High-quality senior living communities offer the latest amenities, privacy, comfort, and beautifully decorated home-inspired environments for seniors. The variety of settings can range from convenient high-rise apartments near metropolitan centers to campus communities with all the charms of a small town. There is no single blueprint for assisted living because consumers' preferences and needs vary widely.
Assisted living residences provide more services than independent living communities. They offer a less-expensive, residential approach to delivering many of the same services available in skilled nursing homes, either by employing health-care staff or contracting with home health agencies and other outside professionals.
Most residences have between 25 and 120 living units, varying in size from a single room to a full apartment. They may be operated by nonprofit or for-profit organizations.
Senior living communities offer a variety of design styles, sizes, and types of living units - both private or companion occupancy. While some residences are fully furnished, residents typically bring their own furnishings to personalize their apartment. Kitchens may also be included, with a refrigerator, sink, and cooking element. Bathrooms should be designed to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, whether the resident needs such assistance now or may in the future.
Common areas in senior living residences typically include dining rooms, often designed like upscale restaurants; small cafe-type spaces for snacks and drinks; wellness/fitness rooms; gaming rooms; and small libraries, parlors, and other spaces for residents' enjoyment. Many senior housing providers offer or facilitate moving assistance to new residents.
When visiting residences, look for the following attributes:
- Community is well-designed to meet your needs.
- Floor plan is easy to follow.
- Doorways, hallways, and rooms are accommodating to wheelchairs and walkers.
- Elevators are available for those unable to use stairways.
- Handrails are available to aid in walking.
- Cupboards and shelves are easy to reach.
- Floors are made of non-skid material and carpets are firm to ease walking.
- Residence has good natural and artificial lighting.
- Residence is clean, free of odors, and appropriately heated/cooled.
Typical Assisted Living Services:
- Access to health care and medical services customized to specific needs.
- Assistance with eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and walking as needed.
- 24-hour emergency call systems for each resident.
- Three meals a day served in dining area, housekeeping, and laundry services.
- Shuttle buses and transportation.
- Exercise and wellness programs.
QUESTIONS to Ask
Certain situations and signs may indicate it might be time to consider alternative living arrangements. Generally speaking, families and seniors begin to consider alternatives when it becomes difficult for the elderly family member to carry on important activities of daily living without significant support and assistance from others.
Whether your needs are immediate or long-term, planning for senior living can seem daunting. Making the Right Choice Involves asking the right questions. Learn more about what to ask when considering senior living.
COST of Assisted Living
If you haven't planned for senior living care, you aren't alone. Few people do - either because they don't think they'll need it or because they want to save their assets for their children and believe that government subsidies will cover any care they need. This doesn't mean they can't afford suitable care; it just means the choices may be more limited. Fortunately, just like the variety in settings, styles, and amenities, senior living residences are available at a variety of price points. If you think you can't afford it, you may be surprised. Learn more.
ASSISTED Living Checklist
This 10-page brochure includes a thorough discussion of assisted living and answers such questions as: Who is the typical resident? How is the industry regulated? And what is the cost of this long-term care option? It also includes information on resident agreements and a useful checklist covering such topics as environment, services, contracts, costs, activities, and other more in-depth questions. Produced in 2013. Learn more.