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 toilet. 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?
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
- Assistance with hygiene and personal care
- Medication management
- Mobility assistance
- Nutritious meals
- Health care services coordination
- Social activities and outings
- Transportation to appointments
- Lawn maintenance and repairs
Peace of mind for families and improved quality of life for seniors are just a few of the many benefits of assisted living. Assisted living residents receive the support they need while enjoying the regular company of neighbors and staff members.
Many facilities offer comfort and convenience and eliminate the need for transportation. Assisted living amenities vary among communities, but some may include:
- Beauty salons and barbershops
- Movie theater
- Communal garden or courtyard
- Pool or spa
- Fitness center
- Art studio
- 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 L (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 with the exception of 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 have to share a 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 at assisted living. 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 helps 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 often 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.
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.
How does assisted living support seniors?
Assisted living offers a social, active, and maintenance-free lifestyle for older adults who need some help with daily tasks. Assisted living residents receive the care they need while maintaining independence in a vibrant community that offers many opportunities to stay engaged.
Seniors have different needs as they age. Some may simply need medication reminders and prepared meals, while others may require help with bathing, dressing, or other daily activities. Assisted living facilities customize care to meet residents’ unique needs.
Assisted living communities evaluate potential residents’ cognitive and physical needs by conducting a thorough, in-person assessment before seniors move in. During this time, assisted living staff meet with the senior and their family to discuss any health conditions and assess fine motor skills, mobility, and cognition. This important step allows staff to determine the level of care a senior requires so they can develop a personalized care plan.
Care coordination is an important service offered at assisted living facilities. Assisted living staff maintain strong relationships with area physicians and other health care providers to ensure residents receive the care they need.
Care coordination at assisted living facilities may include:
- Coordinating care with outside health care providers, such as primary care physicians, podiatrists, cardiologists, dentists, and more
- Coordinating home health appointments for residents recovering from illnesses or injuries
- Providing transportation to medical appointments
- Assisting with medication management and diabetes support
- Coordinating rehabilitation services, such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy to bring services onsite as needed, making appointments more convenient to residents
- Coordinating hospice care while keeping residents comfortable
Safety and peace of mind
Safety is often a concern for families of aging adults who live on their own. Seniors in assisted living can expect a safe environment with controlled access and security protocols.
Assisted living facilities have staff available 24 hours a day in case residents need help. Communities may have alert systems that allow residents to quickly get emergency help with a push of a button. Security systems may include cameras in common areas or motion sensors in private apartments to detect falls, a major health risk for elderly adults.
Nearly three million older adults go to the emergency room each year because of fall injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Falls may lead to serious head or hip injuries. In fact, 95% of hip fractures result from a fall, according to the CDC.
Assisted living facilities assess seniors for fall risks before they move in and continue to evaluate residents periodically and as their health conditions change. Once staff understand a resident’s risk, they take steps to help keep seniors safe.
- Managing medications. Assisted living staff manage medications to ensure residents are taking medicines as prescribed. They may also monitor for drug interactions and side effects like dizziness or drowsiness, which may put seniors at risk for falls.
- Keeping seniors active. Many communities offer exercise classes to improve balance, mobility, and strength.
- Proactively practicing safety. Spaces are accessible and designed to prevent falls, with safety features like even flooring and hand rails. Areas are kept free of clutter and fall hazards. Some facilities may also offer classes to teach seniors fall prevention techniques to reduce their fall risk.
- Helping with personal care. Regular daily activities, like bathing or dressing, may be a fall risk for some elderly adults. Residents in assisted living receive help based on their unique needs.
- Anticipating needs. Staff at assisted living facilities get to know residents, their routines, and habits to anticipate their needs. For example, if a senior wakes up early, staff make sure their eating and toileting needs are met in a timely manner to discourage unsafe behavior.
A maintenance-free lifestyle is a key benefit of assisted living. Aging adults who struggle to keep up with cooking, housework, and home maintenance will find the support they need at an assisted living facility. Instead of spending time on burdensome chores, many seniors find they can pursue their interests and enjoy life more fully at an assisted living facility.
