Almost one million Americans currently live in an assisted living facility according to the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL).
It is the perfect place for aging adults who need daily care, but don’t require the intense medical treatment of nursing homes, or specialized care for memory loss.
Live a Better Life in Assisted Living
Assisted living is a type of senior living housing designed to promote the independent living of aging adults while providing necessary care and services.
It can be individual rooms or apartments that provide a home-like setting with the necessary care for comfortable daily living.
These facilities generally assist their residents with medication reminders, personal hygiene, transferring, meals, doctor’s appointments as well as events and activities.
Assisted living is perfect for those who need the daily assistance of a caretaker.
What’s the Difference Between Assisted Living and Other Senior Housing?
There are several different options for long-term care and housing for seniors. The best option depends on the resident’s needs and level of independence. These differences are often confusing, but we can help during the process to make sure you are choosing the right one for yourself or your loved one.
1. Assisted Living vs. Personal Care
The main difference between assisted living vs. personal care is that there is a nurse on staff at all times who can perform nursing duties such as giving injections for diabetes, check blood pressure, check oxygen levels, etc. A personal care home provides medical care where assisted living communities are social models with no medical care.
How they are similar: Both senior living options will provide housing, meals, assist with toiletry and bathing, and activities for residents.
How a personal care home is different: A personal care home is designed for those who require 24-hour medical care. Residents in a personal care home often need medical monitoring or assistance with checking vital health stats. If you are diabetic, on oxygen or require daily blood pressure checks, or have special food requirements such as mechanical soft food or pureed food, a personal care home is the right choice.
Medical Staff Available in a Personal Care Home
Typically, there are nurses available to residents in any personal care facility. At least one nurse should be available on call or on campus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Assisted Living does not have a nurse who can perform nursing duties. They typically are there to coordinate care plans and assist with emergencies.
2. Assisted Living vs. Skilled Nursing
The main difference between assisted living and skilled nursing (nursing homes), is the keyword: nurse. A nursing home provides significantly more medical care than an assisted living facility.
How they are similar: Both senior housing options will provide meals, assist with toiletry and bathing, and activities for residents.
How a nursing home is different: A nursing home is designed for those who require 24-hour medical care. Residents in a nursing home are often unable to get out of bed on their own. They sometimes use a feeding tube or have medical conditions that require constant care. For these reasons, a physician’s prescription is actually a requirement for nursing home admission.
3. Assisted Living vs. Memory Care
Patients who are suffering from memory loss require a different level of care that is not provided in a general assisted living facility.
How they are similar: Both facilities are live-in residences for aging adults. They both provide care on a daily basis with meals and assist with daily activities.
How Memory Care is different: The staff at a memory care facility should be trained in dementia care and qualified to manage difficult behavior. They cater their activities and therapies specifically to enhancing cognitive skills. In addition, the security in a memory care facility is significantly stronger and designed to prevent wandering whereas an assisted living facility has a more open environment.
Because of the increased security, specialized staff associated with memory care, the costs are significantly more expensive. Some assisted living facilities will have a specialty memory care area for residents with memory loss.
4. Assisted Living vs. Independent Living
Typically, an assisted living facility will look more like an apartment building while independent living may be similar to a neighborhood with individual units.
How they are similar: Both offer safe, senior-friendly housing and amenities. They each have activities, socializing, meals provided and a sense of community.
How Independent Living is different: Independent living provides very little personal or medical care. These are communities that are focused on providing a relaxing and maintenance-free environment for aging adults that are still fully capable of taking care of their personal needs.
With independent living, residents can delegate housecleaning, cooking, or laundry to the staff. There is usually community-provided transportation to run errands or go to the doctor, while still allowing the residents to live independently in their own space.
5. Assisted Living vs. In-Home Care
For adults who are not interested in leaving their home, in-home care services may be the best option for both seniors and their caregivers.
How they are similar: Both services are solutions to get aging adults the care they need on a daily basis. Both options provide some respite for caregivers and family members.
How In-Home Care is different: In-home care is a trained care aide who comes into the home and assists with housekeeping, cooking, transportation, companionship, and more. In-home care brings assistance to the adult rather than requiring them to move to a new home.
While in-home care is tailored and convenient, it doesn’t provide the same level of social interaction as an assisted living facility would provide. The cost of in-home care averages $30 per hour and requires minimums per day.
Levels of Care in Assisted Living
These communities still encourage independence and privacy while also offering 24-7 assistance with just the click of a button. The purpose is to keep adults safe while allowing them to live independently and age gracefully.
Because most states do not dictate levels of care, it is up to each community to outline this for their residents.
Generally, communities feature 4 to 6 levels of care within these communities:
- Lower Levels of Care: The facility provides three meals a day, and some assistance with ADLs (activities of daily living), such as dressing, bathing, toileting, etc. The residents receiving lower-level care include those who:
- Are mobile and able to evacuate the facility independently.
- Have stable health and no communicable diseases.
- Have no memory loss and full cognitive function.
- May need some assistance with small tasks like fastening buttons, opening jars, etc.
- Able to manage their own toileting needs.
