Considering assisted living for a loved one can provoke a lot of thoughts and questions. If you’re a caregiver or family member of someone elderly who is approaching the need for assisted living, it’s normal to feel curious and even anxious about the subject. This article will go over the most common questions and concerns generated around transitioning into an assisted living facility. 

What is an assisted living community?

An assisted living facility is housing provided for seniors who find difficulty in living independently, meaning that they require some assistance with daily activities. 

One reason assisted living communities are particularly appealing to seniors is that they provide an environment that allows them to keep a high quality of independence. Assisted living is especially ideal for seniors who are in good health and still perform common everyday tasks. Assisted living communities are often compared to living in a private apartment, with amenities such as a private bathroom and kitchen, but in this case there are trained staff members on hand ready to help your loved one when they are in need. 

Some assisted living communities provide daily living care for things like bathing, dressing, toileting, grooming, and eating. This isn’t the case for all assisted living facilities, some include “personal care” at a cost, and some require that an outside home health care agency perform the tasks.  

 

What makes assisted living different from a nursing home?

Assisted living facilities do not provide medical care such as treatment for certain diseases or conditions. Assisted living provides the opportunity for a senior to determine the level of care his or her needs require. 

As opposed to assisted living, nursing homes are tailored to individuals who possess health conditions that require constant monitoring and need medical attention to be available and ready at all times. 

 

Do assisted living communities allow pets?

You should always check with a potential assisted living facility regarding pets before you come to a decision, but most assisted living facilities see the benefits of pet ownership for seniors, so it is likely they allow pets but usually with some restrictions. Some facilities allow only one or two pets for residents, have restrictions on certain breeds, and size or weight restrictions.

Is assisted living expensive, and who pays for it?

The price for assisted living varies from one facility to another, but the national average hovers around $3,750 per month which consists of a one-bedroom apartment with a private bathroom. If a senior requires certain care for things like Alzheimer’s or dementia, then that rate will go up a significant amount, usually about $1200. 

Private pay is the most common method used to pay for assisted living. Which source this pay extends from is up to the individual. Personal savings, pensions/Social security, and long-term care insurance are all examples of sources one can use to pay for housing. Even though Medicaid and other federal programs don’t pay for the cost of assisted living, under certain circumstances some states offer waivers for assisted living. Be sure to check with your Area Agency on Aging to find out if this could be a possibility. 

Considering a senior meets certain criteria for low-income or government-subsidized communities, this could be an alternative to paying for assisted living other than private pay. 

 

How do I deal with the guilt of moving a parent into assisted living?

Many caregivers experience guilt when moving an elderly parent into an assisted living facility. There’s a good chance that the decision was a mutual one because it was decided that the move would be the better option for your loved one and yourself. Try not to let guilt take over you. 

When the transition is complete, you get to assume the role of “overseer”, and can be sure that your loved one will be receiving an increased level of care from a team of professionals. You will have the opportunity to communicate with both the assisted living staff and your loved one, ensuring that their needs are being met. This also poses an opportunity to explore different areas of your relationship with the senior. Since their daily needs are being met, you can focus on other things like adding personal touches to their apartment or just enjoy spending time together. 

If making the decision to move a loved one into assisted living because it better matches their needs, you can be assured you are doing your best in providing the care they need.

 

What can a senior bring to an assisted living community?

Any personal items that can fit into the apartment your parents end up moving into, they’re allowed to bring. Furniture is included in that, as long as it fits, but you and your parents should work together to ensure the transition is as comfortable as possible.

Can an assisted living community deny a senior?

A facility will assess your parent’s health, in the event that it is deemed your parent needs more care than the assisted living facility can provide, they will likely refer him or her to an alternative like a nursing home. So yes, it is possible that a senior can be denied from an assisted living community. Another incident that would result in denial is lack of payment, so it is important to make sure the community you’re looking into is affordable for you or your parents.

Will a senior have to move if their Alzheimer’s gets worse?

