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A Closer Look at Assisted Living

Posted on 02/7/2012 by | Home & Family blogger | Comments

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Editor’s note: This is fifth in a series of posts by guest blogger Michelle Seitzer.

If you’ve been following this series, we started with the basic levels of senior care and housing, and continued with tips on how to initiate a conversation about options and search for the best care. Last week, we focused on independent living; today, we’ll cover assisted living.

Assisted living is the new kid on the block, an adolescent in the industry and a category of care that is anything but static. Adding to its ever-evolving “in-between” status, every state defines and regulates assisted living differently, making it even harder to pin down.

Our guest blogger Michelle Seitzer.

Though visiting nurses and doctors were the norm hundreds of years ago, home care is a relative newcomer too, an option that is gaining popularity and growing so fast that sometimes the industry itself can barely keep pace.

But assisted living at its most stripped-down definition is just as it sounds: assistance, on varying levels, with various daily life tasks.

There are terms for these life tasks, referenced frequently in senior care: ADLs and IADLs.

  • ADLs are activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, toileting, feeding, and other types of self-care (the most basic human needs).
  • IADLs are instrumental activities of daily living; examples include balancing a checkbook, making doctor’s appointments, food preparation, transportation, laundry, and shopping. Many of these tasks do not have to be completed on a daily basis, but are integral life skills nonetheless.

Determining what type of senior care is the best fit has a lot to do with the individual’s ability to maintain ADLs and IADLs. Yes, residents of independent living may take advantage of transportation services or meal plans, but they are capable of furnishing their own transportation and preparing their own meals. But for those individuals who physically cannot drive, for those who do not have the cognitive ability to make transportation arrangements, for those who cannot prepare their own meals or procure the items to make them – in these situations, assisted living, home care services, or a family caregiver fills in the gaps.

How many ADLs and IADLs an individual needs assistance with — and to what extent they need the help — has a lot to do with how much you’ll pay for home care or services in an assisted living community (in addition to room and board, which is typically charged separately). In the next post, we’ll break down these costs, licensure and regulatory requirements, learn about “who’s who” in assisted living communities and home care agencies, and more. Stay tuned!

Some resources to consider:

Here’s the Closer Look series to date:

Editor’s Notes: Michelle Seitzer has blogged for the senior living search site SeniorsforLiving.com since 2008, and is the co-moderator of #ElderCareChat, a bi-monthly Twitter-facilitated discussion group for family and professional caregivers passionate about quality senior care.

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