What is Assisted Living?
An assisted living home is a residential environment for seniors who want to remain independent while receiving assistance with performing everyday activities. Assisted living provides seniors with access to medical care, as well as a wide range of useful services, quality amenities, and enjoyable activities. Each assisted living home offers its own unique accommodations designed to fulfill the needs, preferences, and budgets of seniors who can benefit from living in this community setting.
In this write up, we will go over some assisted living basics to help you learn more and make the best choice.
What Are the Benefits of Assisted Living?
Assisted living offers a number of benefits for seniors who want to remain independent, have fun, and stay socially active while reducing the burden of caregiving on their loved ones. Here are key benefits associated with senior assisted living.
Help with Daily Living Activities
Assisted living homes can help seniors with performing routine daily activities such as bathing, grooming, getting dressed, taking medications, and eating at least three healthy meals per day. Many of these tasks can become more difficult with age, especially for those with health conditions such as vision loss, cognitive decline, and arthritis. The caregivers at assisted living homes can help seniors perform these tasks and will work with each senior individually to come up with a daily routine and schedule that works best for them.
Access to Medical Care
Assisted living facilities are typically ideal for independent seniors in good relative physical and mental health who may need help performing specific tasks and activities. However, the older adult population tends to be more vulnerable to illness, disease, falls, and injuries as they continue to age. Assisted living homes provide seniors with access to medical care in the event their health situation changes abruptly, as well as when age-related or chronic medical conditions require more intensive medical care. Many senior living communities are equipped and designed to quickly adapt to their residents' ever-changing health needs.
Nutritious foods contribute to improved overall physical and mental health, and can stave off health conditions common among older adults, such as dementia and osteoporosis. Assisted living facilities offer healthy, nutritious meals often prepared by gourmet chefs and served in large dining rooms where residents can socialize with friends, family, and other residents. Cooking can grow more challenging with age and become tiresome when you're cooking only for yourself, but assisted living homes can make mealtimes more fun and joyous for all residents.
Less Home Maintenance
Vacuuming, dusting, doing laundry, mowing the lawn, and changing light bulbs are routine household chores as well as tasks that can become increasingly difficult with age. Moving to an assisted living home eliminates these burdens for seniors because staff members are available to either help with these tasks or take them over completely. Seniors can spend less time doing household chores while reducing their risk for accidents and injuries related to these tasks, and can devote more time to their favorite hobbies and to spending time with friends and loved ones.
What Are the Differences Among Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Skilled Nursing?
Senior living communities can be categorized as independent living communities, skilled nursing facilities, or assisted living communities, but what are the differences between each of these communities? Knowing how each facility works can help you choose the best residence for yourself or your senior loved one.
Independent living communities are highly similar to assisted living communities, but do not offer assistance with activities of daily living like grooming and bathing. The senior residents who live in independent living communities are fully self-sufficient and prefer to live among other seniors who share like-minded interests. These communities offer many of the same activities, services, and amenities as assisted living homes, such as social events, housekeeping, and fitness centers.
In contrast, assisted living facilities have staff on hand to assist with activities of daily living. These activities include bathing, personal hygiene, getting dressed, toileting, walking, and eating.
Skilled nursing facilities (informally known as nursing homes) offer a higher level of care and support for residents who have regular and/or intensive medical needs. Residents in skilled nursing facilities receive 24/7 supervision, medical care, and daily prepared meals. Skilled nursing facilities offer many of the same services and amenities as assisted living communities, but ensure that residents are properly taken care of at all times by caregivers, nurses, and medical staff. If you or your senior loved one needs only minor assistance with accomplishing certain daily tasks, consider choosing assisted living rather than nursing home care for greater independence and more freedom.
What Services and Amenities Are Available in an Assisted Living Community?
The primary service offered by all assisted living communities is assistance with daily living activities, such as bathing, grooming, dressing, and taking medications. However, each assisted living community offers a full range of other services and amenities designed to enhance the lives of its senior residents.
