Different communities may vary in the exact services they offer, but all should provide a supportive, residential setting in which assistance can be offered. This assistance is most beneficial to those who are unable to continue to live alone or who desire not to, but who do not need the 24-hour medical care and supervision of a nursing home.
Support is provided for all residents based on their own needs, while helping them maintain their level of independence and privacy. Generally, assisted living centers provide three meals each day served in a common dining room, scheduled transportation, housekeeping services, 24-hour on-duty staff, emergency call systems, health and exercise programs, medication management, laundry, social and recreational activities and assistance with bathing, eating, grooming and dressing.
The Assisted Living Quality Standard set forth by the Assisted Living Federation of America states that an assisted living facility should:
• offer cost-effective quality care.
• foster independence for each resident.
• treat each individual with dignity and respect.
• allow for choices in care and lifestyle.
• promote individuality.
• protect each resident’s right to privacy.
• nurture the resident’s spirit.
• involve families and friends in care planning.
• provide a safe environment.
• make the assisted living residence a valuable community.
Is assisted living appropriate for you?
You will have many important decisions to make, and none should be taken lightly. This is a time to reflect on your needs.
Here are several questions that you can ask yourself. If you answer yes to most of these, an assisted living program might be of benefit to you in numerous ways.
Has forgetfulness become a problem?
Have you required emergency help?
Do you need help to move around your house?
Is your house difficult to maintain?
Are your present housing expenses excessive for what you need?
Do you forget to take medications?
Do you need assistance with grooming?
Do you miss meals because it is too much trouble to cook?
Do you participate in fewer activities?
Have your family and friends moved away?
Are you becoming more worried about your well being and safety?
Do you miss companionship?
Do you find yourself alone most of the time and not enjoying it?
Will assisted living fit your needs?
When you find that you are not able or no longer desire to live alone, but neither independent living nor a nursing home meet your needs, then assisted living may be an appropriate choice. Assisted living residences provide benefits not only to the resident but also to the family members involved in the care. Many lives are affected by seniors who need assistance, including children, grandchildren and other family members and friends. When the choice is made to move to an assisted living residence, many of the day-to-day needs can be met by professionals, creating peace of mind within the family circle.
How do you make the decision?
When making this decision, it is important that you try to make the most rational decision possible. This can be difficult when emotions are running high. Moving to an assisted living residence does not mean the end of freedom. It means freedom to live more independently. You will no longer need to worry about the responsibilities of your home or be dependent on your friends and family. It might be helpful to sit down and write out a list of the advantages an assisted living residence can offer. Things you might write down include:
• no home maintenance.
• safety and security in a home-like setting.
• nutritious, delicious meals prepared daily for you, with no cooking or clean up afterwards.
• Making new friends.
• social and recreational activities.
• help that is always available, for whatever reason.
How do you find the right assisted living community?
Finding the right assisted living residence can be a challenge. You want to find a place where you will be happy, one in which you have confidence and one that can meet your needs. You want to know it will take good care of you, support your independence and your quality of life. It has been shown that the majority of older adults are happy with an assisted living arrangement. There are many ways you can learn about an assisted living residence, but the best way is to actually visit the residence. Assisted living residences have many similar qualities, but just as each person is different, so is each residence. When you visit your options, trust your instinct. How do you feel about the surroundings? Do the residents who are living there seem happy? Allow the director to show you around and answer any questions you might have. Find out if the residence is licensed, and ask about emergencies and safety. As a visitor to the residence, you will naturally have a lot of questions. Many will be answered by the director. Some are more observational questions you can answer yourself. For example:
Is the residence convenient to your family’s home and easy to get to?
Are the surroundings attractive?
Is the food tasty and served well?
Are the hallways and rooms well lit?
Do staff members show an interest in the residents?
Is it too noisy or too quiet?
Does the residence have a home-like atmosphere?
Does it feel secure and safe?
Do you think you would enjoy living in a place like this?
What are the costs of assisted living?
When compared with other forms of care, an assisted living residence might seem expensive, but when you look closer at what the cost includes, the price is quite reasonable. With assisted living, you receive a private apartment in which to live, three meals a day, 24-hour assistance, safety and security, plus new friends, activities and social events, most utilities, transportation and more.
The cost of these features combined may add up to more than the cost of living independently now. However, many people believe that the peace of mind in being cared for is worth the monthly cost alone.
When talking to the residence’s director, ask to have the pricing explained. Find out if the monthly charge is all-inclusive or if there are additional fees for other services and amenities. Many residences offer different suite sizes and different levels of care. The director will explain all of your options to find one that best fits your needs. Before you make a final decision, it is very important that you check the credibility of the owner, management and the residence. It is important that you know everything there is to know about the people with whom you will be sharing your life.
Remember that many residences operate at full capacity, so you might be put on a waiting list. You might wish to put down a deposit on your final choice, to assure your place on the list. It is in your best interest to have a reservation when the decision to move is made. After you make your choice, what’s next? Before moving in When the time comes for you to move, the assisted living residence will ask you to take a full medical examination and have your physician complete an information sheet.
The information provided will assure that the assisted living residence understands fully your current health, stamina and ability, letting the staff know how best to assist you once you arrive. Most assisted living residents must be able to move from place to place on their own or by using a supportive device, such as a cane or walker. They must also be capable of responding to emergency situations that might arise.
This will be the biggest and most important step in the entire process. The hardest part will be to decide which of your own belongings – the many treasures you have collected over the years – to take with you. It is often best to look at the room plan and then pencil in where you think certain pieces of furniture would go. This will help a great deal in the transition to your new home.
Making this move is not just a physical one. Give yourself time to adjust and become familiar with your new surroundings. Recognize that this is a major life change. This change can be exciting and will enhance your quality of life.