Home is where the heart is, but there may be a time in your life or a loved one’s life when that home is no longer a safe place to be. When your loved ones are experiencing memory or movement disorders, they may need more direct care—or at the least, someone available to help in an instant if they need it. Unfortunately, many families are left with few options—hiring home health professionals, inviting their loved ones into their own homes to live, or searching for an assisted living facility that meets their loved one’s care needs.
You may be wondering what assisted living is and how it can help your elderly loved ones live a safe, healthy, and happy life. Assisted living is a home away from home for your loved one. Those who stay with us enjoy a hybrid of a retirement home and a continuous care facility with providers to help your loved ones when they need it. We meet your loved ones where they are and offer services specific to their needs.
Assisted Living Is More Than a Home
At Rocky Mountain Assisted Living, we believe your elderly loved ones need more than a secure home to give them peace of mind—they need an environment that supports their social, mental, and emotional health while offering assistance to individuals who need it.
By definition, assisted living is care provided in housing facilities to elderly adults, adults with disabilities, other adults who can’t live independently, and some who don’t want to live on their own. According to the National Center for Assisted Living, the United States has 29,000 assisted living facilities with more than 800,000 residents.
Live in a Vibrant Community
Individual apartments or living quarters, usually with kitchenettes, bedrooms, and living rooms, create the feel of a thriving apartment complex. Residents enjoy privacy and dignity to live life the way they’ve always lived.
Assisted Living Blends Support With Independence
What makes assisted living very different from an apartment is the level of support, care, and monitoring from on-call staff, nursing assistants and aides, nutritionists, and activity coordinators who help with bathing, balance, or eating. Your loved one may not need help now, but help is available if or when they require it.
Residents in assisted living facilities typically only need help with a handful of daily life activities—walking, bathing, or medication. They aren’t quite ready for around-the-clock care but can benefit from the access to staff members available 24/7 to assist them. Assisted living offers a blend of care and independence. Peace of mind is one of its most important benefits.
The Power of Community
Assisted living adds an extra facet for residents—the inclusion of the community. Most facilities for assisted living include common areas, group exercise, along with other recreational activities. Staying connected and being active can boost older adults’ mental and emotional health, leading to improvements in depression and anxiety.
Different Definitions, Same Goal
The term itself varies in scope, philosophy, and services from state to state because it’s not subject to federal regulations, only state regulations. To really learn what assisted living is, we recommend digging deep into commonalities to determine if assisted living is suitable for your family.
Price-wise, assisted living provides the right amount of help and comfort with a lower yearly cost than a full-time home health nurse and is more than half the cost of a skilled nursing facility. Assisted living facilities can feel comfortable and safe—like home, in some ways. If your loved one isn’t ready to give up independent living, an assisted living facility is a great choice.
Resident Demographics in Assisted Living Facilities
Assisted living is mostly the oldest residents in the U.S.—more than half of these residents are 85 and older, with another 30% are ages 75 to 84. These elderly patients often need help with basic self-care skills, including fixing meals, dressing, and walking. Others may need help remembering or taking medications.
Another subset of residents is adults with memory disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or related conditions that affect their ability to keep up with daily routines. Rocky Mountain Assisted Living has homes built especially for people with dementia. About 14% of assisted living facilities have floors or areas dedicated to residents with memory disorders, and another 8% serve adults with dementia.
Less commonly, adults with developmental disabilities and some medical conditions that affect their movement or ability to take care of themselves live in assisted living communities. For these residents, assisted living can provide the independence they may not be able to have outside the facility.
What Assisted Living Is Not
Along with asking what exactly is assisted living, you should also ask what it’s not. Assisted living is not the right choice for a patient who needs around-the-clock monitoring, skilled nursing, or major medical care. Rehabilitation centers sometimes transfer patients directly to these facilities, but assisted living doesn’t include clinical rehabilitation for stroke or injuries.
It’s also not a hospital. Although residents have access to local hospitals and medical care through the assisted living community, the facility itself is not that level of a care facility. When you’re researching, you may meet others who moved in after staying in the hospital or a rehabilitation center. The relationship between a hospital and an assisted living facility is indirect but important—these facilities are prepared to communicate with doctors and skilled nurses with any problems.
The emphasis for assisted living is independence, allowing people to live richer lives longer, even when chronic conditions or diseases leave them needing help.
Staff at Assisted Living Facilities
Your loved ones will be surrounded by various staff members who serve essential jobs to make the facility a positive experience. Although it’s not a hospital, nurses are on staff—usually LPNs, aides, assistants, or vocational nurses—although some hire RNs to help with residents who have more complex conditions. LPNs and assistants are trained to monitor your loved one’s health indirectly while they’re helping with basic care tasks, which can help health problems from escalating.
