A Closer Look at Assisted Living, Part 2

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

Series recap: We opened with an overview of the levels of senior care and housing, then continued with tips on how to initiate a conversation about options and search for the best care. Next, we focused on independent living and assisted living; today, we’ll continue our exploration of assisted living care.

Our guest blogger Michelle Seitzer.

Though it may be difficult to think of something as highly personal as senior care in a business sense, assisted living communities and home care agencies vary greatly depending on the provider’s business model: the approach to care, the layout of the building, the type of employees hired, how revenues and expenses are handled — this is what distinguishes one from the next.

That is why families and individuals considering something as highly personal as home care or assisted living care must carefully evaluate senior care options in person and not just online or on paper. These are great places to begin, however, they must be followed up with interviews of home care agency candidates and/or several tours of the communities that interest you or a loved one prior to signing a contract.

Within the assisted living care category, the following services are provided:

  • assistance with daily tasks
  • meals and snack
  • activities
  • transportation
  • social services
  • limited health care services
  • memory support services (meal reminders, medication assistance)
  • medication management
  • companion care, among others

Generally, a “core services” package — which includes room and board and a minimal level of services — comprises the monthly assisted living charge, with supplemental services added on.

Assisted living space runs the gamut from rooms of various sizes in renovated hotels or boarding homes to rooms/apartments of all sizes in small communities, mid-size campuses, or large complexes. Some also provide non-medical home care services (like companion care, assistance with meal preparation, and light housekeeping) for those who may be physically or cognitively capable of completing these tasks but wish to have a helping hand. For elders caring for a loved one (spouse, sibling, etc.) at home, the need for additional support often prompts this connection to service.

The ability to manage ADLs (activities of daily living, like eating and bathing) and IADLs (instrumental activities of daily living, like balancing a checkbook or driving to a doctor’s appointment) is often the foundation for eligibility. However, some very independent seniors still choose assisted living care simply to be in a community setting, with help available as needed, and to prevent or delay a future move for as long as possible.

There is typically no age requirement for assisted living or home care. Though seniors are most often thought of as the primary consumers, individuals of all ages with traumatic brain injury, mental illness, or other disabilities that limit the ability to carry out ADLs/IADLs may reside in assisted living or receive home care services.

Many assisted living communities also offer Alzheimer’s care in a separate wing or building; these are often called memory neighborhoods and are usually secured via an alarm system, locking doors, and other environmental/architectural features that promote safety and prevent wandering.

Check out the next post for answers to commonly asked questions about assisted living.

Here’s the series to date:

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.