Many people use “assisted living,” “long-term care” and “retirement home” interchangeably when investigating different senior living and care options for a parent or senior loved one; however, the differences vary greatly.
It is important to understand the style of care each senior living option provides before planning for your senior loved one to transition from their current living arrangement.
What Kind of Care Is Provided in Assisted Living?
According to an article published by The San Diego Union-Tribune, when family members are considering assisted living care for their parent, many people do not realize that this is a “’non-medical’” model of care… not requiring nurses or any medically trained personnel onsite daily.”
Family members and seniors tend to believe that the ‘assistance’ offered in assisted living includes help with most or all daily activities, including 24-hour nursing and personal care. This misconception can create significant problems for seniors “with multiple complex and chronic medical issues” who require more care than what their assisted living community provides.
Unlike most long-term care facilities, assisted living communities come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Assisted living communities are often privately owned and operated and do not all follow the same guidelines or offer the same supportive care services.
“According to the National Institutes of Health, ‘assisted living provides care to a large number of older adults including many with complex health problems. Although the most common reasons for entering assisted living are dementia and functional impairment, most residents (94%) have at least one chronic medical condition, with three quarters (76%) having two or more chronic conditions,’” the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
According to David Grossman, a Chicago-based Senior Living Advisor for A Place for Mom, “Not all assisted living communities are equal. Some provide lighter care and some can even provide care for those who are bedridden or who need help eating while still remaining in assisted living as opposed to a nursing home,” he says. “It often depends on the community’s licensing. Many states have a tiered system of licensing whereby communities with a higher degree of licensing are able to provide more care.”
Although most assisted living communities are different, there are common threads among them:
- They are less expensive than skilled nursing facilities
- They are regulated by the Dept. of Social Services and Community Care Licensing Division
- They set up as predominantly private pay
What Families Should Know About Assisted Living
When selecting the right assisted living care arrangement for your parent or senior loved one, it is important to gain a true understanding of the daily support your senior loved one will receive. Also, having a realistic understanding of the level of care your parent requires will help you to better align their needs with the services provided.
We suggest asking the following questions when visiting assisted living communities:
- Can staff administer medications?
- Does the community do an initial assessment prior to admission?
- Does the community have any experience with the issues or diagnosis of your parent?
- How many staffers are on duty during the day and overnight?
- Is there a nurse on staff 24/7?
- Is there an outdoor space for residents?
- What additional services are available if the needs of a resident change?
- What are the current residents like?
- What is the discharge policy?
- What is the staff-to-resident ratio?
- What kind of experience and training do staff possess?
- What types of apartments are available?
You can download a comprehensive list of questions to ask during your assisted living tour, here.
When the time comes that your senior loved one requires additional help to live independently, assisted living is a fantastic option, with a variety of care models available.
To ensure your parent is moving to the most suitable place possible, be realistic about the care needs they require, ask clear, fact-finding questions during your tour and conclude your visit with a full understanding of the services that are available in your chosen assisted living community.
What other things would you have liked to know about your assisted living community before you moved in? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.