What is Assisted Living?

Assisted living can be defined as 24-hour non-medical care delivered in a residential setting. Previously known as nursing homes , the properties and amenities have improved immensely over the years and so they are now called senior living or assisted living communities. These properties offer seniors room and board, 24-hour non-medical care, housekeeping, laundry services, social engagement, wellness programs, and much more. Assisted living communities can be large hotel-like properties or single family homes (often called Board and Care or Residential Care Homes). The majority of assisted living communities are private pay and offer month-to-month rental agreements.

Often, the decision to move into assisted living communities is made by the family or loved ones of the seniors that move into the communities. For more independent seniors, or active adults, searching for themselves there are Independent Living or Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC).

Many consumer advocacy groups like AARP share statistics that 90% of people want to stay in their own homes as they age. While that is a reality for many seniors, the aging process is different for everyone. As people experience increased daily care needs, cognitive decline, social isolation, and/or the desire for a maintenance free lifestyle, assisted living communities can be the most desirable option.

Assisted Living can be the right balance for seniors who want to be independent, but also need some day-to-day assistance and care.

Your loved one will still maintain the all-important feelings of freedom, minus the challenges that can exist with mobility, transportation, cooking, social activities, cleaning, medical care, and more.

Activities such as exercise classes, group dinners, day trips, art classes, and more, allow for regular socialization and new friendships in any community.

Common activities in most communities include:

  • Art classes
  • Day trips
  • Shopping excursions
  • Dances
  • Aerobics
  • Religious services
  • Movie nights
  • Bingo
  • Tai Chi
  • Musical performances

There’s no need for extra transportation, class registrations or additional coordination to enjoy extracurriculars. Depending on the type of community selected, dozens of daily activities and events will be on site, or just a short stroll (or wheelchair ride) away.

What Type Of Medical Staff Is Present?

Though every community is different, dedicating themselves to different levels of care and services, most Assisted Living communities will offer regular activities, on-site non-medical health care, comfortable living spaces, and prepared meals. Some communities that focus on higher acuity care may have licensed nurses on staff, while others focus on dementia or memory care and may have cognitive specialists.

All communities should provide daily needs such as:

  • Mobility assistance
  • Medication monitoring
  • Bathing
  • Getting dressed
  • Incontinence care
  • Transportation
  • Housekeeping
  • Laundry
  • Social engagement
  • Wellness/Mental health programs
  • Meals

Seniors should expect their own private residences with most communities offering studios or one-bedroom apartments. Couples also can live together, and some communities, especially the smaller ones, do offer shared rooms for more economic value. And no need to leave a pet behind as many communities allow dogs,cats and fish to come along with their faithful owners.

Always ensure the senior living community you choose is completely certified with a reliable, upbeat staff of managers, nurses, caregivers, and other personnel. When asking questions, there should be no hesitation to prove total compliance of regulations.

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Licensing and Inspection Requirements

Each state has its own licensing agency responsible for inspecting and certifying each Assisted Living community. Here is a full list of regulating agencies by state, as well as a full list of certifications you should always ask to see.

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Exploring The Social and Community Aspects

Many assume that making the step away from their “old life” and into Assisted Living means the end of a social life and autonomy. This is far from the truth. Any Assisted Living community worth considering should amplify the amount of activities residents can enjoy, and can deepen peer and familial relationships.

It’s been proven that maintaining social connections are essential to keeping senior minds sharp and healthy. It also helps to stave off depression and other mental problems, which can be a serious issue for older adults.

Though your loved one may currently seem more than content with the familiarity of their own home, the ability to easily enjoy meals with friends, learn new skills, and interact with their peers daily often becomes a priceless, life-extending amenity.

In addition, families can now relax and enjoy each precious minute together. Rather than stressing about whether all their needs are being properly met, or trying to care for your loved one on your own, spend time together assured of their safety and happiness.

If you are ready to search for Assisted Living near you, just enter your city or zip code in the content box below.

Considering Cost and Payment Options

As of 2017, the national median rate of Assisted Living per month for a 1-bedroom apartment is $3750. The cost can easily differ depending on where you live, or the level of service your loved one requires.

That comes to about $43,000 a year. That may sound like a big number, but once you add up all current living costs, you may be surprised that there are often notable savings.

There are also many ways to find that perfect balance of price, services, and comfort. With a wide range of community, from the basic to the luxurious, choosing an Assisted Living community that fits your budget without skimping on care and amenities is possible.

In general Assisted Living communities fall under 3 pricing levels:

  • Basic: This is a great option for seniors on a budget desiring a simple, no-frills lifestyle. Activities and amenities are often minimal, but still expect complete comfort, professionalism, and cleanliness.

  • Boutique: The sweet spot of price and comfort. These communities offer private living, expanded medical care, high-quality meals, and a wider variety of amenities and activities.

  • Luxury: If money is no object, this level of resort-style living allows seniors to enjoy life like they’re on vacation. Expect top-notch 24/7 medical care, fine dining, large apartments, concierge services, endless activities, etc.

Do keep in mind that all levels of care should be safe, secure, friendly, and 100% certified. No bargain is worth risking the wellbeing of your loved one.

Financial Assistance

If you’re still unsure if Assisted Living can realistically fit into your budget, look into the many financial aid options available.

Government services like Medicare, Medicaid, or Veterans Assistance can be valuable tools in making Assisted Living affordable. Many communities also offer special payment plans, programs, and other strategies to help your loved one live in their ideal community.

If you are interested in learning more about the different costs that go into assisted living, explore our resource on the costs of assisted living here.

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How Assisted Living Varies from other care options

Assisted Living vs Nursing Homes

Also commonly called Skilled Nursing, there is a definable difference between Assisted Living communities and Nursing Homes, though many use them interchangeably. According to the CDC, over 50% of Nursing Home residents have either Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Most residents also spend the majority of their time sedentary.

In contrast, most Assisted Living residents maintain active lifestyles needing only basic daily services such as bathing, mobility assistance, on-site medical care, etc. Allowing seniors to lead active, independent lives while also aiming to make daily life simpler and safer is the primary goal of Assisted Living communities.

Nursing Home Assisted Living
Private Living x
24-Hour Medical Assistance x
Medication Monitoring x x
Regular Activities x x

If your loved one needs significant daily care, or suffers from noticeable effects of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, a Skilled Nursing Home may be the better choice. However, if they desire a more independent lifestyle and require relatively minimal assistance, Assisted Living may be just the right balance.

Assisted Living vs. Independent Living

Seniors choosing to live in Independent Living vs. Assisted Living typically require very little, if any, daily assistance. Unlike Assisted Living, residents of these communities can get around, cook, bathe, clean, and manage the majority of their life without extra care. This provides the largest amount of independence. Hence, the name.

Independent Living Assisted Living
Private Living x x
Daily Living Assistance x
Medication Monitoring x
Regular Activities x x

Independent Living also provides the largest amount of day-to-day social activities, offers on-site medical services, and provides a safe, secure community. Living spaces are usually larger, apartment-style quarters with full kitchens, outdoor areas, private rooms, etc.

Unlike Assisted Living, services Independent Living often won’t provide include bathing, memory care, mobility services, on-going medical treatments, and more. Though Assisted Living communities will organize many social and enrichment activities, they are often more structured than activities in Independent Living.

If your loved one currently lives a very self-reliant lifestyle with few medical needs, and is simply searching for a safe, active community of senior peers, Independent Living may be the perfect fit. For those striving for a large degree of independence, but with some daily assistance, Assisted Living might be the ticket.

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