Common Misconceptions about Assisted Living

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When it’s time to choose a new type of care for our ageing loved ones, there are a plethora of options to explore. From nursing homes, to memory care, to having a family caregiver step in – the options can seem a bit bewildering.

While families are searching for the best option, they are also trying to balance caring for their loved one, handling their own responsibilities, and juggling their careers on top of it. Because of this, the type of care that’s ultimately chosen, can be overlooked. Families might place their loved one in a certain type of facility without knowing much about it.

One popular, but often misunderstood, option is assisted living. On the surface, assisted living facilities look fantastic. And for many families they are! They are basically like college campuses for seniors, right? Your loved one will be able to live independently while joining a community of people like them. Depending on the facility, they might have access to activities and clubs, dining, and social events. Sounds pretty great.

Many families seek assisted living facilities for their loved ones, without knowing much more about them. In reality, while they can be a wonderful fit for some seniors, there are many things that should be considered before your loved one makes the move. There are lots of misconceptions about assisted living facilities, and too many families don’t realize this until it’s too late.

That’s why, on today’s episode of All Home Care Matters, we’re zeroing in on assisted living. We’ll let you in on some of the most common misconceptions about these facilities and some of the mistakes families make when they’re searching for the best place for their loved one.

We hope that by the end of this episode, you have a much better idea about what assisted living really entails – and what it doesn’t. You can use this information to decide whether this type of care is the best choice for your loved one.

If you decide that you’d like to explore other options – we’ve got another episode on how to choose the right type of care for your loved one. That episode explores the other options (from nursing homes to family caregivers and everything in between) in detail.

For now, let’s shift our focus exclusively to assisted living.

One of the most common misconceptions people make about assisted living facilities, is that their loved one will have access to constant, individualized care as their needs progress. The truth is, for the most part, assisted living is heavily focused on independent living.

Assisted living differs from retirement living in that it does provide slightly more hands-on care for its residents, but it is not the best option for anyone with chronic health problems.

While all assisted living facilities will offer support with daily living activities (such as bathing and meal prep), the cost of the living does increase depending on how much support a senior needs. Plus, most facilities don’t offer around the clock care or specialized care.

Now, it’s important to note that this is not true across all facilities. Some offer more access to care than others – but for the most part, assisted living is not the best option for a person who needs focused and specialized care.

Aside from basic assistance with daily needs, seniors will be expected to function on their own. This means that if your loved one requires more hands-on care, assisted living probably isn’t the best choice for your family.

Rarely, assisted living facilities will allow families to hire their own nursing or caregiving team – but you will be expected to pay for the facility and the care separately, which can get incredibly expensive. Many assisted living facilities do not allow this option at all.

With that in mind, it’s important to plan ahead for the long term. Start by asking yourselves these questions:

How long does your loved one plan to live in an assisted living facility?

Will they be willing to move if they require more hands-on care? Keep in mind – while your loved one might be relatively independent now, unexpected accidents like falls can change your loved one’s abilities drastically and quickly.

If that happens, will you be able to break a contract and move your loved one somewhere else? Do you want to? Does your loved one want to?

Assisted living facilities can be excellent places to live for seniors who are still relatively independent but need some help with daily living tasks and are looking for a senior-safe living space within a friendly community. Many widowed or single seniors who are feeling lonely or isolated in their home choose to live in these facilities. Older couples who need some extra help and are yearning for a more active social life are a great fit too.

If your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, Parkinson’s, or any other debilitating or chronic disease, though, then assisted living isn’t the best fit. Most facilities simply don’t have the capacity or tools to provide your loved one with the help they’ll need down the road, even if they’re living independently now.

Again, this isn’t true across the board for assisted living facilities, but the facilities that do offer that extra care are much harder to find (and usually more expensive).

Assisted living facilities do offer around-the-clock surveillance and health monitoring. These are not hands-on approaches to caregiving. Around-the-clock surveillance means that staff will be available and on campus 24 hours a day in case of emergency. If your loved one needs medication in the middle of the night, they will receive it. Still, surveillance does not mean that your loved one will be individually checked on and cared for 24 hours a day.

Health monitoring is not health care. It means that the residence will keep track of a senior’s physical health, so they are aware of any drastic changes. They will also help with medications.

Just as assisted living doesn’t offer specialized care or skilled nursing, they also don’t offer physical or occupational therapy services. Many families are seeking this type of treatment for their loved ones – and an assisted living facility is not where they’ll find it.

Assisted living facilities do offer exercise programs – such as aerobics – but they won’t offer that specialized exercise care on an individual basis.

Seniors in assisted living facilities will have to hire outside services – and usually travel to other spaces – to get physical or occupational therapy. Again, this means that they will have to pay for assisted living as well as these additional services, which can become costly (and fast).

Families also often assume that their loved one will have their own apartment or living space in an assisted living facility. While this can be true at many facilities, others rely on a roommate system. That means that your loved one might have to share a space with another senior – which can be quite difficult to adjust to. Again, this is not always the case, but for some facilities it’s the more affordable option.

On that note, a lack of privacy is something that your loved one will need to come to terms to. Even if they do not have a roommate, staff will be coming in and out of their space throughout the day.

This is a rotating staff – so your loved one will need to be okay with seeing different faces depending on the day of the week and time of day.