Other staff members may include:
- Social workers
- Activity directors
- Fitness instructors
Together, these individuals make up a fantastic team to encourage and care for residents.
Staff will serve many roles beyond their title. You may think of staff members as additional neighbors for your loved ones who can wash their laundry, walk them to dinner, or encourage socialization. Assisted living staff members listen to residents and grow to understand their moods or specific quirks. Whether it’s a quick hello in the hallway or playing checkers in the common area, the staff members at many assisted living homes add an intangible sense of community and positivity. It’s these individuals who make facilities feel like home.
Care and Service at Assisted Living Facilities
Assisted living communities don’t just provide essential care skills. Although each facility is different, most have the same basic care and services.
Personal, Available Care for Your Loved One
Most assisted living homes include medicine monitoring to ensure residents are getting the medicine they need at the right time. In addition to LPNs and nursing aides helping with bathing, incontinence, and dressing, physicians often are available or make rounds during the day.
Exercise can improve health at any age, which is why fitness and physical therapy are offered to residents—although some may resist the group exercise at times. Qualified physical therapists and trainers are available to create age-appropriate, low-impact routines and physical fitness activities to suit any ability.
Independence with monitoring is the goal of assisted living; staff members are typically on call all day, every day. Most individual apartments or living quarters include call buttons or emergency pulleys to alert on-call staffers of an issue. Should a problem arise, ambulatory services are usually available right away for emergency transportation to a hospital.
At Your Service
From laundry to meals, most assisting living facilities provide full-service services available to all residents, if they need them or not.
It’s a challenge to entertain a group of elderly residents, but staff members take it on effortlessly. Engaging activities like board games, card games, painting, reading clubs, and more can sharpen minds and provide social activities. From morning meals to evening snacks, freshly prepared, nutritious foods are available. Depending on their level of socialization, residents can eat together or eat in the privacy of their rooms. Assisted living is about providing choices!
About 80% of residents say they don’t drive, and most facilities offer transportation to and from doctor’s appointments to the grocery store or drug store, or on scheduled outings. There’s no reason to be bored in a high-quality assisted living home!
What Should I Look for in an Assisted Living Facility?
When you and your loved ones decide assisted living is the best choice for aging with dignity, we recommend booking tours before you sign a contract. Think of this as a tour of a new home or apartment—this is where your loved one will spend their golden years. If it’s not a place you’d live yourself, it’s not suitable for your loved one. Some things you should look for include:
- Clean, well-lit, and odor-free facility
- Easy-to-navigate apartments or quarters
- Proper security, especially after hours
- Open concept layout without confusing turns
- Handrails and call buttons in the bathroom and bedroom
- Welcoming, safe, and clean common area
- Friendly staff
Another critical component of an excellent assisted living facility is happy residents. Keeping in mind that elderly residents may not always be happy by nature, look for socialization, available staff, and laughter. You can’t go wrong in a home filled with laughter.
What Questions Should I Ask?
Once you’re done asking what exactly is assisted living and have found a place where your loved one can call home, your job isn’t quite over. Before you sign any contracts, we recommend wrapping up a few important details to ensure it’s the right place.
Insurance, Billing, and Payment
Unfortunately, insurance companies and Medicare don’t cover much of the cost of assisted living. It’s worth a call to your insurance provider and further discussion with your representative from the facility. Also clarify the pricing per month, including:
- What’s included in the price (meals, activities, or outings)
- How much extra services may cost
- What changes you can anticipate in pricing
- How billing and payment are handled
The last thing you want is a surprise fee or increasing prices year after year. Read the contract thoroughly before and understand cancellation fees, moving rooms, or changes to details that may affect the pricing.
Staffing and Family Visits
Just like you’d visit your loved one in their own home, you’ll want to make visits to their assisted living home, too! Before you commit to anything, ask your representative about visitation—how often it’s available, how long you can stay, and who can visit. Some facilities may limit the number of visitors or open to visitors only certain times a day. Call us at (303) 848-8631 to schedule a tour of our community or contact us online today.
Remember the tip about looking for happy, friendly staff? Turnover in staffing can be just as telling. When assistants, aides, and other workers are long-time employees, they’re able to build richer relationships with residents, anticipate their needs, and recognize when something is amiss. A facility with regular turnover could be a sign of discontent—or that the facility isn’t as great as it seems.
As Close to Home as You Can Get
Assisted living can be very beneficial to you and your loved one. You’ll enjoy peace of mind that your loved one is well cared for and safe. Your loved one can enjoy the luxury of independent living, but with perks—who doesn’t like someone else to cook a meal for them? Choosing this avenue for your loved one provides socialization, stimulating activities to drive boredom away, and a home they can call their own. The most significant benefit is the gift of aging with grace and dignity, a philosophy our team embraces every day.