Many facilities offer essential services under one convenient roof to prevent seniors from having to drive or travel to outside destinations. Services typically available at assisted living homes include:
- Hair care (beauty salon and barbershop)
- Massage therapy
- Prepared, nutritious meals
- Medication management
- Health services
- Laundry and dry cleaning
- Linen service (changing bed sheets and towels)
- Housekeeping and maintenance
- Emergency services
- Social services
- Religious and spiritual services
- Driving and transportation
- Fitness training
- Security services
- Yard and lawn care
- Pet-grooming services
- Dog-walking services
Many of the staff members and caregivers who perform these services at assisted living homes are experienced and professionally trained to work with the older adult population. As a result, many seniors find that these services are highly enjoyable and satisfactory, and report developing good relationships with the staff members who provide them.
The types of amenities offered at assisted living homes also vary from one facility to the next. Assisted living communities share the common goal of making seniors feel as comfortable and as happy as possible by providing them with plenty of amenities that bring joy, excitement, meaning, and purpose to their lives.
Amenities available at many assisted living facilities include:
- Dining rooms (public and private)
- Computer rooms
- Game rooms
- Art rooms
- Music rooms
- TV and movie theater rooms
- Fitness center and gym
- Swimming pool, hot tub, and sauna
- Bar/lounge areas
- Mail room
- Pet-friendly areas (dog parks, dog runs)
- Keyed entries
- General store
- Walking paths
What Activities Are Available in an Assisted Living Community?
Every assisted living community offers its own set of activities for residents; therefore, it's important to choose a facility with activities that align with your personal interests or those of your senior loved one. The best-assisted living communities offer a wide variety of activities that can keep residents busy and stimulated each and every day. Keeping the mind and body active can also help slow or prevent the onset of memory loss, dementia, depression, loneliness, and chronic health problems including high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease.
Examples of activities available in an assisted living community include:
Workshops and education:
Clubs and meetings:
Before choosing an assisted living community, ask about the types of activities available and the frequency at which these activities take place. The best facilities should offer these activities to their residents every day or at least once per week.
Is an Assisted Living Home Right for Me?
If you are a senior who is ready to change your living environment, you may want to know whether you can benefit most from an assisted living home or another type of senior living environment. If you are caring for a senior friend or relative, you may want to know more about whether your loved one can benefit from assisted living.
An assisted living home may be ideal for you if you are capable of living on your own but need help performing specific daily tasks such as using the restroom, getting dressed, and remembering to take medications at the right times. An assisted living home may also be ideal if you do not suffer from any serious medical problems that require intensive care and continuous medical supervision.
Assisted living homes are a good choice for seniors who may feel lonely, have recently lost a spouse, or do not spend much time with friends and relatives. Assisted living homes can help these individuals rebuild their social lives, as well as offer fun, diverse activities that can bring excitement, new meaning, and purpose to those who feel as if they need positive changes in their lives. If you are a senior who wants to devote less time to maintaining your house and performing mundane tasks related to housework, an assisted living community may be the right fit.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when determining whether an assisted living home is right for you.
Do you struggle with performing everyday tasks, such as taking a bath or shower, or remembering to take your medications?
Do you want to reduce your homeowner responsibilities in regard to maintenance and repairs?
Do you want access to lots of fun activities and a new social community?
Do you want to reduce the burden of caregiving on your family?
Do you want to live in an environment that brings you closer to peers in the same age group?
Do you want to experience a seamless transition from assisted living to skilled nursing care when you need more help managing an existing health or medical condition?
If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, it may be time to start searching for assisted living homes near you.
What Are the Signs It May Be Time for Assisted Living?
When is the best time to transition from independent living to assisted living? Making the decision can be difficult, especially if you're feeling nervous or anxious about the idea of leaving your current home and moving into a new community. However, an assisted living community can have a major positive impact on your overall livelihood and well-being if you've been struggling with performing certain activities and with meeting other seniors in your current community.
