Friday, October 8, 2021

Assisted Living - Pros and Cons of Assisted Retirement Communities

As we age, many of us are discovering that it is harder to continue to live on our own, as much as we might love our current home and neighborhood.  Eventually, it can become a challenge to take care of a house and yard, while also doing all our own cooking and personal care.  However, most of us do not want to move to a skilled nursing home, and probably do not need that level of service.  

Some people eventually move into the home of an adult child, or have one of their children come live with them.  Of course, this is not a good option for most people and, in fact, many retirees do not even have an adult child who would be capable of caring for them. 

Other people may try to postpone assisted living, by adding a variety of medical safety devices (Ad) to their current home, and sometimes that is an adequate solution, especially if they are able to have a caregiver come to their own home for a few hours a day to help them with medications, bathing, and meal preparation.  However, depending on your personal needs, this may not provide all the assistance you need.  In addition, if you develop a progressive disease, such as Parkinson's, which could eventually make it extremely difficult for you to live in your current home, you may want to arrange for a better housing solution long before it becomes medically necessary. 

What should we do?  This month we have a guest post from Jennifer Bell, who explains the pros and cons of moving into an Assisted Living retirement community.  Her information will help you decide if this is the right option for you.  

Advice for Seniors About Living In an Assisted Living Community

Nearly everyone wishes to live in their current home for as long as possible. However, as you age, it may become too challenging to stay in your current home alone, since you eventually may no longer have the ability or energy to care for yourself and your home. 

In many cases, assisted living may become the best option. Let’s discuss what retirees should know about assisted living care:

Assisted Living vs. Nursing Care

Many people often confuse assisted living communities with nursing home care. Although both services focus on keeping seniors healthy and safe, assisted living offers more space and privacy, and a more comprehensive living arrangement, for people who do not need 24-hour skilled nursing care. 

Assisted living is an option for seniors who may have difficulty performing some basic life skills for themselves, such as hygiene or grooming, and who also want to be part of a long-term social setting. In this case, an assisted living facility may be the best housing option. 

On the other hand, nursing home care primarily focuses on seniors who need regular medical assistance, thus they provide around-the-clock care by professional healthcare experts. If a senior requires constant medical attention, nursing home care may be a more practical option for them than a hospital. In addition, nursing home care may either be long-term or short-term, depending on the type of injury or illness. 

Opting For an Assisted Living Community

1.   Have a Family Meeting About the Choices Available

Many decisions are involved in choosing to live in an assisted living community. These choices mainly include assessing your needs vs. the services offered, and then evaluating the costs involved. Therefore, it is essential to involve your loved ones, particularly your adult children or spouse, when making the decision. They can offer their perspective on the types of help and services you need, and you can all make a group decision that is best for everyone.  Many couples move into assisted living together, especially if one of them is in declining health. 

2.   Take a Tour of The Community

Virtually all assisted living facilities are willing to provide a tour for interested residents. You should visit the communities you have identified as possibilities and talk to the current residents.  This will help you deal with any doubts you may have about the community. 

This is also an opportunity to learn the community rules and decide if you can conform to them. Remember, the end goal is to enjoy your stay in the community, while getting the care you need. So, please don’t force yourself into any situation you are not comfortable with.  For example, some assisted living communities include bars and happy hours, while others are alcohol free.  Some communities welcome pets, but others do not. The same is true for other preferences, such as smoking. 

In addition, various communities may offer different types of social activities, classes, exercise options, parties, entertainment and other ways for you to meet other people and stay engaged. It is important to know how you would fit into each community. 

3.   Give Yourself Time

Moving into a new environment is never easy, especially if you have left a home you loved. Even after doing everything necessary to settle into the best assisted living community for you, detaching fully from your prior home may not be easy. Staying in touch with close friends and family may help you overcome any concerns you have about leaving your old friends behind. Gradually you will make new friends in your assisted living community. 

4.   Participate in Community Events Before Moving In

One way to know if a community suits your needs and interests, and help you overcome your fears, is by participating in some of their events in advance. Finding a community which allows prospective residents to participate in their events will give you a better picture of what your life will be like, once you decide to move there. 

5.   Identify a Moving Company

Most communities are able to assist with finding moving services for their new residents. However, if you choose a community that does not provide this help for its residents, you can make the arrangements yourself. Countless professional moving companies will help you move seamlessly, and ensure that your things are well taken care of throughout the moving process. They can even help you pack and unpack.

Advantages vs. Disadvantages of Assisted Living

Advantages

1.   Daily Living Support

As mentioned earlier, many seniors who move into assisted living need help to do basic things to make their lives easier. Some seniors move to an assisted living community even when they can still handle their daily activities independently. However, if they eventually reach a point where they need a little help with some of their daily activities, immediate assistance can be arranged for them. More help will be provided as it becomes necessary.

2.   Enhanced Social Support

Most seniors have a lot of free time on their hands after retirement. Therefore, it is easy for boredom and depression to creep in, especially if they spend too much time alone. Living in an assisted living community can help them make new friends and participate in different activities, which will keep their minds active and make them happier. 

3.   Enhanced Safety

In an assisted living community, many safety measures are already taken care of, even with regard to housing design, such as non-slip surfaces, grab bars in bathrooms, and handicapped accessible floorplans. Also, in case of an emergency, it is easy for caregivers to respond swiftly. Residents also benefit from the transportation services provided in the community, so they no longer need to drive their own cars in order to go shopping, or to doctors' appointments.. 

4.   Enhanced Healthy Lifestyle

Every person has unique physical needs. However, living in an assisted living community gives you more opportunities to participate in physical activities and eat the nutritious foods necessary to keep you healthy and strong. Seniors who struggle with cooking and feeding themselves can benefit significantly from this, since the staff will provide their meals.  

5.   Enhanced Medical Attention

As a resident of one of these communities, you will have access to assistance with your medical needs, including attention from specialized medically certified caregivers who can ensure that you follow your doctor's instructions, such as taking your medications on time.  The caregivers are also more likely to notice any changes to your health and address changing medical issues as early as possible. 

Disadvantages

1.   Cost

The cost of living in an assisted living facility may be expensive compared to living in your own home in a traditional community.  All the personal care you receive can be expensive.  However, these communities may also be less expensive than living in a private home with around-the-clock private caregivers.  You and your family will need to decide which is the more affordable option for you.

2.   Difficulty Adapting to The New Environment

Do you remember when your parents moved you to a new neighborhood during your childhood, or when you moved to a new school? Making new friends and adapting to a new environment took time. The same feelings may be experienced when seniors move into an assisted living community.  It will take time to adjust, and you have to be prepared for that.

3.   Breach of Privacy

It can be hard to secure your private space when living in an assisted living retirement community. You have no choice but to welcome caregivers into your home to check on you or handle the daily chores they are expected to perform.  However, you will have more privacy in an assisted living apartment than in a skilled nursing home or a hospital.

4.   Insufficient Medical Care

Many assisted living facilities only offer basic medical care, compared to what someone might receive in a skilled nursing home. Therefore, if you or your loved one needs critical medical attention, an assisted living facility may not be the best place for them. 

For most seniors, the advantages of being in an assisted living facility outweigh the disadvantages. It is a worthy investment to ensure that your loved ones are well cared for, if you or your family can afford it. It will give families peace-of-mind to know that their loved one is well taken care of, especially when they cannot be there to personally check on them all of the time  

Author: Jennifer Bell
About the Author

Jennifer Bell is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beachgoer operating out of Southern New Jersey. 


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