I don’t call my dad at 4:30 in the afternoon any more. That’s because he’s usually playing bingo with his buddies at his assisted living center.
And I couldn’t be more proud. Two years ago, when our family made the decision to move my father into an American House assisted living center after the death of my mother to Alzheimer’s, I was concerned that Dad wouldn’t adapt to his new environment.
I was wrong. It took Dad a while to find his niche in the social circle, but once he hit his stride, he was off and running. Today he enjoys outings with our family, but he can’t wait to get “home” to his routine and his friends.
So what is assisted living, and how do you know which center is right for your loved one? Is it a nursing or retirement home with better food? Here are a few facts to consider:
- Assisted living communities are unique. My mother and father lived together for a time in an intimate assisted living facility geared for the needs of those with dementia (although my father did not have dementia and insisted on living there out of devotion to my mom). That facility was licensed for 7 residents and offered dementia-specific care. In contrast, the community where my father currently lives is licensed for more than 100 and offers a wide variety of social programs with varying levels of care.
- Assisted living communities provide wide-ranging levels of care. The term “assisted living” is not limited by a national definition. Therefore, facilities can have wide-ranging levels of care, depending upon their individual license status. Some provide apartments for residents with greater independence, and others provide care for the bed-bound or multiple levels of care. Consider your loved one’s needs for both the short-term and long-term as you evaluate assisted living options.
- Assisted living provides options for those who do not need nursing home care. Residents who choose assisted living can typically care for the majority of their activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, feeding themselves, mobility) and do not require the assistance of skilled nursing. They are able to maintain supervised independent living in small apartments where a variety of support services may be offered.
- Assisted living can be affordable. Assisted living is often a more economical option than in-home health care or nursing home care. Assistance is often available to veterans–a benefit called Aid and Attendance, and those with low incomes can apply for assistance at your local Area Agency on Aging, which can be located at www.eldercare.gov.
For more information on assisted living options or ratings on assisted living facilities in your community, visit Caring.com.
And for an excellent form on evaluating assisted living facilities, visit aarp.com.