Assisted living facilities come in all shapes and sizes, from single family homes with only a few residents, to large communities with hundreds of residents. Living arrangements vary from studio, single or double rooms, to suites or apartments, and are usually within a multi-unit residential setting.
Assisted living facilities are refered to by a variety of names that may easily confuse families. They are sometimes called residential care facilities, personal care homes, retirement communities, board and care, and adult care homes.
Assisted living may exist as a freestanding facility, or as a component of a retirement community with multiple levels of care. Popular hybrid versions combine assisted living with nursing care, or assisted living with Alzheimer's care. Dual levels of care in the same location serve to accommodate an individual's declining health needs, or that of a spouse's, to help minimize the need for relocating.
Assisted Living is designed for seniors that require some assistance with activities of daily living and wish to live as independently as possible. Assisted living is appropriate for someone who is too frail to live at home or in an independent setting but does not need skilled nursing care.
Equally baffling as the name disharmony is the inconsistent combination of personalized care, supportive services, and health-related services offered among facilities throughout the country. Most facilities provide personal care assistance with bathing, dressing, grooming, hygiene, ambulating and medications. Meals, transportation, laundry, and housekeeping are provided along with twenty-four hour supportive service and supervision. The varied amount of specific health care services should be closely evaluated in order to accommodate your loved one's current and changing needs.
Assisted living facilities are not fully regulated by the federal government and each state sets their own licensing requirements, regulations, and inspection procedures. Due to this lack of a national inspection reporting system, it is necessary to tap in to some lesser known resources with a lot more diligence. JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) and CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) are two of the primary accreditation organizations. Meeting the higher standards required to become accredited by one or both of these well-respected organizations is considered a feather in a facility's cap. Contact your long-term care ombudsman for recommendations to care facilities in your area.
Good old fashion leg work is required once you have narrowed your search to a few. Tour the homes, talk with residents and staff and have lunch. Request to meet with the Director of Nursing to discuss his or her philosophy of care which is often reflected throughout the facility. Go back and visit unannounced in the evening when families are visiting and encourage their comments about care.
Most residents privately pay the cost for care from their own financial resources. They sign a residency agreement as they would when renting an apartment and likewise the rent varies according to size and location of living quarters, as well as amenities and services available. Cutting costs for assisted living rent is sometimes as simple as choosing a 3 star moderate hotel room versus s 5 star deluxe room with a view. Consider sharing a room to reduce costs or perhaps moving away from the high rent district. Several long-term care insurance plans and some state Medicaid programs may also reimburse a certain amount of these health services provided.