It is up to the assisted living community to assess the severity of a senior’s illness, but typically individuals who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia will have no problem residing within an assisted living facility. 

It is common for assisted living facilities to offer memory care units. If this doesn’t seem like the right choice for your parents, you have the option to hire a private duty nurse. This would allow seniors struggling with dementia or Alzheimer’s to continue staying in their apartments, instead of being moved into a secure unit. When a senior reaches a point where they cannot function without 24-hour assistance, moving to a nursing home would be recommended or required.

 

How big are the rooms?

There are several options to choose from when deciding on a room, so the actual size of the room can vary. Rooms range from studio apartments to one, two, and three-bedroom apartments. These rooms have private bathrooms, as opposed to nursing homes which typically have shared bathrooms. Kitchenettes can also be found in some of the rooms.

Is it possible for couples to live together?

In most cases couples can live together, but some assisted living communities may not allow this, so it is recommended that you gather that information from the facility you are interested in.

How much privacy is offered?

This is dependent on how much assistance a senior needs with certain tasks. For example, if your parents have trouble eating by themselves it would require a staff member to be around to assist them. If a senior is capable of enduring most tasks without assistance, they are permitted to stay in their apartment whenever they like if complete privacy is what they desire. 

Although a senior is entitled to their privacy, assisted living communities to encourage the socialization of residents, as lack of socialization can lead to depression and feelings of loneliness. 

 

What can a senior do throughout the day?

One major benefit to living in an assisted living community is the ample opportunities for social interaction. These facilities offer various activities like games such as bingo, board games, puzzles, or cards, so a senior is very likely to find something that sparks their interest. Some facilities will organize parties for holidays. Different types of physical exercise are usually offered within the community. Movie nights, entertainers, and karaoke nights are all possibilities for residents to enjoy. 

If there is something specific that you believe your parents would enjoy, the facility’s activities director is open to suggestions.

 

Is there a daily schedule or routine?

An appealing aspect of assisted living is the fact that seniors get to maintain a sense of independence, which means that they can decide which activities they want to partake in. They are not required to follow the activities schedule. Some things that do follow a routine are things like meals, medications, bathing, dressing, and housekeeping. 

If your parent requires any other special assistance such as getting dressed, for example, they can anticipate a staff member coming by at the same time every day. Otherwise, the only routine they will be following is eating three meals per day, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening.

 

What if a senior forgets to take their medication?

If the facility is aware that a resident has difficulty remembering to take their medication, staff can assist in ensuring that their medication is taken. Either the resident will be called to the nursing station to take their medication, or a staff member will come to their apartment to administer the medication. If you’re worried about your loved one forgetting to take their medication, relay that to the facility to reach a solution.

How does a resident get to their doctor appointments?

If a senior is capable of driving, and they prefer to do so, most facilities will allow residents to have their vehicles. It is not crucial that your parent keep a car though, since assisted living facilities provide transportation for things like doctor appointments, shopping, bankings needs, and other necessary endeavors.

What if my parent has an emergency?

Most assisted living facilities have emergency pull-cord systems installed in every room of a resident’s apartment. If a senior finds themself in need of assistance, they simply pull the cord and a staff member will be alerted to come to their aid. 

Panic buttons are also commonly found in assisted living communities. The button can be placed around the apartment, but it is usually worn like a necklace, making it easily accessible. Once the panic button is hit, the receptionist will be informed that there is an emergency. 

A check-in system is sometimes put in place which allows a resident to inform staff of their status without being physically checked on. If too much time has passed between check-ins, a staff member will stop by the room to make sure the resident is okay.

Regardless of these methods, residents are still checked on multiple times per day.

 

How can I be sure they’re safe?

There are steps and protocols in place to ensure that seniors residing in the community are safe. Whenever a visitor arrives they are required to sign in, that way the facility can keep track of who enters and leaves the building. Assisted living facilities also implement two forms of security – emergency security and general community security. 

When inquiring about a certain facility, ask if they have a policy in place requiring that staff members pass a background check before they are hired for the position.