What is Assisted Living and is it Right for Your Loved One?
For most of our lives, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about assisted living and nursing home facilities. In our 30s, 40s and even 50s, the people closest to us are, generally speaking, in good health.
The idea that we might, ourselves, need to move to an assisted living community is an even more distant possibility. We simply can’t imagine a time when our mobility, strength, balance or health have declined to the point that we need help with our day-to-day tasks.
Then, in our 60s, something starts to change. Each year, we see our parents move deeper into their 80s. Even our older siblings, once the very people who we looked up to as icons of strength and maturity, start to reach an age at which it becomes difficult to ignore the physical changes that they are going through.
So, reluctantly, we begin the process of looking at options to keep our loved ones happy and safe once they reach the point that they can no longer take care of everything themselves. And, in the back of our minds, we start to think about all of the things that we can do to keep ourselves healthy and independent longer.
If you are thinking about assisted living for someone you care about for the first time, you probably have a lot of questions. I hope that this article helps to take some of the mystery out of the concept of assisted living. More importantly, I hope that this post sparks a fascinating discussion. We have so many women in our community who have gone through this process before us. Now is the time to share our wisdom, ideas and support.
What is Assisted Living?
First, let’s start with the basics. What is assisted living and how is it different from the many senior living options out there?
Simply put, assisted living communities are designed to help older adults with their daily tasks. Unlike independent living communities, which typically cater to the needs of healthy, active seniors, assisted living communities typically help with medication management, meals, bathing, dressing, transportation and staying social.
So, how is assisted living different than nursing care? While assisted living facilities help seniors to stay healthy and may help with medication management, they are not designed to provide continuous medical care.
Nursing care facilities, on the other hand, are standing by to help residents to get the medical attention that they need, whenever they need it.
How Much Does Assisted Living Cost?
Unfortunately, this question is a little bit like asking, “How much does a car cost?” The truth is that there are thousands of assisted living facilities in the United States. While assisted living is never cheap, there is still a huge range in the prices that people are willing to pay.
According to Argentum, an association representing the companies that own and manage senior living communities in the U.S., the average cost of staying at an assisted living facility is $3,000 per month. For this, you get accommodation, meals, assistance with daily activities and other basics.
But, this is just the beginning. Luxury assisted living communities can cost as much as $6,000 or more per month. In many cases, the services that these communities provide are nothing short of breathtaking. I’ve heard of facilities organizing fashion shows, spa treatments, meals by celebrity chefs, talks by university professors and much more!
What Services Do Assisted Living Facilities Provide?
We talked about a few of the more exotic services that luxury assisted living communities provide. But, what about the basics? What should you ask about on your first trip to a facility?
It’s important to remember that assisted living facilities are typically not designed to provide round-the-clock medical care. They will be glad to organize transportation to your doctor’s office or local medical center. They may even be located near a hospital. But, for the most part, they are focused on helping seniors to manage their daily tasks.
That said, here are a few of the services that you should ask about.
Resident supervision and security
At least 3 high-quality meals a day
Transportation to shops and medical facilities
Housekeeping and laundry services
Monitored fitness facilities and activities
Social programs including book clubs, discussions, games and more
Assistance with daily tasks: bathing, toileting, shopping and eating
Independent Living, Assisted Living and Nursing Care: Which is Right for My Loved One?
Choosing a senior living facility for your loved one is a difficult, highly personal decision. Of course, no two people have the same situation, so, communication is key. In addition to talking with your loved one about their needs, it also makes sense to check with their doctor to make sure that the facility that you choose will meet their medical needs.
Generally speaking, independent living communities are designed for healthy, active seniors who are looking for community, security and stability. Assisted living communities, on the other hand, are better suited for seniors who need help with everyday tasks, but, who are healthy enough to live without constant medical supervision. Once a resident needs continuous medical support, a nursing home may be a better option.
Of course, the big caveat here is that, while it is convenient to put senior living facilities into well-defined buckets, there is actually quite a bit of difference between individual communities.
As I mentioned previously, some assisted living communities have close relationships with local hospitals. I’ve also heard about assisted living facilities who refused to work with “difficult” residents, even if they didn’t have any medical problems. So, at the end of the day, it’s best to visit different kinds of facilities at the beginning to get a feeling for what each one of them provides.
I’d love to get your thoughts on this!
Have you had to look for an assisted living facility for someone close to you? What did you learn from the experience? What questions would you recommend people ask when considering an assisted living facility? Please join the conversation.