Here are signs it may be time for you or your loved one to transition to assisted living.
Maintaining good nutrition can become more challenging with age, especially if it involves cooking, using complex kitchen appliances, and making frequent trips to the grocery store for fresh fruits and vegetables. Some seniors may lose the motivation to shop for healthy foods and cook healthy meals, and start reaching more frequently for convenient foods that are less healthy, such as frozen pizzas and fast-food hamburgers. Poor nutrition can be addressed and resolved at an assisted living home, where residents can be served healthy, nutritious meals at least three times per day.
Increased Bruising and Injuries
Seniors become more prone to experiencing falls and injuries as they get older. This may occur due to decreased balance and coordination, clutter in the home, side effects from medications, or weakened bone conditions such as osteoporosis. The increased presence of bruises and minor injuries in seniors can indicate it may be time to move to an assisted living community.
Decline in Personal Hygiene
Some seniors may experience difficulty with standing in the shower for long periods of time, or with getting in and out of a bathtub on their own, especially if they lack access to shower chairs or safety bars. These factors can make the idea of bathing stressful and unappealing. Additionally, shaving can become difficult for seniors with unsteady hands, while memory problems can make it tough to remember when one last showered. A decline in personal hygiene may be a sign that your senior loved one needs help performing these tasks at an assisted living home.
Untidy House and Yard
Piled-up trash, unpleasant odors, a sink full of dirty dishes, and a neglected lawn often indicate that household chores may have become too overwhelming for the resident. When visiting your senior loved one, take note of whether they have been staying on top of housework or gradually falling behind. Many assisted living communities provide housekeeping services to reduce the burden of housework on seniors.
Problems with Medication Adherence
Many seniors suffer from multiple health conditions that require the use of several prescription medications. A National Institutes of Health study published in 2015 reported that 40% of older adults in the United States use five or more prescription medications. Managing a high number of medications can be difficult for anyone regardless of age, but factors such as poor memory and eyesight are extra challenges seniors may face in regards to medication adherence. Signs of problems with medication adherence include increased hospitalizations, expired medications, and pillboxes that have been neglected; all of which can be addressed at an assisted living home.
Has your senior loved one been in one or more auto accidents or has their vehicle accumulated a number of new dents and scratches? If so, they may be experiencing difficulty with operating a vehicle and could benefit from having a personal driver or other means of transportation. Many assisted living communities offer driving services to help seniors perform important errands and tasks outside of their homes including rides to and from medical appointments.
Loss of Friends and Family
Seniors who live far from family members or who recently lost their spouses may experience increased feelings of loneliness and isolation. When not managed or addressed in healthy ways, these feelings can raise the risk for other serious problems such as depression and substance abuse. An assisted living community can pull seniors out of isolation and place them in warm, active environments where they can meet new people and avoid feeling lonely.
New or Worsening Health Problem
The diagnosis of a new health problem or the worsening of an existing health problem means that your senior loved one may need additional medications and treatments. In some instances, intensive care down the road may be inevitable. Assisted living communities have protocols in place to help seniors adjust and transition to skilled nursing facilities should their health conditions progress. If your senior loved one has one or more medical conditions, it may be time to consider an assisted living home where they can get a head start on receiving regular live-in health care.
What is the Cost of Assisted Living?
The cost of assisted living will vary from one community to the next based on services and amenities offered, meals, utilities, pet fees, and geographic location.
According to the 2019 Cost of Care Survey conducted by Genworth Financial, the median assisted living cost is $4,000 per month. This cost also fluctuates state-by-state; for instance, the median monthly cost is about $4,500 for California residents, $5,200 for Maine residents, and $2,900 for Missouri residents.
Care level is another important variable that plays a role in the cost of assisted living. Seniors who require a higher care level will typically pay more for assisted living than seniors who require a lower care level. For instance, seniors who need daily assistance with administering injectable medications and bathing may pay higher costs than seniors who need assistance only once per week with washing and drying their hair or driving to the grocery store.
