Is a care community the right place for your loved ones? There are a lot of terms out there for what living situations can look like as you age, and it’s easy to get them mixed up. Luckily, it’s not as confusing as it sounds.
Today we will discuss assisted living facilities: what they are, what they can do for your loved ones, and potential drawbacks.
Getting informed about your options is the first step in making the best choice for your family’s needs. It also means that you can be the expert the next time someone throws up their hands and asks, “What is the difference between a nursing home and assisted living?”
What is an Assisted Living Facility?
An assisted living facility (ALF) is a residential option for individuals who require assistance with daily activities but do not need the level of care provided in a nursing home. These facilities offer a combination of housing, support services, and personalized care to promote independence and well-being. Think of assisted living as an apartment complex with friendly neighbors that happens to have trained caregivers on staff.
On the flip side, a skilled nursing facility, AKA nursing home, is a residential care facility designed for the long-term care of adults with serious health conditions. People living in an assisted living facility can still manage their independence and well-being, while nursing homes are for those who need more help.
Benefits of Assisted Living Facilities
Here are the pros of ALFs:
- Professional Care and Assistance: Trained caregivers assist with tasks such as bathing, dressing, medication management, and mobility. This professional care ensures that residents receive the support they need to maintain their health and well-being.
- Safe and Secure Environment: Assisted living facilities prioritize the safety of their residents. They have safety measures in place, such as emergency call systems, 24/7 staff availability, and secure premises. This creates a secure environment where residents can feel protected and have peace of mind.
- Opportunities for Socialization: Your loved one can participate in a built-in community of peers, providing opportunities for socialization and companionship. Various social activities, events, and outings allow friendships to bloom and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
- Access to Amenities and Services: Assisted living facilities often provide a range of amenities, such as dining services, housekeeping, transportation, and recreational activities. These amenities enhance the quality of life for residents and make daily living more convenient and enjoyable.
Drawbacks of Assisted Living Facilities
Here are the cons of ALFs:
- Lack of Independence: Moving into an assisted living facility may require some adjustment, as it can mean a loss of independence for adults used to living on their own. The level of independence can vary depending on the facility and the person’s needs.
- Costs and Financial Considerations: Assisted living facilities can be expensive, and the cost is not covered by Medicare. It’s also not typically covered by Medicaid either, but it could be covered by long-term care insurance. It’s essential to consider the financial implications and assess if the cost is manageable for your family in the long term.
- Adjustment Period and Potential Discomfort: Moving to a new environment can be challenging for some people, especially if they have lived independently for a long time. It may take time to adjust to the new surroundings and routines, which can cause initial discomfort.
- Potential for Limited Personal Care Options: While assisted living facilities offer a certain level of care, it may not be as personalized as individualized home care. Some people may have specific care needs that cannot be fully met within the facility’s structure.
- Downsizing to a Smaller Living Space: Going into a small apartment at an assisted living facility from a multi-bedroom home is a huge adjustment. Many people spend their entire lives collecting things that need to be sorted through and majorly downsized or moved into storage.
Factors to Consider When Choosing an Assisted Living Facility
Not sure what to think about? Here you go:
- Location and Accessibility: Think about where their support system is located, as well as amenities and healthcare services. Accessible transportation options and a convenient location can make it easier for loved ones to visit and for residents to engage in community activities. If location is a dealbreaker, consider in-home care instead.
- Quality of Care: Research the facility’s reputation and quality of care. Look for certifications, accreditations, and licensing information.
- Staff-to-Resident Ratio: Ask about the staff-to-resident ratio to ensure that there are enough caregivers available to provide personalized attention and care. A low staff-to-resident ratio can indicate that residents may not receive adequate support.
- Turnover Rate: Everything is a bit more complicated after COVID, but finding out how many of the nurses/CNAs have been there over a year can be a good indicator of how consistent the care is at that facility.
- Available Services and Amenities: Review the services and amenities offered by the facility. Consider the specific needs and preferences of your loved one and ensure that the facility can meet those requirements. This may include dietary accommodations, transportation, housekeeping, and recreational activities.
- Costs and Affordability: Evaluate the cost structure and understand what is included in the fees. Inquire about any additional charges or potential increases in the future. You’ll want to make sure that the facility’s costs align with your budget and financial capabilities.
- Reviews and Recommendations: Seek out reviews and recommendations from residents and families with experience with the facility. Their firsthand insights can provide valuable information about the quality of care, staff, and overall resident satisfaction. You can also ask friends about where their family members who need care have lived.
- Gut Instinct: Make sure you tour options before making a final decision. Sometimes you will get a feeling that something is off or not a good fit, and sometimes you will know that the care community is a great fit for you or your loved one.
Independence with a Little Help
If your mom’s joints are starting to slow her down, but she’s still independent enough to defend her position as the best bridge player in her weekly group, an assisted living facility might be the right choice for her.
There are also independent living facilities (like retirement facilities/retirement dorms) that accommodate those who need a little bit of help but don’t need as much control over where they go and what they do.
Assisted living facilities offer help when residents need it and space when they don’t, allowing your family members to retain their independence and helping you keep your peace of mind. Going through any major living change can be hard, and your loved ones may struggle with the idea of potentially losing their independence.
It’s also wise to choose an assisted living facility attached to a retirement home, as it provides a quick transition for your loved one if their situation declines.
(No one wants to have to look for another facility or worry that the facility they’re at doesn’t provide the care their family member needs!)
These are called “step-up” or “step-down” facilities, enabling you to relax knowing that, no matter what happens to your loved one’s health, you’ve planned for their needs.
Your support and research into potential facilities is crucial. Weighing all the factors allows you to make an informed decision that best suits your loved ones’ needs. Sometimes what your loved ones need is a new community to be a part of (and to beat at cards).
Check out our blog for more advice about caring for your loved ones as they age.