You’ve spent years helping Mom or Dad cook and clean and get to appointments, and now it’s clearer than a cloudless day -- your beloved parent needs more support than family, friends or even home care services can provide. If this describes your situation, you may feel a little troubled, wondering whether a nursing home is the only choice, or if there is another reasonable alternative.
In many cases, the answer is yes—there’s a senior living option called assisted living that can often provide just the right amount of support and independence for a senior.
Assisted living is quite different than the places your grandparents might have lived in 20 or 30 years ago. Back then, the only real option were these facilities—nursing homes—that resembled hospitals more than homes. And while the skilled nursing industry has come a long way in the past few decades, assisted living has also emerged in that same time as a preferred alternative for many seniors.
If your Mom or Dad has a serious mental or physical ailment and needs intensive hands-on care and regular monitoring, a traditional nursing home or skilled nursing facility might indeed be the right answer for them. These communities care for frail elderly people with complex medical conditions who need a high level of assistance. A licensed physician supervises each patient’s care, a nurse is always on the premises, and other medical professionals, such as occupational or physical therapists, are also available.
Good Match for Seniors Who Don’t Require Intense Care
An assisted living community is a better fit for someone who, although they may have some health problems or need help with bathing or dressing, are much more independent.
These communities do deliver some medical services, such as medication management, and many offer a memory care wing designed for those with dementia or other cognitive problems. Some even dedicate the entire community to providing memory care. As well, in most communities, a licensed nurse completes a comprehensive, tailored assessment for each resident, and nurses and certified nursing assistants are onsite 24 hours a day to help meet residents’ needs. Geriatricians as well as other health care professionals, such as podiatrists, optometrists and massage therapists, often visit these communities, and some offer physical, occupational and speech therapy.
Both assisted living communities and nursing homes deliver personal care assistance as well as light housekeeping and laundry, and both come with dining rooms that serve three meals a day including special meals for those with medical conditions. In addition, rooms or suites in both types of residences are supplied with an emergency pull cord or other type of safety alert system.
A big benefit of assisted living communities is that they are able to offer a la carte medical services for those who need it. And these services can be added and removed over time. That means that these communities offer the ability to “age in place,” while increasing care when needed.
Less-Expensive, Less-Institutionalized Option
According to the Assisted Living History website, the first assisted living community opened in Portland, Oregon in 1981 in response to a demand for a less institutionalized senior living option than what nursing homes could offer. From the mid-90’s onward, assisted living began to grow in popularity, quickly becoming a mainstream option for aging adults.
This type of community started out as a less-expensive, residential alternative to the traditional nursing home. In fact, according to theU.S. Department of Health & Human Services, in 2010, the average cost for a private room in a nursing home was $6,965 per month, more than twice the cost of a one-bedroom assisted living apartment, which averaged at $3,293 per month. (Note: Low-income seniors may be eligible for Medicaid assistance, which can be used to pay for long-term nursing care in all states and for certain assisted living communities in many, but not all, states.)
Although there is no one blueprint for an assisted living community—they range from a stand-alone residence to a level of care in a continuing care retirement community—they all go out of their way to offer a homelike atmosphere. Apartment styles typically include studio and one-bedroom models with kitchenettes and there are plenty of common areas, making it easy for residents to socialize. These communities help seniors maintain an independent lifestyle where they can enjoy a full social life and a variety of recreational and entertainment activities. It is no surprise then that they are now among the fastest-growing long-term care options for seniors, and the most preferred.
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