Assisted Living Fundamentals

When considering senior care for a loved one, it’s important not to group everything under nursing homes. In reality, there are different types of options available to you, one of them being assisted living. This type of senior living is distinct from nursing homes and other senior care. Let’s take a look at assisted living fundamentals so you can get a clear idea of this type of housing and care.

What is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is a type of housing or residential care that would involve your loved one moving to an assisted living facility. In addition to housing, they would receive a minimal amount of care. This type of housing does not include continuous skilled nursing care but instead provides some assistance, such as help with meals, periodic skilled nursing, or medication administration. This option is best for people who are mostly independent and only need some assistance.

Assisted living is a popular and common option, with about 1.2 million people living in them in the U.S.. The average resident is female, 80 years old, and able to move around. There are close to 30,000 assisted living facilities throughout the U.S., so people who would benefit from this option can find one nearby.

People tend to transition from private living to an assisted living facility. While this could provide an ongoing arrangement, it often results in a two- to three-year residency, after which the person moves to a nursing home, to a hospital, back home, or to a different assisted living facility.

The reason a person stays or leaves depends on each person’s situation and needs. There are different types of scenarios.

Reasons People Stay in or Leave Assisted Living Facilities

  • If a person’s needs are being met by the minimal care provided in assisted living and they like the facility, they are able to stay.
  • On the other hand, if their needs increase and they require more skilled nursing care, they can transition to a skilled nursing facility for continuous care.
  • The person may require specialty care such as memory care or dementia care that would require a facility offering the specific type of care.
  • The person may return home if they are able to care for themselves, the family has decided to care for them, or the family has hired at-home care.

Assisted living provides a high level of independence. Residents maintain freedom and control over most aspects of their lives. They follow rules and guidelines of the specific facility, which isn’t much different from renting a home or owning a home with HOA guidelines to follow. Assisted living generally also allows residents the ability to have pets, to entertain visitors and overnight guests, and to enjoy alcohol, among other freedoms.

Living Arrangements and Services Provided

You have flexibility regarding the living arrangement within this type of retirement home. You can choose the living arrangement that best fits your loved one’s needs while taking into account the units that are available. Most include a kitchen area and a bathroom along with various bedroom setups.

Types of Living Arrangements

  • Semi-private apartments
  • Private apartments
  • Furnished apartments
  • Unfurnished apartments
  • Studio apartments
  • One-bedroom apartments
  • Dormitory-style living
  • Suites with attached or shared bathrooms
  • Multiple bedrooms to share with spouses or other loved ones

While your loved one lives on-site in the housing arrangement you have obtained for them, they receive the types of services you have established for them when entering them in assisted living. These services can be adjusted as needed to fit your loved one’s changing needs.

Assistance With Daily Living Activities

An important benefit of assisted living is that the person received help with activities of daily living, or ADLs. These are basic home and personal activities that we all need to take care of on a daily basis, yet seniors and those with disabilities may need some assistance carrying them out.

ADL Assistance at Vista Springs

These are examples of the types of ADLs your loved one can receive assistance for at Vista Springs:

  • Bathing and showering
  • Dressing
  • Grooming
  • Cleaning
  • Laundry
  • Additional personal hygiene activities
  • Additional housekeeping activities

In assisted living, your loved one can gain help taking care of ADLs while maintaining a higher level of independence than in a nursing home. Your loved one receives help from staff in the areas where they need it, and they are given the freedom and independence to take care of the ADLs they are capable of. This option gives a good balance that assists a senior and keeps them from being isolated while providing freedom and increased quality of life.

Dining Programs

While assisted living housing arrangements generally include a kitchen area for residents to prepare their meals, they also have the option to take part in dining programs. This is helpful for those who have difficulty making their meals, as well as those who prefer the food and social aspects of the dining program.

Nonetheless, it’s often possible for the person to choose between eating in community dining areas or having a meal provided in their own residence. You can choose from different dining packages that include one, two, or three meals per day. You can see that there is a lot of flexibility for eating at home and eating in a communal setting. Many communities even feature restaurant-type dining experiences on-site.

Educational Activities

Many activities offered in assisted living communities have an educational aspect to them, which can help your loved one support their memory and other cognitive function. For example, educational offerings could include computer classes, art classes, cooking classes, or lectures. Many social groups also encourage brain health, such as Bible study or foreign language groups.

Health Services

Trained medical staff, including nurses, are on-hand to provide medical care to those residents who need it. Depending on your loved one’s needs, assisted living community staff could assist with many types of specialized care from various trained professionals. The care is tailored to each person. It can include general medical care, rehabilitation, memory care, palliative and hospice care, and other personalized care. The care available may vary by the community, so this is a factor to consider when comparing facilities.