Seniors in assisted living can expect:
- Meal services
- Transportation to medical appointments
- Laundry services
- Property maintenance
Nutritious, restaurant-style meals
Assisted living facilities understand that good nutrition is an important part of overall health. This is why assisted living meals are far from bland or boring. In fact, residents enjoy restaurant-style meals that include fresh, flavorful ingredients and fit their dietary preferences and needs. For example, communities may tailor menus to cater to the health needs of seniors with medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, or dysphagia. Some assisted living facilities may also offer vegetarian or Kosher-style menus.
Aging seniors who live on their own may lose interest in food. While some health conditions may lead to appetite loss, loneliness, or even a lack of energy to cook may also be factors, especially for those cooking for one.
Dining at an assisted living facility can be a social experience for those who enjoy sharing good conversation over meals. Facilities offer communal dining, making meal-time a fun and comforting part of the assisted living lifestyle. Seniors gather in a dining room to share meals, talk about their day, and make meaningful connections. Having someone to share a meal with often encourages seniors to eat better and make healthier food choices. Many communities also offer in-room dining for residents who prefer a quiet dinner.
A social, engaging environment
It’s no secret that social connection and engagement lead to happier lives. But did you know that social isolation can actually harm both mental and physical health?
Nearly 13.8 million seniors live alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s not uncommon for older adults who live alone to feel lonely. Changes in family dynamics — such as divorce or the loss of loved ones — chronic illness, hearing loss, poor mobility, and lack of adequate transportation are just a few of the reasons seniors may feel isolated.
Loneliness can lead to habits that negatively affect health, like smoking, excessive drinking, and poor nutrition. It can also increase someone’s risk for depression, dementia, and heart disease, among other health conditions.
Assisted living offers plenty of opportunities for seniors to stay physically active, learn new skills, and engage with like-minded friends and peers. Enrichment programs and activities at assisted living facilities appeal to all kinds of interests, including sports, music, crafts, religious and spiritual practices, and more. While programs and activities vary from one community to the next, many assisted living facilities offer a wide range of options that allow residents with different levels of cognitive and physical skills to participate and feel included.
Senior-friendly, comfortable accommodations
Assisted living facilities offer a variety of room sizes and floor plans. Room options vary from one community to the next, but many facilities offer studios, one-, two-, and even three-bedroom apartments. Seniors may choose the accommodation type that best fits their needs, budget, and lifestyle.
Assisted living apartments are often furnished for convenience, but facilities usually allow residents to bring personal furniture and items as desired. Accommodations are designed for senior safety with accessibility features, such as grab bars in tubs and showers, non-slip flooring, and wide doors for seniors who need a wheelchair or walker.
Assisted living apartments usually include a private bathroom, and some may feature a kitchenette for seniors who enjoy cooking and can do so safely.
Many facilities allow couples to live in the same apartment. However, as you research different communities, it’s important to check what assisted living options for couples are available. In some cases, seniors with different care needs may not live together. For example, one person may need memory care while the other doesn’t. In this case, the senior with memory loss may live in a nearby memory care wing. Their spouse can conveniently join them for meals and activities.
Seniors moving to assisted living may also be able to bring their beloved pets. However, pet-friendly assisted living facilities may have pet policies, rules, and restrictions, and it’s important to understand these before moving.
Seniors who wish to bring their furry companions to assisted living should ask about:
- Monthly pet fees
- Animal type, breed, or size restrictions
- Required pet health information and vaccinations
- Pet care assistance and available services, such as dog walking, grooming, and feeding
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.
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.
Women make up more than 70% of the assisted living resident population, according to the AHCA NCAL. However, assisted living facilities also welcome aging men, and provide plenty of opportunities to engage seniors regardless of gender.
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 vibrant community of peers
- Enjoy social activities and programs, but don’t have access to transportation
- Prefer a maintenance-free lifestyle
What are assisted living requirements?
Before determining whether assisted living is right choice for your aging loved one, it’s important to understand the requirements for admission at an assisted living facility. Unlike skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities don’t require a physician’s prescription for admission.
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 is a major commitment that can sometimes cause friction. As a caregiver, 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.
How do I move my loved one to assisted living?
Moving a parent to assisted living can be an emotional experience. You may feel guilty or nervous about the move, and wonder whether your senior loved one will adapt. Your family may not agree with your decision or you may be struggling with how to talk with your parent about moving to an assisted living facility. Downsizing and packing may also be stressful, overwhelming, and time-consuming.
