Assisted living facilities are communities where elderly individuals or individuals with disabilities can feel like their needs are met—a home where their concerns are taken seriously. For those individuals for whom living in a private home may seem out-of-reach, assisted living facilities staff their locations with trained professionals, and promise a safe, secure, and home-like environment for individuals with disabilities or those who are aging and may need assistance with healthcare, hygiene, or other concerns.
As the marvels of modern medicine enable more and more people to continue living their lives with relative independence in their later years, many individuals may need more care than is possible when living alone, but at the same time do not need dedicated nursing care or round-the-clock supervision provided in facilities such as hospice, nursing homes, or other long-term treatment facilities. Assisted living facilities meet these two extremes in the middle, working with the special concerns of aging seniors or those with health issues and/or disabilities. They do this work in order to provide a home where privacy and independence are valued, but at the same time allow extra assistance for specific needs.
Understanding the Differences Between Assisted Living Facilities
Each assisted living facility has its own sense of community and personal culture, and when it comes time to decide between residence options, understanding the differences between one facility and another can make or break the decision process of where an aging individual or someone with disabilities choses to live.
Even the specific type of residence may differ, based on the facility. Some feature full private apartments with open public areas, like an apartment complex. Others are designed to be more like a dormitory experience and may include the possibility of sharing living space with other residents. Most assisted living facilities value the balance between assistance and independence, and all of these communities understand that one must ensure privacy with regard to accommodations and health-related circumstances. Most assisted living facilities offer meal options, and some include full kitchens en-suite. Most assisted living facilities feature security options—a staffed front desk with controlled access and keyed entry, for example. Some may focus on patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Others may provide touring or transportation services for more active clients.
What may make an assisted living facility perfect for an individual may differ based on a senior’s needs and experiences. In general, it’s important to focus on what a resident wants for their life. Is the home close to shopping and healthcare options? Is it in good visiting distance for family and friends? Having a full idea of what makes an individual happy and comfortable can help focus attention on which among the choices of facility is best to ensure the highest quality of life for as long as possible.
Knowing more about the facility and how it measures up to a potential resident’s needs is an important part of choosing an assisted living facility, but families should also take into consideration how one’s needs may change over time. Consider a five or ten-year plan and how the facility may flex to accommodate certain needs. By focusing on how an assisted living facility may meet an individual’s personal needs as they change over time, the resident gains more comfort and control over their stay.
Assisted Living Facility Staff
Learning about the type of residence is vital to choosing an assisted living facility. But just as vital to the process is learning about how the facility is staffed, and how many of its team members have medical training. Just like how individual facilities are unique communities, each residence has its own team of trained professionals who work with residents and other individuals in order to provide hospitality and a home-like environment.
For those who have narrowed down residence choices, before deciding on a location, it may be best practices to drop by the facility and meet members of the administrative team and staff, as well as the other residents. Reviewing a location in person can make a big impression—use this time to ask everyone about their experiences and if they feel as though their needs are met. Are the staff available at all times, or are there periods where the facility closes their administrative offices? Learning more about the facility from other residents and hearing their likes and dislikes may provide the most telling information about both the staff and the facility.
One question many people ask is, what sort of training is involved in becoming part of the staff at an assisted living facility? Most individuals who choose to work in an assisted living facility have an inclination for providing care. Many specifically enjoy caring for the elderly and work for such residences while training in the medical profession. Other staff members may be contract workers, such as food service employees, hair dressers, transportation staff, security, and specialized medical staff.
Another question many ask is, what sort of medical professionals do assisted living facilities have on staff? The answer to this question depends on the facility. As stated earlier, each facility is its own independent community, and each must follow specific state, federal, and local guidelines. In the case of most facilities, employees have a background of caregiving experience, with specialized trainings provided by the company. In some cases, doctors, physician’s assistants, or nurses may be a part of an assisted living facility. In other cases, such medical training is only hired when necessary.
Assisted living facilities are not nursing homes, and individuals requiring more urgent care or round the clock supervision may not be the best fit for assisted living facilities, especially those without an on-site medical team. Check up on all prospective facility’s certifications and licensing—remember that knowledge empowers.
Choosing an assisted living facility for oneself or a loved one can be difficult. Consider the needs of the individual. Focus on the needs of the prospective residence to make sure what it is he or she needs from a home. Whether it be a greater sense of independence, the act of neighborly companionship, or the care of a medical professional, all are important parts of the assisted living facility.