- May need assistance with medications.
- Does not require any complex medical monitoring.
- Higher Levels of Care: The higher levels dictate more assistance and attention given to the residents. Generally, the residents receiving higher levels of care include those who:
- Requires assistance with getting up and down from the bed or chair and transferring.
- Receives more personal care to shower, dress, or manage the toilet.
- May have some minor memory loss.
- May be managing chronic pain or other medical conditions.
- Memory Care: Memory care is specialized care for those who are struggling with dementia, Alzheimer’s or other memory-related diagnosis. The memory care environment provides additional assistance including:
- Failure-free activities.
- Cognitive therapy.
- Lock-down secure facilities.
- Trained dementia care staff.
- Support groups for families.
When Is It Time for Assisted Living?
The decline of aging is not always obvious and sometimes the signs are subtle.
Look for the following warning signs that may help you decide when it’s time for assisted living.
- Feeling Isolated and Lonely: A social life is vital to your health and happiness at any age. After a spouse has passed on, or when an adult begins to spend most of their time alone, it can lead quickly to depression. The social benefits of these senior living communities can breathe new life into residents to stay active and make new friends.
- A Decline in Health and Increase in Frailty: Perhaps your loved one is forgetting their medications, or their medical needs are becoming more complicated.
- Financial Mismanagement: If your loved one is making poor financial choices, forgetting to pay their bills, misplacing funds or unable to manage their finances on their own, it may be time to look into senior housing.
- Hoarding: Many aging adults start to hoard unnecessarily, turning their homes into a safety hazard. This is one sign that indicates it is no longer safe for them to live on their own.
- Poor Hygiene: If you notice your parent or loved one isn’t showering regularly, hasn’t brushed their teeth, or has a hard time getting out of bed, assisted living can help. Assistance with these basic daily tasks can help aging adults feel fresh, clean, and cared for.
11 Benefits of Moving to Assisted Living
Each community is different, but they all focus on three pillars of physical, intellectual, and social health.
These three areas can transform the life of seniors to keep them happier and healthier for longer.
1. Prevent Social Isolation: In these senior living communities, residents enjoy a social and engaging environment. This encourages them to make friends, try new hobbies, feel connected to staff, and build relationships with others who are in the same life chapter.
2. 24/7 Professional and Compassionate Care: Individuals who work in assisted living can help with medications and hygiene needs while promoting privacy and dignity. This is often more comfortable than having a family member with personal hygiene.
3. Independence: While care is readily available, independence is still encouraged in these senior communities. Residents are supported and able to do what they want to do when they want to do it.
4. Bring Fun to Life: Activities, outings, opportunities, events, and games are all part of assisted living. Fun is an important part of aging well. Having the structure of necessary care and safety while supporting new activities is the best way to bring the fun back to life.
5. More Free Time: Without the necessity of housework, mowing the lawn, home maintenance, laundry, cooking, and cleaning, seniors can enjoy free time to do what they enjoy.
6. Delicious Meals: Each community provides meals that will keep the residents happy and healthy. Talented chefs provide healthy and delicious meals three times a day to residents. Dinner can be shared with friends in the facility, family members who come to visit, or delivered privately.
7. Readily Available & Safe Transportation: No need to worry about safe driving or getting home before the traffic hits. Facilities provide reliable transportation so you can get to your appointments and run errands when you need to.
8. Peace of Mind: Communities provide peace of mind for both the resident and their family. Knowing your loved one is being taken care of allows you to rest easy. Seniors relax into their new community quickly knowing their needs are met and they have a community that is supporting them.
9. Personalized Care: Each resident receives the individual care they need in these communities. They maintain their own daily schedule and get personalized one-on-one attention from a dedicated staff.
10. Care Coordination: Communities make it easy to coordinate care with doctors, specialists, and the families of residents. Having everyone on one page allows your loved one to have a team of support behind them every step of the way.
11. Safety: Each community is designed to minimize injuries like falls or accidents. With all the necessary ramps, railings, walk-in showers and a caring and loving staff, your loved ones are in good hands.
How To Choose the Right Community?
Finding the right facility is not difficult, if you know what you’re looking for. It’s important to ask the right questions and know what’s important to ensure you’ve found the best option for your loved one.
- Start With the Basics: When you’re looking at homes, look for general things such as their licensing, insurance, emergency procedures, and policies regarding visits. You want a place that is reputable and reliable from the very beginning. Make sure you’ve chosen the right licensure for your needs.
- Costs: In addition to the cost breakdown, ask about their contract policy. Can the contract be terminated early? What is the refund policy? Are additional services included? What are the billing policies?
- Types of Staff Available: You want to ensure the staff caring for your loved one is trained and qualified. Ask about staff turnover rates, speak with staff members if possible and notice if they are warm, friendly, appropriately dressed, etc.
- Pay Attention: When you visit the facility, pay attention to the environment, the atmosphere, the mood of other residents, and listen to your instincts. Do the residents appear happy and comfortable? Do you see staff interacting with them? Is the facility clean? Are the residents at similar levels of functioning as your loved one?