Taking a step-by-step approach can ease anxiety and make the move smoother for your family and your aging loved one.
Talking to a loved one about assisted living
You may be dreading talking to your aging loved one about moving to assisted living. Elder care is often a difficult but important topic that families ultimately can’t avoid.
Having conversations regularly about senior care before an emergency situation arises is often best. Planning ahead will give you and your family time to think about options and discuss what you need to do to prepare.
However, if your aging parent needs immediate help, it’s time to hold a family meeting. Consider your family dynamics to decide who to include. If your senior loved one is in good mental health, it may be a good idea to involve them.
Set aside dedicated time, without distractions, to discuss their needs and potential solutions. It’s also important to be open to having a series of conversations before your family agrees on the right senior care choice.
Tips for talking to your parent about assisted living
- Pick the right time. Make sure you have enough time to talk about your loved one’s needs and care. Don’t try to sneak in the topic during a Thanksgiving dinner, for example. Schedule a family meeting and be clear about what you want to discuss.
- Decide who to include. Involve siblings and other family members who care for your loved one. Most importantly, consider including your aging parent in the conversation and the decision.
- Be empathetic. Ask open-ended questions and listen. For example, you may have noticed your parent is struggling with managing their medications. Ask how they feel about it, and share your concerns with compassion. Let them know you care and are simply worried about their well-being.
- Set the right tone. Emphasize your role as an advocate for their health and safety. Be open to discussing potential solutions, and create a list of pros and cons.
- Do your research first. Look for potential assisted living options that match your loved one’s needs and interests before the meeting. Share brochures, pictures, and information to involve your parent in the decision.
- Revisit the conversation. You may not reach a unanimous consensus right away. Be prepared to have multiple conversations before you find the right care solution for your loved one.
Downsizing before moving to assisted living
Helping your senior loved one downsize before moving to an assisted living facility can be an emotional task. Belongings may be filled with treasured memories that you and your parent don’t want to let go of.
But before deciding what to take or what to leave behind, it’s important to understand the space your loved one will have after they move. It can be helpful to ask for a floor plan and dimensions of the assisted living apartment before moving day.
Assisted living accommodations often come furnished, but many communities allow residents to bring personal items. Bringing a few cherished pieces may make your loved one’s new space feel more like home. It’s also a good idea to ask what appliances are provided. For example, you might want to ask if apartments are equipped with a mini-fridge, coffee maker, or microwave.
When packing, consider bringing the following:
- Personal items, like medication, toiletries, clothing, photos and keepsakes, jewelry, and eyeglasses
- Entertainment items, like books, movies, hobby supplies, computer, or iPads
- Houseware, like hangers, towels, bedding, and a small selection of plates, cups, and cookware
- Decorative items, like plants, pictures, and mirror
- Furniture pieces, like a favorite recliner, desk, or dresser
- Cleaning supplies, like dish soap, paper towels, and surface wipes
How do I ease my loved one’s transition to assisted living?
No matter how prepared you and your loved are for the move to assisted living, it’ll take time to adjust to this new living arrangement. It’s important to be realistic about your expectations and understand that your parent’s fears and apprehensions — and your own — are normal.
Your family member will need to adjust to a new home and routine. They may also feel emotional about leaving their old residence and belongings. It may take a few months before your loved one fully feels at home.
So how do you help ease your parent’s transition to assisted living?
- Be optimistic. Focus on positive aspects of the move, such as the programs and activities, safety, and social interactions, but don’t dismiss your loved one’s concerns. Talk to the community staff if there’s something they can do to improve your loved one’s stay.
- Encourage participation. Your parent will feel more at home if they’re involved in the community. Review the community’s calendar of activities with them to see what appeals to their interests.
- Visit regularly. Making a plan to visit often can ease your parent’s fears of abandonment. Create an in-person or virtual visitation schedule with other family members and friends. But also allow time for your loved one to find new friends and participate in the community programs independently.
Participate in their care. Stay in touch with the facility staff to understand what’s going well and what’s not, and proactively stay in involved in your loved one’s care.
For more information on assisted living, contact one of our Sales Directors today!
Source: Claire Samuels