Does Medicare Pay for Assisted Living?
The majority of residents in assisted living homes are Medicare beneficiaries, however, Medicare does not cover long-term care services associated with assisted living. Medicare beneficiaries who need help paying for assisted living can discuss their available payment options with the facility.
While Medicare does not cover independent living and generally doesn't pay for assisted living expenses, Medicare Advantage may pay for personal care or other supportive services in assisted living facilities.
Does Medicaid Pay for Assisted Living?
According to the National Center for Assisted Living, an estimated 16.5% of residents in assisted living homes rely on Medicaid to cover the cost of their services, which equates to roughly 1 in 6 residents. As of 2018, 48% of assisted living communities were Medicaid certified.
Almost all state Medicaid programs will cover some assisted living costs for eligible residents. However, similar to Medicare, Medicaid does not pay for the cost of living in an assisted living community.
How Can I Save Money on Assisted Living?
The cost of assisted living can be made affordable via insurance policies, move-in specials, and various discount programs offered by the facility. Here are a few tips that can help you or your senior loved one save on costs associated with assisted living.
Look into long-term care insurance, which may help cover costs that are not covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or your current health insurance plan.
Ask the facility about move-in specials and incentives that may help lower the monthly or yearly cost.
Look into veterans (VA) benefits if you are a wartime veteran or the spouse of a veteran.
Explore your options for bridge loans and reverse mortgages.
Find out whether your life insurance policy or that of your senior loved one can help pay for assisted living.
Find a senior roommate who can split the cost of room and board.
What Are Tips for Transitioning to a New Assisted Living Community?
Transitioning to a new home and community is often a significant adjustment for most seniors, and may be accompanied by feelings such as anxiety and fear. However, being prepared and knowing what to expect can make the transition into an assisted living community seamless and far less worrisome. Here are important tips that can help you or your senior loved one experience a smooth transition into an assisted living home.
Choose the Right Facility
The transition into an assisted living home can be exciting if you choose a facility that offers all the services, amenities, and activities you need to feel comfortable, healthy, and happy. Invest plenty of time into researching various facilities, then arrange to visit and tour the facility before making your final decision. Spending time inside the facility before moving in will give you or your loved one a better idea of what life would be like after moving in.
Pack the Right Items
In most instances, your room or apartment at an assisted living community will be far smaller than your current home, which means you may need to downsize tremendously before moving. Start with packing the essentials, then make plans to store or donate what you don't need. Many seniors who move into assisted living homes take this opportunity to distribute their belongings to various family members, which can be a highly meaningful way to connect with loved ones before moving into a new home.
Be Open to an Emotional Transition
The caregivers and staff at an assisted living home understand that transitioning to a new community can be an emotional time, as do your friends and family. Keep in mind that any emotions you may be feeling in regard to moving to a new community are completely normal, and you should be sure to allow yourself time to adjust. Talking about your feelings and anxieties as they relate to moving can make you feel better and help with the transitioning process.
Get Involved with the Community
After moving into an assisted living community, you'll be surrounded by other seniors who once felt the same way you do at the beginning. After you settle in, start mingling and networking with neighbors and other community members, and attend events that interest you. The sooner you get involved with the community, the sooner you can establish a fun daily routine filled with activities you truly enjoy.
How Can I Find Assisted Living Facilities Near Me?
FindContinuingCare.com is the premier online directory of senior housing communities that can help you or your senior loved one find assisted living, and other types of senior living. We have an extensive collection of media available including photos, videos, floor plans, and more.
Click on “Find Communities” at the upper right corner of the page to browse nearby assisted living homes. Look up communities for free and see if the ones you are interested in have a red button called "Request Tour or Brochure". Here you can get in touch with your communities of interest and ask them to contact you with more information, all at no cost or obligation to you.
In conclusion, assisted living can be a complex topic, but we hope this information has helped prepare you to research your options. Ready to get started? Visit us at FindContinuingCare.com to find the perfect home for you.