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Is Assisted Living the Right Choice?
Three senior women in assisted care facility enjoying the library

Two smiling senior men in assisted living doing crossword puzzles together

What is assisted living care?

Assisted Living Should Provide a Supportive Environment for Seniors

When it becomes hard for older adults to live on their own, one of the options that families may consider is assisted living. An assisted living facility is a long-term residence that offers the kind of support services that many aging adults need, like meals, housekeeping and transportation. The residents often receive help with personal care such as bathing, dressing and medication management, as well as get help accessing medical care and nursing services, if needed.

The assisted living model is flexible and allows each resident to use the services he or she needs at any time while allowing them the comfort and stability of a long-term living situation. With over one million seniors in assisted living centers, the typical resident receives assistance with three or more activities of daily living, making this an increasingly significant option for seniors who need long-term residential care.

Making the Assisted Living Decision

Many aging adults want to continue to live on their own, and many can. One solution for those who need some assistance is home care help. In-home caregivers provide companionship and help with the activities of daily life. The home caregiver prepares meals, provides personal care like bathing and grooming, helps with medication reminders, and takes care of many daily chores, allowing the senior to continue to live comfortably in their own home.  But sometimes, usually due to declining health, living at home is no longer an option.

Senior assisted living provides an alternative to living alone or to family care, especially when the senior’s children have families of their own and welcoming an aging parent into their home is not an option.  Assisted living may be a good choice when an aging parent becomes dependent on help for most daily activities, or if they need to be supervised for medical reasons.

Medical Care and Assisted Living

In general, assisted living is not for the most seriously ill patients. As mainly a residential solution, assisted living is less costly and allows for more independence than a full-service nursing home that provides nursing and medical services to patients. Nevertheless, access to quality medical care is extremely important for seniors. For seniors who need ongoing, regular care for chronic illnesses and symptoms of aging, the facility’s access and attention to medical care is vitally important. Look for an assisted living center that has a good medical response system in place. Find out how the facility handles an emergency situation, and whether they provide transportation to medical appointments when needed. Some may have an RN on staff who oversees the care of residents that is provided by nursing aides and other staff.  The presence of an RN on the staff says that the facility places a high value on the health, well-being and ongoing care of the residents. The facility should at a minimum have a staff member whose duties include arranging for or facilitating visiting nurses and other on-site treatment services, such as pulmonary care or physical therapy.

Important Qualities to Look For in Senior Assisted Living Facilities

Three happy elderly women in the library of the assisted living center reading booksSelecting the right assisted living center is probably the most important factor in the senior’s transition to institutional care.  When the choice is a good one, your parent or loved one can go on to enjoy a very good quality of life. Often families find that the senior’s health actually benefits from the companionship they enjoy, the regular care and attention they receive, the stimulating activities, and, sometimes, the relief they feel that they are no longer a burden to the family.

Here is a list of things to look for when selecting a good assisted living facility:

  • Is the facility clean and in good repair?  Is it safe to get around (no broken pavement, with wide hallways and doorways for wheelchairs to navigate, etc.)?
  • Is the management forthcoming with information? Do they answer all your questions openly and to your satisfaction? Do they let you see all areas of the facility?
  • Do the residents seem upbeat and happy to be there? Do they look generally healthy and seem active?  Do their activity and health levels match your family member’s?
  • Have you met some of the staff members who care for the residents, and are they warm, caring and happy in their jobs?
  • Do the rules provide independence and choice so the senior has some say in his or her daily routine? Do they have a choice of meals and activities, for example?  Do they have access to privacy when they want it?
  • Does the facility offer physical therapy or other supportive services the parent may need?
  • What types of medical services are available? Are there nurses on staff or on call? Are first aid and emergency response readily available?
  • Is the layout open and bright? is there room to move? Are there places to socialize and places to be alone?
  • Are there personal services available, such as laundry and hair salons?
  • Is there a nice outdoor garden to soak up fresh air and sunshine?
  • What is the social environment? Is it friendly and enthusiastic, or calm and quiet? Does it fit your loved one’s style?
  • Activities and outings – is there an active schedule that gives residents a chance to try new things, participate in group activities, or get out and about for a change of scenery?
  • What kind of food is served? Is it fresh and nutritious? Is it interesting and tasty? Is there a wide variety of dishes on the monthly calendar?
  • Finally, can you picture your loved one living happily there?

When chosen carefully among other options, assisted living can be a good choice for both aging parents and their families. Visit the website of the Assisted Living Federation of America for more information on the amenities, benefits and issues around assisted living to help you decide if it’s the right solution for your family.

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