Assisted Living Basics and What To Look For

Deciding to place a loved one in long-term care can be one of the most difficult decisions you'll ever have to make. Understanding every aspect of the process can help ensure that the choice made is the best one possible.

Nobody escapes the ravages of time. Placing a family member in long-term care can be heart-wrenching. Making the final decision might be the most challenging part of the process. However, there are still many issues to face after the decision is made.

The assisted living community you choose should meet all health care standards required by law. You'll also want to negotiate the best contract terms possible. Choosing the right type of facility will depend on the independence your loved one wants to have.

This article contains useful information to help this challenging period go as smoothly as possible.

Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes

Assisted living facilities and nursing homes cater to individuals with distinct elder care needs. In general, assisted living facilities are for those seeking a balance between independence and support with daily activities. They offer communal living spaces and assistance with tasks like medication management.

On the other hand, nursing homes provide a higher level of care. Nursing home care is designed for individuals with complex medical needs. This includes round-the-clock medical treatment and rehabilitation services. Nursing home residents often contend with greater physical or cognitive challenges.

Assisted living emphasizes independence and social engagement. In contrast, nursing homes offer intensive medical care and supervision. The choice between these options depends on your loved one's level of independence and specific medical and mental health requirements.

The Continuum of Care

The continuum of care refers to a range of services. It addresses the changing needs of individuals across different stages of life or varying health conditions. Assisted living facilities offer a continuum that allows residents to age in place. As residents' needs evolve, these facilities adapt by providing additional personal care or medical support.

In contrast, nursing homes cater to a more advanced stage of the continuum. They offer an extensive range of medical care and rehabilitation services for those with complex health conditions. This continuum allows individuals to receive appropriate care at each stage. This promotes a sense of stability and familiarity.

What To Look For in Assisted Living Facilities

The key requirement for an assisted living facility is that your loved one enjoys living there and feels safe.

When considering different assisted living options, think about factors such as:

  • Cleanliness
  • Staff friendliness
  • Whether the residents seem happy
  • Whether recreation is made available
  • What amenities are provided
  • Level of medical care provided

It's a good idea to speak with residents and interview nurses and other staff. You might ask staff about their understanding of legal duties, like reporting abuse. You can ask about medication management, memory care, and other basic services.

If the team appears reluctant or refuses to allow you to speak with residents, that's probably a good indicator that you should avoid that facility.

Assisted Living Facility Contracts

Assisted living facility contracts detail the terms and conditions governing the residency of your loved one. These contracts outline the array of care services provided.

Unlike nursing home contracts, which often encompass more extensive medical care and rehabilitation services, assisted living contracts focus on aiding with activities of daily living.

Families should pay particular attention to provisions addressing healthcare, emergency protocols, and the facility's flexibility in accommodating special needs. Understanding these contracts is vital to ensuring your loved one receives the appropriate care and services, whether covered by MedicareMedicaid, or other funding sources.

Resident's Rights

Assisted living facility residents in the United States are entitled to various rights under federal and state laws.

At the federal level, the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 sets out basic rights for residents in long-term care facilities. This includes assisted living. These rights encompass the right to dignity, privacy, and freedom from abuse or neglect. Residents also have the right to participate in their care plans and make decisions about their healthcare.

State laws often complement federal regulations. They offer additional protections and specify the responsibilities of assisted living facilities. State-level rights may include guarantees of quality of life, access to healthcare services, and mechanisms for addressing grievances.

Understanding both federal and state laws is important for residents and their families to ensure proper protection and quality of life.

Assisted Living Residence Services

Assisted living residences offer more services than independent living facilities. The type and level of assistance an older adult requires depends on the individual.

One of the most frustrating parts of getting older is the loss of independence. These long-term, skilled nursing facilities allow older adults to retain their independent lifestyles and support the tasks and activities that become more difficult with age.

Assisted living residences typically provide such services as:

  • Meals, housekeeping, and other domestic assistance
  • Personal, but not nursing care
  • Recreational activities or guided daily activities
  • Health and safety monitoring

Assisted living offers many benefits to older adults, but it isn't for everyone. The residences are not a perfect substitute for a home, especially one that an older adult may have lived in for decades.

Assisted living residences also organize older adults' schedules. This can annoy someone who can handle most tasks but wants someone around to do the cooking and cleaning.

Types of Rooms Within Residences

Assisted living facilities offer a wide variety of living spaces for full-time residents:

  • One-bedroom apartments that may be indistinguishable from a standard rental unit
  • Studio apartments with small kitchens
  • Studio apartments with no kitchens
  • Single private rooms
  • Shared rooms
  • Separate bedrooms with a common living area

The living spaces may come with furniture, or the resident may be able to bring in their own. The living areas will often have special accommodations for older adults. This includes handrails, non-slip surfaces, and special fixtures.

Typical Activities of Daily Living

As people age, they may start to have problems with activities of daily living (ADL):

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Eating
  • Using the bathroom
  • Getting in and out of bed

Assisted living residences can provide the kind of personal attention that will help older adults with ADLs. This allows them to retain more autonomy.

Health and Safety Monitoring

Family and friends of older adults in assisted living facilities will appreciate having someone around to ensure the resident is healthy and safe.

Assisted living residences will monitor their residents and check for signs of illness or distress. If there is a problem, this can be crucial in ensuring that older adults receive timely care.

Grocery and Meal Providers

Shopping for groceries and preparing meals can be a chore for everyone. It can be especially challenging for older adults. Assisted living facilities can prepare meals for older adults, which helps them maintain a proper diet and stay healthy.

This service alleviates the physical burden of grocery shopping and cooking. It also fosters a sense of community as residents often dine together. Additionally, the focus on nutrition supports the overall health of older adults, contributing to their well-being.

Cleaning Services

While most people take pride in keeping a tidy house, many older adults may struggle with the physical activities that this entails.

In an assisted living residence, trained caregivers take on housekeeping responsibilities. This lightens the physical burden and allows residents to redirect their energy to more enjoyable activities.

By relieving individuals of the day-to-day chores, assisted living facilities create an environment where residents can fully engage in social and recreational activities.

Socializing, Hobbies, and Exercise

A good assisted living facility encourages residents to stay mentally and physically active. It provides them opportunities to socialize with other residents, take up hobbies, and get a healthy amount of exercise.

The facility may offer a variety of hobby-based programs, from arts and crafts to book clubs. This allows individuals to explore and pursue their interests. Regular exercise is also a key component. Some assisted living facilities offer fitness classes, walking groups, or on-site gyms.

What Does It Cost?

The cost of an assisted living facility differs based on the size of the living space, the level of services provided, and the area in which it is located. People considering an assisted living residence should understand that the living space is usually rented. Rent, like any other apartment, can go up over time.

Many assisted living facilities also charge various fees at different points. You should inquire about this as well.

How an Attorney Can Help: Rights, Contracts, and Safety

Navigating legal issues within assisted living facilities is crucial for you and your loved one. Consulting with an elder law attorney is invaluable. They can clarify the rights of residents and provide essential legal services. These services include estate planningMedicaid planning, and protection against elder abuse.

An elder law attorney can explain the residential agreement and the rights, obligations, and services agreed upon by the assisted living facility. This legal guidance extends to durable power of attorney, conservatorships, asset protection, and directives for healthcare decisions.

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