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Assisted Living Services and Amenities

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.

Property

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.

Personal Space

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.

Community Space

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.
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  • 24-hour emergency call systems for each resident.
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  • Three meals a day served in dining area, housekeeping, and laundry services.
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  • Shuttle buses and transportation.
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  • Exercise and wellness programs.


Assistance with Daily Activities

Whether you or your loved one needs no assistance or a great deal of assistance, there's a perfect community available to meet your needs. Those needing no assistance with daily activities such as dressing, eating, and bathing might consider an independent living community, while those needing some assistance, including cognitive, would be best served in assisted living. At the far end of the spectrum, nursing homes cater to those with significant health-care needs.

In general, you should expect the following assistance to be available from an assisted living provider:

  • Staff available to meet scheduled and unscheduled needs
  • Staff available to provide 24-hour assistance with activities of daily living if needed
  • Assistance with bathing and dressing as needed (Bathing assistance may be offered in a spa-like setting)
  • Three meals a day and snacks between meals
  • Housekeeping services in residents' living units
  • Scheduled transportation available to residents on fairly short notice
  • Pharmacy, barber/beautician, and/or physical therapy services offered on-site
  

Many senior living communities also offer memory care for those with Alzheimer's or other dementia. Such care typically includes innovative therapies to improve quality of life.

   

Entertainment, Activities, and Wellness

Most senior housing communities offer a variety of activities and entertainment to engage residents and enhance their quality of life - from book groups to planned theater outings to gardening clubs. Residents typically participate in activities outside the residence as well. Certainly, quality of life has different meanings for different people, so high-quality communities offer a variety of social programs to meet residents' interests. Activities staff will often assess each resident's activity and leisure needs and interests to help them identify programs of interest. You should expect a balanced calendar of activities for everyone from the active senior to the memory-care resident. Wellness and physical fitness also are part of a well-planned activities program. Most communities include fitness rooms and staff on hand to help residents develop fitness plans that suit their needs. Special classes are typically offered as well, such as yoga, chair exercises, and walking.

Meals, Housekeeping, and Laundry

Dining and food services are the biggest contributors to resident satisfaction in senior living communities. Because the sense of taste diminishes over time, senior living communities have become increasingly innovative in menu selection and customizing offerings to their residents. Dining styles in senior living range from cafeteria style to fine dining. 

Senior Living communities dining room menus vary from day to day and from meal to meal. Three nutritionally balanced meals are provided each day, seven days a week, and snacks are provided between meals. Residents may request special foods and dietary needs, and residents may choose to dine in their own rooms as well.

Access to Health Care

While independent living and assisted living are not medical models of senior living care, some services are typically provided in these communities such as medication management and maintaining records. More acute health-care services are provided in nursing homes. However, assisted living and independent living residents may choose to have home health care provided in their apartment from an outside provider. And, in fact, some senior living providers have established home health divisions, which can also provide such services. The resident should not have to move out of his or her home to receive care.

When visiting and vetting residences, look for the following: 

  • A staff person is available to coordinate home health care visits from a nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, etc. if needed. 
  • Staff is available to assist residents who experience memory, orientation, or judgment losses. 
  • The residence has a clearly stated procedure for responding to a resident's medical emergency. 
  • A physician or nurse visits residents regularly to provide medical checkups.

Memory Care

One third of residents in assisted living have a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, according to research. If you are helping someone with memory-impairment choose a residence, several important considerations must be made, particularly in regard to safety/security and memory care therapies.

Safety and Security

Peace of mind drives many decisions to seek senior housing for yourself or a loved one. Having a secure building where you know you or your loved one is protected from wandering or emergencies is very important.

Senior living residences typically include a 24-hour emergency response system that is accessible from the resident's apartment, along with security and monitoring systems that prevent resident wandering.

New technologies now available and in use in many senior living residences employ behavioral monitoring, which tracks and monitors residents' habits, helping caregivers anticipate needs and be alerted to any health changes in an individual's health.

Resident Transportation

For an individual to feel independent, readily-available transportation is essential. Certainly, residents can bring their own cars, yet some seniors may be ready to turn in their car keys and enjoy chauffeured transportation instead. While scheduled outings are typically offered by senior living residents, individuals should also expect to receive transportation as needed or desired for doctor appointments, shopping, etc.

   
WHAT is Assisted Living?
assisted living couple

The Assisted Living Federation of America defines assisted living as a long-term care option that combines housing, support services and health care, as needed. Assisted living is designed for individuals who require assistance with everyday activities such as meals, medication management or assistance, bathing, dressing and transportation. Some residents may have memory disorders including Alzheimer's, or they may need help with mobility, incontinence or other challenges. Residents are assessed upon move in, or any time there is a change in condition. The assessment is used to develop an Individualized Service Plan.

Learn more about Assisted Living.

GLOSSARY of Terms
Assisted Living family

CNA who? ADL what? CCRC why? Being informed is the best step to finding a community that is right for you or your loved one. Learn the terms used in senior living.

QUESTIONS to Ask
assisted living questions

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
assisted living finances

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
Guide to Choosing Assisted Living Community

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.

It's the perfect "leave-behind" piece for all your prospects! Pricing includes shipping and handling. Produced September 2009. This product is also available in the store in a package of 500, 750 and 1000. Learn more.

2014 Hero Award Nominations Now Open!

ALFA has begun accepting nominations for the 2014 Hero Awards, which honor extraordinary individuals who serve older adults in senior living communities. This year, the winners will be chosen by a public vote and honored at the 2014 ALFA Conference & Expo. Nominations close December 13, 2013. Learn more and submit nominations for the ALFA 2014 Hero Awards.