Starting Your Search for Assisted Living

Starting Your Search for Assisted Living

It’s always a good idea to become educated and to begin planning for this extremely important move.  It’s important for you to be aware of your options. A consultation with a geriatric care manager may also be helpful.

What Is Assisted Living?

Assisted living housing provides an environment in which personal care and individualized health services are provided in a setting that is home-like. The level of assistance that is provided will be greater than independent living but not as comprehensive as that offered by skilled nursing facilities. In these facilities:

  • Residents are partially independent mentally and physically, or they may be frail individuals who require assistance on a frequent basis.
  • Services may include monitoring of health care, assistance with personal care, medication management, and meal preparation.
  • State regulation and licensing is required.
  • Support residents and promote independence while averting unnecessary institutionalization.

Presently, the majority of facilities offering assisted living are operated privately. Therefore, the cost is not normally covered by programs that are financed publicly. The cost is often based upon the types of services provided and the degree of impairment of a specific resident.  There are some states that have subsidies available.  The rate of reimbursement that SSI provides is usually not enough to provide much assistance to those with more severe impairment or service needs.

What Housing Options Are Available For Seniors?

There really is no place like one’s own home. When seniors are asked regarding their preference for housing the majority say they would prefer to stay in their own home. For most Americans, a home represents independence and security.

Nevertheless, the majority of housing is designed for active, young, and mobile individuals. In order to live independently in a home a person must, at a minimum, have accessible transportation and the ability to cook, shop, and perform household chores. As people grow older, many individuals will lose one or several of these abilities.

To remain in their home, one choice is to pay for in-home services to assist with deteriorating abilities. For a price, you can get people to do your landscaping, cook, wash your clothes, clean your home, shop, render personal care, and skilled nursing services. This could be a viable option for some people, depending on how much assistance is required.  Nonetheless, it can be quite costly, and someone will need to manage and coordinate all of these services.

For individuals with a willingness to relocate, many options exist. However, the terminology that is used can get somewhat confusing.  You may run across terms like life care, continuing care, personal care homes, and retirement homes. All of these terms are a reference to some form of assisted living. 

Independent Living

Senior couple playing Bingo with eldercare assistant in nursingAs we become older issues regarding where we will live subsequent to retirement come up. Most older people enjoy having as much independence as possible. They want the freedom to live in a setting of their choice and engage in the activities they like. A person residing in an independent setting will enjoy these freedoms.  In addition, they won’t be labeled as a person that requires assistance, and they can rely on local medical services to furnish them with support.

Senior Apartments

Senior apartments may be a viable option for seniors that are able to care for themselves. Ordinarily, these apartments are constructed the same as standard apartments, but there is an age-restriction for residents. They usually have assistive devices, like hand rails, wheel chair access ramps, and elevators to aid elderly residents. These types of apartments can be a viable choice if you are seeking a community of older neighbors without the problems associated with maintaining your own home.

Independent Communities

Depending upon where you reside, Independent Communities offer varying types of medical services. In most instances residences of these communities don’t need assistance with their activities of daily living. These communities may be comprised of town-homes, apartments or even free standing homes. If an independent community is part of a larger community like a CCRC (continuing care retirement community), the services provided to dependent residents are also available to independent residents if they decide to utilize them.

Housing with Additional Services

Some seniors may want to focus their energies on activities they enjoy and are important to them. In this type of housing the medical needs and household tasks such as cooking, cleaning, household maintenance, grocery shopping, and others are managed for residents. This frees them up to focus on doing what they enjoy most.

Assisted Living

nursing homeAssisted living is designed for seniors who are unable to function well independently, but do not require daily nursing care. Normally, an Assisted Living Community will offer assistance with laundry, housekeeping, dressing, bathing, and preparation of meals. The assistance provided will be dependent upon individual needs. Most assisted living communities have nursing and additional health care providers on staff in the event a resident requires additional care. Medicare and Medicaid pay for some of the long term care provided, and some communities have subsidies and additional types of financial aid based upon individual need.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)

A CCRC is a secured community that provides services to seniors on a number of levels. They offer skilled nursing care, assisted living, and independent living. Normally, there is a contract between a resident and the CCRC, which provides the resident with a continuum of care based upon their individual needs. Residents of a CCRC may live independently with the assurance that if their condition deteriorates, all of their needs can be met within the CCRC. In most instances, residents are independent when they first take up residence in a CCRC.

Skilled Nursing Facilities (Nursing Homes)

Skilled Nursing Facilities have been in existence for quite some time and they are the type of senior care facility that the general public is best acquainted with. They provide skilled nursing care for people who do not require acute care (hospitalization). All of the medical and physical needs of residents are provided in these facilities and care is conducted under the supervision of a physician. There are Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical or Vocational Nurses on staff at skilled nursing facilities 24/7.

