assisted living facilities also respond to maintenance requests, so if something stops working, there’s no need to rely on a stranger to handle the fix.
Some assisted living facilities provide regular transportation to grocery stores, shopping centers and community events. Seniors have opportunities to get out and about without getting behind the wheel.
What should seniors and their families look for in an assisted living facility?
There is a lot of variety among assisted living facilities, so most seniors can find a community that fits them well. When searching for a facility, there are a few things to consider, such as:
All assisted living facilities provide meals, custodial care and other essential features. More than half provide special care for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Some go further and offer additional quality-of-life enhancements, like community trips, art sessions and the like.
Number of residents
There are few limits on how many, or few, residents an assisted living facility can serve. Some serve fewer than 10 people, while others have hundreds of residents. More important is the staff-to-resident ratio, as some seniors need more care and attention than others.
Availability of advanced care
Eventually, some seniors will need more care than what is provided at a typical assisted living facility. Transitioning someone from a community they are invested in, though, to a nursing home can be extremely distressing. That’s why an increasing number of communities are combining assisted living and nursing care, so once residents need it, they can move from custodial care and receive skilled nursing.
When touring an assisted living facility, ask to speak to some of the residents and get their experiences. It is also important to note if there are any restrictions on visitations and if custodial care is provided around the clock. Finally, while elder abuse is uncommon, many assisted living facilities have training and policies in place to detect and prevent it. Check with the facility to see if they have such policies in place.
Assisted living facilities are a popular option for seniors and their families. For seniors, they offer much needed care, a community to get involved in and relief from many menial tasks. For families, they find peace in knowing that help and care is always available for their loves ones.