Independence is important to every adult, no matter their age. Many adults can remember the first time they took the car out for a drive after getting their license, earning their first paycheck, and their first time living on their own. As people age, that independence is not something they’re willing to let go of. So what do we do when we start to fear for the health and safety of our loved ones who are living on their own?
While it’s not always something we want to think about—growing older and struggling to live independently—being aware and informed about what the next chapters can hold is important. What is assisted living? Is it the same as nursing care? Or a home health aide? How do I know if and when it’s right for a loved one or for me? These are frequently asked questions, and the Mission at Agua Fria wants to help provide some answers.
Assisted living falls roughly between needing a home health aide and nursing care. A home health aide provides supportive care in an individual’s home. This aid can be a caregiver helping with daily needs, such as maintaining personal hygiene, cooking, and house chores, or a licensed healthcare professional providing needed medical treatments. Nursing homes, on the other hand, are places for people who need regular medical care that cannot be provided at home but does not require a hospital. Nursing homes tend to have skilled nurses and nurse’s aides on-site 24/7.
As for assisted living, it is personalized care for adults given within an assisted-living community. These communities provide support for activities of daily living (ADLs) while also allowing for the independence their residents need and desire.
What Is and Is Not Included?
Assisted-living community offerings can vary by location, but in general, they provide medical oversight, supportive care for ADLs, and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs)—shopping, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, and so forth. Additionally, there’s an extra level of safety and security within these communities, including 24/7 support staff, walk- or wheel-in showers with grab bars, emergency response pull cords, and emergency pendants.
They also provide a range of social programs and activities to enrich the lives of their residents. As the level of care needed for each resident will vary, licensed nurses will complete assessments before move-in to determine individual needs and create personal care plans.
Since active seniors are happy and healthy seniors, services and programs tend to range from physical activities like swimming and yoga to day trips, excursions, and enrichment programs designed to encourage involvement and appeal to the interests of each resident. Many communities even recognize the importance and health benefits of allowing residents to bring along their pets. These benefits include fewer symptoms of depression, reduced stress, a greater sense of self-worth, and decreased heart rate and blood pressure. Some communities even have dedicated staff to assist with the care of residents’ furry friends when needed.
As we mentioned earlier, there are services assisted living communities do not include. They aren’t the same as nursing homes. This means they don’t include full-time care from specially trained medical staff. While nursing home facilities are licensed by Medicare and Medicaid, with a focus on short-term rehabilitation or long-term medical care, assisted living communities generally are not. Therefore, they don’t typically have their expenses covered by these entities, but you can always discuss financial options when touring.
Memory Care Communities
Some assisted living communities also have special licensing to provide memory care communities. These are usually designated floors, wings, or buildings of the community specifically tailored to benefit residents who have diagnoses like Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Memory care communities will have specially trained staff members and extra safety precautions in place to care for their residents. Their programs are designed to increase the overall quality of life for these seniors, while reducing stress and agitation. Some even include specific layouts designed to foster familiarity, reduce confusion, and reduce wandering.
When Is It Time?
Knowing when it’s time for a loved one or yourself to consider an assisted living community is vital. The most prominent indicator is when someone struggles with ADLs and IADLs. If you or a loved one consistently needs help with two or more of the following activities—bathing, dressing, eating, shopping, cleaning, or managing medications—these can be signs that assisted living might be something to explore. There are even ADL checklists available to help you examine the overall quality of living and to support informed decisions in a timely fashion.
There are a lot of benefits to assisted living. Not only does it provide a helping hand to the senior in need, but it can also make life easier for the main caregiver. It often significantly improves the senior’s quality of life. There are also options for couples who want to stay together when one is in more need of assistance than the other. Even some elderly children and parents both decide to move into assisted living communities together.
With almost 29,000 assisted living communities in America today, there is a community to fit meet the diverse cultural, dietary, linguistic, and religious needs and preferences of everyone. With all the variations, what remains the same is the approach: to allow all residents to age with dignity by encouraging independence and providing privacy.
While we have answered some of the frequently asked questions regarding assisted living, we understand you may or may not be ready to take the next step in finding the community for you or your loved one. However, when you are ready, we know you will have more questions, and at the Mission at Agua Fria, we have professionals and advisors ready to help. We encourage you to reach out, continue your research, and schedule a tour to ensure you find the community that fits your dynamic lifestyle.