Independent living in their own home is the preference stated by most seniors.
Is your senior loved one ready for more care than they can receive in their home? Despite our attempts to keep them at home as long as possible, at some point family caregivers may need to help find a new housing arrangement to meet the needs of their senior loved ones.
Assisted living is a solution that gives care in an apartment setting. The Assisted Living Federation of America defines an assisted living facility (ALF) as “a housing and health-care option that combines independence and personal care in a residential setting.”
Seniors remain independent but receive more support such as meals, medication administration, bathing, dressing, transportation, activities, and socialization.
There are approximately three quarters of a million older adults living in assisted living facilities, 40% of whom received three or more activities of daily of living assistance from the facility.
It is the fastest growing option for long-term care for independent seniors who still need some assistance or supervision.
Is assisted living on the list of options your senior would consider for their future?
Should it be?
Would an assisted living facility be the right next home for your senior?
If this becomes an option for your senior, what should you look for in a facility, what will meet your senior’s needs, how can they afford an ALF, and how can your senior and family select the best facility?
Assisted Living Facility Features
An assisted living facility provides care for seniors who need more help with dressing, grooming, taking medications, preparing meals, doing housework, and other activities but does not usually offer skilled nursing services or medical care that a long term care facility (nursing home) would provide.
When activities of daily living become more than a person can safely complete in their home, the next step is often a move to assisted living.
Here are some of the features you can expect to find in an assisted living facility:
- Provide a long term living situation to meet the individual needs of each senior
- Depending on what is needed, these facilities can provide assistance with activities of daily living such as medication dispensing, bathing, grooming, household chores; congregate meals; activities to relieve boredom; socialization with peers; spiritual events; transportation; physical activities and social engagement; housekeeping and laundry
- Most provide health monitoring
- Involve families in the care and progress of their senior loved ones
- Improve the independence of seniors as they transition from the home setting with increased assistance to improve their function
- Provide transportation to nearby shopping, health professionals and community entertainment
- Some provide memory care services for those requiring more safe spaces, one-on-one care and assistance
- Provide home-like setting with comfort and style maintaining privacy combined with a variety of amenities
- 24 hour assistance provided, which may include security around the clock
- Cost will vary depending on the services your senior requires; the more they need-the more it will cost
Assisted Living Facility Selection Considerations
There are many factors to consider when looking for the right assisted facility for your senior’s new home.
- Is it located close to family and friends so that they can visit regularly?
- What are the available desired amenities and features, such as beauty shop, meals that meet your senior’s needs, caring staff, comfortable apartments, pleasing atmosphere, welcoming staff, cleanliness, free of odors, well maintained grounds and common areas, and how emergencies are handled.
- Does the facility desire to maintain dignity and respect as well as the highest level of quality of life for your senior? Is your senior involved with the plan of care?
- Will your senior’s privacy be maintained?
- Do they offer choices to your senior, including meals, activities, and desired amenities to maintain their independence? Read the activity calendar and see if the social events are of interest. Are there appropriate spiritual events for your loved one or you?
- Is the facility and its location safe?
- Do you understand and agree with the fees charged and facility policies? Ask what is included in the basic rate and what services will be extra (and how much).
- Are you fully aware of what might constitute unplanned discharge from the facility? What functional or behavioral changes will result in a discharge?
- Can seniors bring their own furniture and mementos?
- Are pets allowed? If so, what are the limitations? What costs are associated with pets?
- Does the dining program adjust for medical needs? Are between-meal snacks offered? Can they eat when hungry or are there set meal times or choices of meal offerings?
- What do you foresee your senior’s needs will be in the future and can this facility meet those needs?
- Can your senior stay there if he/she becomes cognitively impaired? (Alzheimer’s disease or dementia)
- Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been made, as well as simply searching the web using the facility’s name.
You can’t assume each facility offers the services your senior needs or will need in the future.
Planning for the Cost of Assisted Living
The cost of assisted living is usually paid by the elder or their family caregivers, but some long term care insurance policies will pay a portion of the cost. Sometimes financial assistance is available from the facility or, if your senior qualifies, Medicaid can help, though the facilities that accept Medicaid are limited.
You can expect to pay less for an assisted living facility than a nursing home, but it is still likely to be expensive.
You typically get what you pay for, so a cheaper fee may mean fewer services or even care below your standards.
In 2018, Genworth Financial completed a survey of the cost of assisted living and found that the fees have spiked up 6.7%. The cost has risen largely due to a national staffing shortage (which is likely only to become worse).
The average cost is now $4,000/month for a one-bedroom unit which is $48,000 per year. The costs vary slightly across the country, with a daily rate averaging $132.
Federal and state government programs generally do not cover the cost of assisted living. Therefore, sound financial planning is key. At the current time, only half of adults have a financial plan in place.
Caregivers may end up paying out of their own pockets (often out of their own retirement savings) to pay for the care of older adults who did not plan for the cost of long term support services (LTSS).
When seniors wait longer to enter an assisted living facility, they often have greater needs, which translate into a higher cost for that care. Therefore, be aware of the additional costs for care your senior may have when comparing different facilities.
Seniors who have dementia may be living longer with care needs. This should also be considered when financial planning is done as well as deciding on placement options.
Seniors Like the Change – Really!
We speak with many seniors who are very happy and enjoying themselves in assisted living facilities.
They are relieved of the burden of maintaining their home, cooking their own meals, or feeling lonely.
There are fun activities and new people to spend time with every day.
Although it is true that many of our seniors wish to age in place, there are also many who are struggling living alone and need more assistance to stay safely independent.
Whether you call it an assisted living facility, continuing care retirement facility, retirement home, residential care facility, congregate living facility, personal care home, or community residence, you may find that your senior will be happy to have made a change.
Careful investigation of facilities near you, visiting each center and speaking with staff and residents, and including your senior in the decision will make it a smoother transition for the entire family.
Assisted living facilities can offer you and your loved ones a safe, caring, friendly environment full of fun activities.
These facilities can bridge the gap between independent and dependent living situations when staying in the home is no longer the best option.
We wish you and your senior well as you plan home transitions!