In the event that a resident becomes acutely ill they are transferred to a hospital until their condition is stabilized and then they return to the nursing home.  Nursing homes are normally well regulated by state health boards and are subject to periodic inspection. Most nursing homes also provide respite and short-term care for residents who need rehabilitation for an acute medical conditions such as joint replacement surgery, heart attack, and other conditions.

Who Can Help Me Decide the Right Option for Me?

Deciding upon the right option for the needs of a particular elderly person can be a time-consuming and complex undertaking.  You can speak with social workers who are available at various facilities, but to get a comprehensive and unbiased view of the types of services that would be best for yourself or a loved one you should consider a consultation with a Geriatric Care Manager.

The Future Of Assisted Living

There are several primary factors that are having an effect upon the growth of assisting living as a vital long-term care option for individuals who are physically or mentally frail.

  • Large increases in the cost of long-term care.
  • Demographics – the over 85 segment of the population is the fastest growing in percentage terms, and will double in twenty years.
  • Seniors are seeking alternatives to live out their lives that appeal to them more than traditional nursing homes.
  • Governmental bodies are increasingly aware of these trends and will likely create programs that permit seniors to select assisted living rather than a nursing home.

Geriatric Care Managers

A Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) is a specialist who will act as an advocate and guide for families or individuals who have an elderly person in need of care. A GCM will have experience and education in fields that are related to managing care, including social work, gerontology, psychology, and nursing with a particular focus on issues that relate to caring for the elderly.

Laughing With Elderly LadyA GCM will help clients to attain their maximal functional potential. Security and safety issues are addressed while simultaneously promoting the independence of an individual.  GCMs can help to address a wide range of issues that are relevant to the well-being of their elderly clients. A GCM will also possess in-depth knowledge regarding the resources available within your community along with the associated costs and quality of care available in various facilities.

GCMs who are NAPGCM (National Association Of Professional Geriatric Care Managers) members are different than Elder Advocates, Patient Advocates, Senior Navigators, and Senior Advisors. GCMs who are members of NAPGCM must fulfill strict experience, education, and certification requirements. Furthermore, they must adhere to strict practice standards and ethical codes.

What Is Professional GC (Geriatric Care) Management?

GC Management is a client-centered, holistic approach to senior care. A GCM will work with families and individuals to provide informed answers during times of uncertainty. They guide families in the decisions and actions they take in order to ensure that appropriate, quality care is provided to ensure the best life for a senior in need. This will result in a reduction of stress and worry, and can save an enormous amount of time and effort for family caregivers.

A GCM will help you to identify cost-effective local resources and engage them as required. They will develop a plan of care that will be customized for the needs of each individual after performing a comprehensive assessment. As conditions change this plan may be updated and modified to meet ongoing needs.

Self-Initiated Moves To An Assisted Living Facility

Proactive and forward thinking seniors will often choose to initiate a move to an assisted living facility on their own to ensure that their own needs are met and to avoid placing a future burden upon their family members.

This is often the best option because seniors are able to make informed decisions while they still retain the cognitive ability to do so. An informed decision can then be reached with the assistance of a qualified Geriatric Care Manager.

Family Initiated Moves To An Assisted Living Facility

While a proactive self-initiated move is often the best option, most often families begin investigating assisted living options in response to a crisis. This usually occurs when it becomes evident that their elderly relative is in need of assistance.  We have provided families with a number of senior living options they can explore. By consulting with a Geriatric Care Manager and considering the desires and input of their elderly relative families will be able to make an informed decisions regarding the most appropriate options for their loved one.

Contributing Authors

Kelli Wilson, RN

Kelli is a Registered Nurse with over 19 years of experience in long term care nursing homes. Though the years she’s worked up to Assistant Director, and Director of Nursing. Kelli has been involved in admissions, discharges, and arranging home care. She’s also familiar with Medicare/Medicaid requirements and how to preform pre-authorizations.

Latest posts by Kelli Wilson, RN (see all)

    James Conte, RN, BS Nursing, BS Pharmacology

    James is a Registered Nurse with a BS in Nursing, a BS in Pharmacology, and a BS in Electrical Engineering. He brings with him many years of experience working in Long Term Care facilities, and as a Registered Nurse in an Intensive Care Unit. His familiarity with nursing and emergency care provides an invaluable perspective on managed care.

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      Miranda Booher, RN, ACLS Certified, BLS Certified, Tx Certified

      Miranda’s strongest area of expertise is nursing. She has worked as a registered nurse for over 6 years with 4 years experience on a pediatrics and orthopedic surgical unit and 2 years as a travel nurse, working in critical care and healthcare informatics.

      Latest posts by Miranda Booher, RN, ACLS Certified, BLS Certified, Tx Certified (see all)

        Carolyn Falconer-Horne, Ph.D. Candidate

        Currently working towards her Ph.D., Carolyn is a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist with over 15 years of experience working in rehab hospitals, long term care facilities, and skilled nursing facilities.

        Latest posts by Carolyn Falconer-Horne, Ph.D. Candidate (see all)

          Last modified: November 25, 2016