Leaving the comfort of a long-time home for an unfamiliar environment or assisted living facility can be a difficult transition for a senior and, when they are no longer able to function on an independent basis, it may be a scary time for family members as well. But here’s the good news—moving away from one’s home does not necessarily mean that an elderly loved one must lose their lifestyle or have to live by a set of rigid rules.
There is a common misconception that assisted living means a loss of rights, but even in a program that is focused on community, individualized care is also critical. Assisted living provides 24/7 personalized care that has a deep respect for an individual’s preferences, wants, interest, and needs.
Assisted Living Communities
Unlike a hospital or nursing home setting, an assisted living community is just that…a community. Sometimes referred to as an ALC, it is a place where people can feel comfortable, cared for, and safe. There is a lot that goes into maintaining an assisted living community and providing focused care.
Activities of Daily Living
The primary focus of an assisted living community is to help individuals accomplish their activities of daily living (ADLs). These activities are easily defined as “the things we normally do.” Each individual has a different set of needs that often will dictate exactly what their ADLs are, but there are a common set of tasks that define an ADL.
The most important ADL in the list is usually mobility. The 24/7 personal care that is provided in an assisted living community ensures that seniors are at a lower risk of falls and accidents. Part of the job of an educated and well-informed staff is to understand this risk and be aware of every opportunity for danger.
In addition to the activities that one needs to function on a daily basis, there are other tasks that—although not vital—are considered “instrumental.” Instrumental activities of daily living, also called IADLs, are also another service provided by an ALC. This can include tasks like:
- Food Prep
- Social Activities
An assisted living community can provide their residents with 24/7 care that not only meets their vital daily needs, but contributes to their well-being too.
Unlike a home care setting, an assisted living community can ensure that an individual’s medication program is monitored and managed on a consistent basis. This means that a live person will be available to administer medication 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. The rotation of staff with proper communication guarantees that a loved one will never go without—or neglect a dose of the medication they may desperately need.
Prior to administering medication, an assisted living community will work with an individual to establish a concrete plan to manage their daily routine. Residents can maintain their existing relationships with their local physicians, psychiatrists, and other medical specialists involved in their ongoing care. In many cases, the community has a medical staff of their own (often on call and/or visiting).
A resident has the freedom to choose their provider, and an ALC will honor it. In terms of medication management, it is the job of the staff to coordinate with the outside providers to establish a seamless level of care between the parties.
One of the greater risks of seniors living at home and managing their own medication is that they could be self-administering the wrong dose or amount—a mistake that can have serious consequences. In an assisted living community, staff is on hand to ensure that the proper medications are being administered at the right time.
Prescription medication is securely overseen in an assisted living community, which leaves much less room for a serious medication error. Medication is always administered by a team member that is certified and trained in the procedure.
Another important factor to 24/7 personalized care is the process of food preparation and mealtime. Meal preparation can get pretty complicated when a senior must restrict themselves to a specific diet for health or medical reasons. Unlike home care, meals in an assisted living community are more nutritious, better scheduled, and much more of a social event.
An assisted living community is responsible for serving the right foods for the proper diets. Nutrition is at the forefront of care when it comes to meal time, and there should be a strong emphasis on fresh foods and quality ingredients. Meals are prepared daily, with seasonal ingredients for a healthy and satisfying experience for residents.
Individuals residing in an assisted living community never have to worry about planning dinner or questioning when to start a meal. ALCs generally have a standard schedule that changes on a weekly and monthly basis. Typically, these schedules are delivered to a resident’s mailbox regularly.
Assisted living focuses on choices, and, when it comes to mealtime, residents generally have a lot of options. Just because there is a schedule does not mean people need to follow it. Individuals in an ALC are able to eat when they choose and can make special requests for future meals.
A successful assisted living community always takes an individual’s preferences and dietary restrictions into consideration during mealtime. Additionally, a person should be allowed to dine where they choose. They may decide to have lunch in their room or dinner in the dining room—assisted living is about choice. Family members are also encouraged to visit during mealtime and dine with their loved ones as well.
Eating is a central aspect of daily life, and an assisted living community is an environment that understands and embraces the process.
There should be a staff-to-resident ratio of at least 3 to 1 in an assisted living community. When providing 24/7 personalized care, there should also be an ample amount of night staff. Unlike home care, at no point will a senior ever be alone with only one other person. Successful ALCs know how to optimize staffing patterns to ensure that residents are cared for on a continual and consistent basis. Individuals receive round-the-clock care and support in a safe and trusted environment.
Staff members in an assisted living community are carefully selected and screened to ensure residents are cared for by the most qualified and compassionate professionals. By fostering nurturing and positive relationships, the staff of an assisted living community can have a major impact on the quality of life for a resident.
The largest population of staff in an assisted living community consists of certified nurses assistants. The role is generally referred to by the acronym CNA and they support a variety of jobs in an ALC.
CNAs receive a certification (that varies by state) and on-the-job training. They must always remain up-to-date with the latest in geriatric care and practice active patience and compassion. These aides are with residents on a daily basis, and their main purpose is to help people accomplish their ADLs with as much independence as possible. CNAs are generally the staff that has the most interaction with residents in an assisted living community.
There are many other people that make up a team of caregivers in an assisted living community. Every community is different, but the following are some examples of other people who work with the common goal of caring for residents:
- Registered Nurse
- Director and Administration Staff
- Licensed Psychologists
- Social Workers
- Activities Director
- Wellness Consultants
- Kitchen Staff
- Performers (like a piano player or art teacher)
It takes a diverse group of people to run an assisted living community, and each role allows residents to be involved in a well-rounded and interactive care-based program.
It is important for people to maintain their individuality when they get involved with an assisted living community. In addition to the necessary care received in an ALC, residents are also encouraged to continue living an active and social lifestyle. In fact, many individuals find they have much more social interaction when they transfer to an ALC than they ever did at home.
What sets an assisted living community apart is their focus on enriching an individual’s lifestyle. Every community has a set of activities (some anticipated, some not) to engage the residents and helps them lead a better quality life. Some of those activities can include things like:
- Board Games
- Arts and Crafts
- Nature Walks
- Musical Performances
- Food Prep and/or Cooking
- Dances and Social Interaction
- Wellness Programs
- Holistic Programs like Meditation and Yoga
- Spiritual Activities
Enriching the lifestyle of residents through meaningful activity is what truly sets an assisted living community apart from a facility. Compassionate and informed staff can provide 24/7 personalized care through medication management, assistance with ADLs, and flexible meal options. An assisted living community allows residents to feel in control and independent in their lives…just as they always have at home. Contact Cobbdale Assisted Living for more information.