- Medication and Health Care: Ask about the policies regarding medication, storage, and record keeping. Is self-administered medication allowed? How are doctor’s visits coordinated? Will a nurse visit regularly? Do they use a specific pharmacy?
- Level of Care and Services: Be sure you understand the levels of care available and where your loved one would fit best. Ask about activities like dressing, eating, getting around, hygiene, grooming, incontinence or toileting, shopping, laundry, and housekeeping.
- Social and Recreational Activities: Do they have activities on a regular basis? Ask for a schedule of the last few months’ activities and see which ones you think your loved one would genuinely enjoy. If your loved one has a four-legged friend, ask about pet policies.
- Features of Individual Units: Look to ensure the facility itself is well cared for. Is the lighting adequate? Is it overly hot/cool? Are the cupboards and shelves easy to reach? Will your loved one be sharing a room? Are the doors lockable? Are bathrooms private? Can you bring your own furnishings? How is television and phone billing handled? Are residents able to keep food in their rooms?
- Food Services: If possible, ask to share a meal at the facility. Ask about special food requests or diets. Are snacks available? Can a resident make food in their room if they prefer?
- Payment Options: Before you sign on the dotted line, be sure you understand your payment options fully including contract limits, rate increases, early-termination options, etc.
Average Cost of a Community
According to the NCAL and Personal Care Homes report, the average cost in the United States is about $4,300 per month or $51,600 annually.
Keep in mind this can vary greatly depending on the facility offerings and the area you live.
For more precise and accurate pricing estimates contact Patti Naiser at Senior Home Transitions.
Ways to Pay for Assisted Living
The cost of these communities can be a burden. Finding a way to pay the monthly rate can be stressful if there is not a retirement plan or insurance benefit in place.
Here are three common ways residents use to pay for assisted living:
Veteran’s Benefits: Veterans may qualify for aid from the VA. The most common program is called Aid & Attendance (A&A) which is a monthly, needs-based payment that some veterans may receive in addition to their standard pension for long-term care needs. In order to receive VA benefits, the veteran must be bed-ridden, need assistance with ADLs or have a mental, physical, or visual impairment.
Life Insurance: Seniors with a life insurance policy can “cash out” early and use those funds to pay for long term care.
Another option is a life settlement. In a life settlement, a life insurance policyholder sells their policy to a third-party company. In turn, the buyer (the third-party group) pays you a lump sum that you can use to pay for long-term care.
Medicaid: Medicaid does cover assisted living costs in Indiana, Ohio and Florida, but not in Kentucky. Tennessee offers CHOICES plans that can cover up to $1000 per month to cover care costs. In Indiana it covers most, which may make the fees more manageable.
How To Support Your Loved One Moving to a Community
Moving to senior housing can be stressful. Even if your loved one agrees to the move, it can still be a difficult transition.
- Acknowledge your loved one’s feelings of loss and don’t minimize their feelings. It’s not necessary to focus on the positive, sympathize with them and show empathy by giving them time to adjust.
- Call and visit as often as you can to assure them you aren’t abandoning them. Continue to include them in regular routines and traditions.
- Work through concerns together by talking about how things are going. Take any worries seriously and work to resolve the issue with the facility.
- Help your loved one personalize their living space by bringing in their favorite artwork, furniture, decorations, or photos. Don’t take over, let them take the lead in creating a space they love.
Myths About Community Living
These senior living facilities get a bad reputation for being somewhere old people are held captive and restricted. These negative images can cause both seniors and their families to be apprehensive of the option.
It’s important to break some of the most commonly held stigmas around assisted living myths:
MYTH: Assisted living is only for seniors who are sick or disabled.
FACT: These facilities are for seniors who only need limited care and are mostly independent.
MYTH: Seniors lose their independence and privacy.
FACT: These communities actually enhance both independence and privacy. Seniors can live their day on their own schedule and have control over their environment.
MYTH: No opportunities for socialization and hobbies.
FACT: These communities provide more socializing and activities than living on their own. There are no forced activities, but plenty of options throughout the day.
MYTH: All communities are the same.
FACT: There is a wide range of communities with different amenities, services, room layouts, and styles. Some do a good job, some don’t…that’s why you need someone knowledgeable to help you navigate.
MYTH: Employees don’t care about the residents.
FACT: Staff members are typically very passionate about the work they do and are both professional and friendly. Any concern about a staff member can be communicated to the director.
MYTH: Assisted living and retirement living are the same.
FACT: Retirement communities provide little to no daily care and residents generally take care of themselves. Assisted living facilities provide daily one-on-one care for each resident.
FAQs About Assisted Living
A Better Way To Care for Your Loved Ones
If you are pursuing senior living as a viable option for you or your loved one, take the time to talk about your options and research what is available in your area.
We have decades of experience working with family members and seniors in assisted living. We can help you to look at different communities in Louisville, Lexington, and the Northern KY area, as well as Nashville, TN, and Tampa, FL.
Senior Home Transitions will go above and beyond the national placement services. We will help you strategically compare each one and get the care you need within your budget. We provide our senior advising services at absolutely no charge to you.