If your loved one values their privacy, assisted living may not be the best option. That said, nursing homes or memory care might not be the easiest adjustments either.

It might be best for your loved one to age in place, with either a family caregiver or a hired caregiver who can really bond with your loved one (as opposed to a rotating staff of caregivers).

Speaking of privacy, not everyone realizes that assisted living facilities are extremely group oriented. They offer clubs, classes, and activities designed to socialize your loved one. For many seniors, this is a huge blessing. Socialization can have extremely positive impacts on a senior’s mental and physical health. Every senior should engage in socializing activities when they are able.

Still, if your loved one would prefer to socialize only once or twice a week, then this group setting might not be the best idea for them.

One of the biggest misconceptions families have is that the quality of care will be constant. After all, with the costs so high, you have every right to expect high quality care at all times. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Assisted living facilities rely on a rotating staff to provide care to your loved one. That means that the quality of care will ultimately differ depending on who your loved one is working with that day. They will also not have an opportunity to bond with any one caregiver to the extent that they might with in-home care.

Another misconception that many families have is that assisted living will be covered by insurance. In reality, long term care insurance is one of the only plans that will cover assisted living (and not all long-term care insurance plans do).

Medicare and most private insurance companies do not cover the costs of assisted living. You might be able to get some help from Medicaid – but only if you’ve tried everything else, first.

Most people pay the costs of assisted living out of pocket. The average cost of assisted living is right around $4000 a month. Of course, any type of care that you consider will have costs. Nursing homes cost an average of $5000 a month, for example. Still, many nursing homes are covered by insurance.

If your loved one is a veteran, they will receive VA benefit options for certain assisted living facilities. This can be a great help to many families who do believe that assisted living is the ideal option for their loved one. Just make sure you understand the qualifications and the requirements for the benefits.

Finally, it’s important to note that assisted living is not guaranteed. What do I mean? Well, just that. Assisted living residents can be asked to leave the facility at any time, for any reason. Usually, residents are asked to leave once their health begins to deteriorate beyond what the facility can handle. Sometimes a common misconception is that they are a substitute for nursing homes or rehab facilities. We recommend when a loved one needs care and 1 on 1 assistance the families really ask and understand exactly what will and will not be provided.

We often see families that have loved ones in Assisted Living facilities hiring outside companies to help provide the 1 on 1 care that their loved ones need and in other situations the facility may have an in-house Home Care company that you can hire to provide the 1 on 1 care that is needed for the resident.

An example that comes to mind was from a family who had shared with us that their mother made the decision to downsize and move into an assisted living facility – against the families better judgement and within the first 30 days of living there was notified that she required more 1 on 1 care than was provided or capable of being provided by the facility. Needless to say, the family was left stunned, shocked, and even angry. At that point the facility required them to hire an outside company to provide their mother with 24 hour care if she was going to continue living there.

Further, the facilities don’t always give long-term notice when it’s time to find new housing. Some residents might receive no notice at all. This is not terribly common, but it does happen. And when it does, families are left scrambling to find other options for their loved one. If you do not live in the same state as your loved one, or live many hours away, this can lead to a huge headache.

When touring, visiting or researching Assisted Living facilities make sure you are asking the right questions and understand how the facilities are prepared and equipped to handle a resident whose needs may progress and require more assistance so that you won’t have to start looking for the right fit all over again.

We hope this episode cleared up some of the misconceptions about assisted living – so that you have a better idea of whether this type of care is the best for your family. Again, if you feel like you want to explore other options, check out our episode on choosing the best type of care for your loved one. There are so many options to consider – and having a deep understanding of the pros and cons of each is incredibly important.

We want to thank you for joining us here at All Home Care Matters, All Home Care Matters is here for you and to help families as they navigate long-term care issues. Please visit us at allhomecarematters.com there is a private secure fillable form there where you can give us feedback, show ideas, or if you have questions. Every form is read and responded to. If you know someone who could benefit from this episode, please share it with them.

Remember, you can listen to the show on any of your favorite podcast streaming platforms and watch the show on our YouTube channel and make sure to hit that subscribe button, so you'll never miss an episode. We look forward to seeing you next time on All Home Care Matters when we will be taking a closer look into the Realities of Caregiving.

Sources:

https://seniorpath.com/assisted-living-pros-cons/

https://www.getsafe.com/pros-and-cons-of-assisted-living/

https://aging.com/assisted-living-homes-vs-home-care-how-to-decide/

https://www.storypoint.com/8-mistakes-to-avoid-when-choosing-assisted-living/

https://www.fivestarseniorliving.com/blog-post/5-mistakes-adult-children-make-in-the-search-for-assisted-living

https://www.seniorlivingnearme.org/senior-living/assisted-living-search-mistakes-to-avoid/

https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/basics/info-2017/assisted-living-options.html

https://umcommunities.org/blog/5-surprising-facts-assisted-living/

https://arborsassistedliving.com/9-things-you-didnt-know-about-assisted-living/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/howardgleckman/2018/02/05/what-we-dont-know-but-should-about-assisted-living-facilities/?sh=ab024dce0438

https://dailycaring.com/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-assisted-living/

https://www.caring.com/senior-living/assisted-living/how-to-pay/

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