Available Medical Staff

Residents of assisted living facilities generally have access to:

  • Physicians by appointment
  • Skilled nursing staff
  • Physical therapists
  • Behavioral and mental health professionals

Exercise Activities

Assisted living facilities generally offer scheduled exercises run by fitness professionals. These classes are tailored to the specific physical needs of seniors. Options could include pool exercises, stretching classes, and senior aerobics classes. There may also be more casual group activities with a fitness spin, such as trail walking.

Social Interaction

Isolation can be harmful to a senior’s physical and mental health and well-being. It can also cause a reduced quality of life overall. An assisted living facility brings many people who would otherwise be isolated in their homes together within a thriving community. They can engage in a variety of programmed activities and plans they make with each other.

In addition to creating social interaction within the assisted living community, this form of retirement housing gives flexibility to invite friends and family members as visitors and overnight guests in their homes. Facilities usually have community activity coordinators to plan activities and provide a range of options to keep residents active and happy.

Social Activities at Vista Springs

  • Arts and crafts
  • Religious groups
  • Discussions
  • Gardening
  • Walking
  • Outings and events

Benefits of Assisted Living

If you’re wondering whether your aging loved needs help beyond what you can give, consider the balance of support and independence an assisted living community can offer instead of making the leap straight to considering nursing homes.

Scenarios When Assisted Living Is Beneficial

Among other reasons, assisted living is helpful for seniors who experience:

  • A health decline
  • Less mobility and more frailty
  • Isolation
  • Declining hygiene
  • Difficulty caring for the household
  • Difficulty with finances

Costs of Assisted Living

While you may like the idea of assisted living for your loved one, cost is always a consideration, even if it’s not the only one or not the top priority. You may be wondering whether this is a type of retirement housing and care you or your loved one can budget for, or at least wondering how the cost compares to other options.

Assisted living communities often create monthly packages similar to paying a monthly rent or mortgage. The packages include a bundle of housing, specific ADLs and services, and luxury upgrades. You’re provided with the package cost and no hidden fees. These packages make it simple to have one monthly payment with everything included and make it easier to budget each month.

Assisted living tends to be affordable compared to other senior care services. The cost is customizable based on the type of housing arrangement you choose, the dining program, the medical services, and other factors. You can simplify services as much as possible for a lower monthly package or add on services however you see fit.

Costs of assisted living rent vary by state and community, ranging from under $3,000 to over $9,000 per month. The average was $4,000 per month in 2019. You can compare this cost to in-home senior services which cost just under $4,000 every 22 days for the medical assistance alone or a shared room in a skilled nursing facility for over $7,000 per month.

Keep in mind that you will not necessarily be responsible for the entire monthly cost on your own. Many people can find help from financial assistance such as long-term healthcare plans, state senior assistance programs, veteran programs, or tax credits.

How to Find the Right Community

Once you make the decision to choose assisted living over other senior care options, you’ll move to the next step of picking the right community. This choice will be based on you and your loved one’s situation, such as location, personal preferences, budget, and medical needs. It’s smart to look into different assisted living communities in your area and compare them to each other. You can ask questions of each one and compare the answers you receive to make your decision.

Questions to Ask Assisted Living Communities

You can ask questions of the communities themselves and of professionals with knowledge of the senior industry. Consider these questions and any other ones you can think of when comparing assisted living communities:

  • Does your community follow local regulations and licensing, if applicable?
  • What are the administrator’s qualifications, such as education, training, and experience? What are the service providers’ qualifications?
  • What is the number of staff, and what type of staff are employed?
  • Which services are offered?
  • What is included in the monthly package, and how do payment plans work?
  • How are my loved one’s needs evaluated, and when will they be reevaluated?
  • How could the price change as needs change? Will the price increase in time if needs do not increase?

In addition to asking the community, perform additional research by looking at third-party websites like the Better Business Bureau and sites with customer ratings and feedback. You can ask professionals such as case managers or hospital discharge planners for advice, and check senior care resources. Find as much information as you can on each facility to make an informed decision on the best facility for your and your loved one’s needs.

Vista Springs Assisted Living

Vista Springs offers a range of assisted living communities throughout Michigan and Ohio. We offer different types of communities you can choose from to fit your needs and preferences. Are you still wondering whether assisted living is the best choice for your situation? You can learn more through our online resources, including our ebook: 12 Key Factors to Finding the Best Senior Living Community.

Contact us for more information about this retirement housing option and to learn more about our specific communities. We’re happy to answer your questions to help you consider whether one of our communities is the right one.