Not All Assisted Living Communities are Created Equal

We’ve helped hundreds of families and it’s true, every situation is unique.  But there are some common misperceptions about senior living options that once again came to light as we were helping a new client that we thought we’d share with you.

We recently met Violet, a fun-loving, sweet woman in her eighties who was living alone and becoming very forgetful – she had even forgotten her last two doctor’s appointments. Her daughter, who has been helping her cook and clean, also noticed the forgetfulness. When she discovered the missed appointments she made sure Violet made it to her neurologist, who suggested they look into nursing homes (also called skilled nursing facilities).

Concerned and upset, her daughter turned to us to help them find the right one since Violet’s care needs will increase over the coming years. But in meeting with them and asking detailed questions about Violet’s needs, we found that she didn’t need the specialized care of a nursing home. She only needed help with meals, cleaning, and keeping track of medications and doctors’ appointments. The right assisted living community could meet those needs and offer her more socialization options and more personal freedom.

Violet’s daughter and her doctor are not alone in assuming that because her mother needed some help, she automatically needed a nursing home.

But because of our experience in senior care, we know that there is a wide spectrum of senior living options, each offering a little different level of care. The range goes from independent living that might offer some meals but no assistance, to skilled nursing that offers specialized medical care.

In the middle of the range there are still more variables among assisted living communities, with some offering very little assistance to others offering much of what nursing homes provide. The point is, every assisted living community is different in the services, activities and programs they offer. Here are just four factors to consider:

  • Assistance getting in and out of bed or a chair: does the community offer no assistance, 1 or 2 people to assist, or can they use a mechanical lift for full assistance?
  • Managing Continence: does the community offer just bathroom assistance, or can they care for a resident who needs help overnight?
  • Memory Care: does the community accommodate residents with general forgetfulness, and/or those who need a secure environment?
  • Food: some can accommodate special dietary needs while others do not.

Even among activities there are varying levels of assistance offered, from unsupervised symphony trips to escorted restaurant outings. In some communities, additional services such as personal laundry or dog walking can be purchased a la carte.

As you can see, the options can feel overwhelming. But since we have the knowledge, we can quickly narrow down the options and guide clients like Violet toward the choices that make the most sense for each individual. As we toured communities with her, Violet went from being scared and upset to reassured about the options in front of her: should she choose the community with the pool and water aerobics or the one that had an active book club?

Both Violet and her daughter were grateful for our insight that helped them simplify a complex process. By clarifying the assisted living versus nursing home options, we

balanced her anticipated care needs with a great quality of life while limiting future moves. In the end, they felt they had made the most informed decision. We visited Violet recently – she has settled in and is thriving with a community of new friends and a 24/7 support system instead of being alone.

And that’s our goal for every client.

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