8 Things to Know About Assisted Living

If you are in the early stages of considering a move into an assisted living community for yourself or a family member, it’s not uncommon to find that you have more questions than answers. Hopefully, after reading this article, many of the questions you have will be answered and you’ll feel more confident as you move forward in your search for the perfect assisted living community.

First, let’s get a basic understanding of what assisted living is. Assisted living communities provide care to individuals who can no longer live independently but don’t need more intensive care provided in a nursing home or the skilled medical care provided in a skilled nursing community. Assisted living communities provide assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as dressing, grooming, bathing, toileting, housekeeping, laundry, medication management and transportation. Residents are encouraged to maintain as much independence as possible while receiving any assistance they may require. Someone is available 24/7 to help with whatever assistance is needed. For more information about assisted living and the benefits it offers, check out this blog post.

With all of this in mind, let’s look at eight things you should know about assisted living.

1.  Each assisted living community is unique.

Each assisted living community will have its own unique look and feel, many times determined by its location. Assisted living communities may consist of a small intimate group of cottages nestled in a community or neighborhood, a sprawling complex in the suburbs or a towering building in the center of a bustling city. The community can have a relatively small number of residents or may have hundreds of residents living in a large complex. Some communities will have a more homelike ambiance providing a down to earth feeling. Others have a more formal and traditional design. Some will be decorated using mid-century modern design techniques while others sport art deco décor.

Assisted living communities come in all sizes and shapes, giving you choices so you can enjoy retirement in a location and atmosphere that is familiar and comfortable to you. Even two communities that look almost identical on the exterior and are located adjacent to each other can have a very different personality once you pass through the front door.

2. Assisted living communities may offer different levels of care.

Although assisted living communities are regulated in all 50 states, there is no universal definition as to what assisted living really means. Therefore, communities who refer to themselves as assisted living can provide varying levels of care. Assisted living communities all provide support to those who cannot live independently, but some may offer only “light” assistance while others cater to those who need assistance while eating or who are bedridden. The level of care a community provides may be determined by their licensing. Many states have a tiered licensing system, making it possible for a community on a higher tier of the licensing standards to be able to provide higher levels of care.

3. Assisted living communities do not have doctors on-site.

Although assisted living communities provide basic medical care such as diabetes oversight and provide medication management, doctors are not on staff. Most have a full-time nurse on staff, some of which are registered nurses, but most are licensed vocational nurses. If intensive medical care is required on a routine basis, a skilled nursing community would be able to provide more adequate care. Some assisted living communities handle intermittent medical needs by having the residents arrange for the medical care through a home health agency.

4. An assisted living community is not a nursing home.

Although many people begin their search for senior care using the term “nursing home,” this term in fact often leads them on a wild goose chase because of a disconnect between public perception of senior care options and the actual care options available. Assisted living care is not nursing home care and vice versa.

Although both provide assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), residents in assisted living communities remain as independent as possible, often only requiring assistance with personal care needs such as grooming, dressing and bathing; whereas, residents in nursing homes often require around the clock assistance with many, if not all, of their ADLs.

Residents in a nursing home often share a room. Residents in assisted living communities generally live in their own studio or one-bedroom apartment. Additionally, as long as residents are mobile, an assisted living community may be the best option available to them; whereas, individuals who are bedridden generally need nursing home care.

Nursing home residents often require skilled nursing care on a daily basis; whereas, residents in assisted living do not require ongoing medical attention, although they are provided with medication management along with minor medical supervision such as diabetes management.

If in doubt, seek to have an assessment made by a medical professional or a senior advisor to help you determine the care type needed.

5. Assisted living costs can be more reasonable than other care options.

Once you’ve determined that it’s no longer feasible to live independently, one care option many people consider is remaining in their own home. Although this is an option that many prefer, when you compare the cost of continuing to maintain a home along with the additional costs of hiring a personal home care aide to that of moving into an assisted living community, you may be surprised. Online calculators are available to help make a cost of living comparison using your specific costs and care needs. Genworth’s calculator can also be used to help determine long-term care costs.

If you have purchased long-term care insurance, it can be used to help offset care costs. Veterans who qualify may be eligible for VA benefits to help offset the cost of care. Those with low income may be able to use Medicaid to pay for their care after going through a spend down. To explore this and other options, contact your local Area Agency on Aging Office.

Check out our blog post, Deciding Between Assisted Living and Home Care? Here Are Some Things to Consider.

6. Pets are often welcomed.

Senior living communities have varying pet policies – some with specific breed restrictions and weight limits. However, many, including Homestead at Hamilton, understand the value of sharing your life with a pet, and encourage you to bring your pet into the community. Some communities have “pet interviews” to determine how well your furry companion would work within their community. Birds and fish are also welcome, although aquariums may have weight limits, especially in communities with more than one level. Some communities even have pet coordinators to assist with the care of your pet companions. Be sure to contact communities you are considering and inquire into their pet policies if you intend to share your home with a pet companion.

For more information about sharing your life with a pet, check out our blog post, The Health Benefits of Owning a Pet and Pet-Friendly Places in Hamilton, NJ.

7. Some assisted living communities offer dementia care.

According to the World Health Organization, around 50 million people have dementia across the globe with nearly 10 million new cases every year. They project that by 2030, the total number of people with dementia will reach 82 million; and by 2050, it’s projected to reach an astonishing 152 million worldwide.

In the US, according to the Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention, at least five million people are dealing with age-related dementias. The Alzheimer’s Association, however, provides even higher numbers. They estimate that 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. With Alzheimer’s accounting for approximately 70% of dementia cases, that comes to over 8.1 million dementia cases. And the numbers are expected to grow. Even now, one in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s. Someone in the United States is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds, and by 2050, it’s expected to increase to one every 33 seconds.

These people will likely require some form of care, many in specialized memory care communities. Early on, dementia patients are often able to live among the regular population of assisted living communities, but as symptoms worsen, they may be required to transition to specialized memory care units which provide greater security, reduce agitation and frustration, and improve quality of life. Staff are specially trained to deal with the needs of the memory-impaired population.

Check out our blog post, Assisted Living vs. Memory Care, for more information.

8. Keeping couples together may require planning.

After sharing so many years of their life, it’s important for married couples to remain together as they move into an assisted living community. This can become increasingly difficult when each person has differing care needs and even more so as care needs change.

Communities understand a couple’s desire to remain together and most will work to accommodate couples. Sometimes communities have double occupancy apartments, which come with a premium price tag. If you are looking for a community where a married couple can remain together, do your homework. Look at the sizes of apartments that are available and determine the space needed by the two people.

Arranging care for a couple often requires a little more planning and legwork but is worth it to keep two people who love each other together.

Discover Homestead at Hamilton

Once you’ve decided assisted living is right for you, you still have many things to consider. To help in your decision-making process, visit us at Homestead at Hamilton, a premier senior living community located in Hamilton Township. We would love to answer any questions you may still have about your senior living options. We have an open house every Tuesday from 1:00-3:00 pm and our team has also created a resource guide to help answer your questions. Contact us to schedule a time that is convenient for you.


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