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Guide to Assisted Living

It’s becoming more challenging to manage the care of a loved one. You’re considering assisted living but not quite sure of how to navigate the process or if it’s the right decision.

Choosing an assisted living community is an emotional time for seniors and their families. You want your loved one to receive the daily help they need and maintain their independence. The increasingly wide and diverse array of assisted living options can be stressful and overwhelming. 

However, assisted living communities are an excellent choice for active seniors who need help with daily activities.  

The following comprehensive guide to assisted living will provide you with all the information you need to select the best assisted living community for your loved one. 

What is Assisted Living?

Assisted living communities are long-term residential housing options for seniors who require additional assistance.  

Residents in assisted living communities are mostly healthy and active but need help with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as dressing, toileting, bathing, grooming, cooking and housekeeping. Seniors have customized care plans, enabling them to receive just the amount of care needed to maintain an independent and quality lifestyle.  

These communities are perfect for seniors who want to maintain their independence, enjoy social activities, and prefer a safe residential setting with peers.

Assisted Living Services & Amenities

Assisted living communities are designed for the safety, comfort, and well-being of seniors.  

Although services and amenities offered vary from community to community, most offer residents a wide range of services that may include:

  • Fitness center
  • Nutritious meals
  • Personal Laundry Services
  • Spas
  • Hair salons
  • Comfortable and beautiful living spaces
  • Game area
  • Social activities
  • Medication administration
  • Church services and devotionals
  • Outdoor gazebo and courtyard
  • Dual emergency system
  • Library
  • Bistros and cafes
  • Dining area

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Benefits of Assisted Living

Senior living communities focus on senior wellness including independence, nutrition, physical health, social connection, and intellectual stimulation. Families can rest assured that their loved ones are well taken care of in a safe, professional environment.  

Most aging adults thrive in assisted living communities. They enjoy the opportunity to get socially active in a new community. They appreciate having their independence without the responsibility of maintaining a home and relying on family members to take care of them.

Although deciding to move your loved one into assisted living can be an emotional and challenging choice, there are many benefits for both families and seniors.

  • 24/7 professional, personalized care
  • Maintenance-free living
  • A sense of community
  • Safety and peace of mind
  • Nutritious meals
  • Safe transportation services

Is an Assisted Living Community the Right Choice? 

Seniors who are starting to have more difficulties living independently or those with health concerns, such as high blood pressure, mobility issues, arthritis, or minor injuries, are perfect candidates for assisted living communities.  

Seniors in assisted living don’t require 24-hour nursing care; they just need help with the responsibilities of daily life. 

Staff members are available to help with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as grooming, toileting, bathing, housekeeping, transportation, and laundry.   

If your loved one is showing signs of isolation, loneliness, weight loss, depression, and noticeable declines in hygiene and cleanliness, don’t be afraid to get help. An assisted living community may provide the support and care you need.

Assisted Living Costs

For many families, costs are a determining factor and significant concern when considering assisted living. 

According to Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey, the median cost of assisted living in the United States is $4300.  However, the cost can be as high as $7000 per month depending on the community and services offered. Costs can also vary significantly depending on your city and state. To get an idea of the cost of care in your area, visit Genworth’s cost location tool. 

Move-in fees, specialty service fees like pet care, transportation fees, and amenities can also add to monthly costs. 

The services listed below will also affect your costs:

Care Services

The amount of care needed for a resident is a significant cost determination. Therefore, most communities give new residents an evaluation to determine the level of care required.  

The amount you pay may depend on the level of help needed with activities of daily living (ADLs) and the amount of time required by staff to help with these services.  

Accommodation Selections

Many residents and families enjoy the apartment-style housing and maintenance-free living of assisted living communities.  

Residents can typically choose between one or two-bedroom furnished or unfurnished apartments or suites. The floor plan, size, and amenities will impact your monthly cost.  

Make sure you have a conversation with your loved one to determine what type of living space will accommodate their needs and lifestyle.  

Cost Structure

Review the cost structure of each assisted living community you visit.  

Depending on the community, care services may have additional fees in addition to monthly costs. This type of a la carte pricing means the amount you pay depends on the resident’s level of care.

Other communities may offer bundled packages that include care services, while others may charge a flat rate, which means everyone pays the same, regardless of required care.

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Paying for Assisted Living

Determining how you’re going to pay for assisted living is crucial for many families. Creating a realistic budget and determining what levels of care are needed for your loved one is the first step.  

Before using savings, do your research to understand financial assistance programs available to cover assisted living costs.

Medicare and Medicaid

Many people are surprised to find out that Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of assisted living. However, Medicare may pay for some health care costs while in an assisted living community.

Medicaid may cover assisted living costs for qualified individuals, so make sure you check with your state Medicaid office for additional information.

Life Insurance Policy

In addition to death benefits, life insurance policies may be cashed in to help fund assisted living costs.  Make sure you understand the pros and cons before cashing out a life insurance policy.

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)

If your senior is a veteran or spouse of a veteran, federal benefits may help. The VA Aid and Attendance benefit supplements VA pensions that may provide monthly payments for veterans who need help with assisted living expenses.  This benefit won’t cover room and board, but it will cover other medical costs. 

Home Equity or Reverse Mortgage

If your loved one has a home, you may consider selling the house and using the equity to pay for assisted living benefits.  

A reverse mortgage is a loan that homeowners take out against the value of their home. Homeowners must be married, and the spouse must remain in the house. Homeowners can receive payments in a lump sum, monthly installment, or as a line of credit. 

Long-Term Care Insurance

If your loved one has a long-term insurance policy, you’re in luck.  These types of policies usually cover assisted living and medical expenses. 

Pay Out Of Pocket

Many families choose to pay out of pocket for assisted living costs.  Personal savings, retirement accounts, social security payments, and pensions are all ways to pay for or supplement long-term care. 

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Researching Assisted Living Communities

Once you’ve determined assisted living is a good fit for your loved one, your next step is to begin researching communities in your area.  

Start your search early. This is a big decision; you want to ensure you have enough time to select the best community for your loved one.  

Make a list of assisted living communities. If your senior has friends that are currently in assisted living communities, this is an ideal place to start.

Friends, relatives, church members, your family physician, and co-workers are great resources for finding trusted communities in your area.   

Consider locations that are convenient for visits from family and friends. Research the different services offered at the various communities in your area.  

Some assisted living communities combine several types of senior living options in one location. For example, Hearthside Senior Living in Lebanon, TN  is a community that offers independent living (seniors who can live independently but choose not to) and assisted living in the same community. This is an excellent option for seniors who want to live in one location that can adjust to their current and future needs.

Choosing an Assisted Living Community

Have an open and honest discussion with your senior about the need for assisted living. Prioritize their needs and preferences. Discuss what amenities and services are important to them before choosing their new home. Think about the type and amount of help your senior will need to remain safe and comfortable. 

Set up in-person tours with several assisted living communities. Communities can vary when it comes to the level of care, amenities, and services. 

If possible, your loved one should be involved in this process. Invite a family member or friend for a trusted second opinion. Ask if you can schedule breakfast or lunch during your tour to get an idea of the quality of the meals, service, and interaction among the staff and residents. 

Prepare a list of questions for your visit: 

  • What is your cost structure?
  • What services are included in my monthly fee?
  • What types of apartments are currently available?
  • Can residents bring their own furniture?
  • How are services billed?
  • What training and certifications are required for staff?
  • Are background checks performed?
  • Do you have a registered nurse or medical professional available at all times?
  • What are your emergency procedures?
  • Do you have a security system in place?
  • How many meals are offered each day? 
  • How do you handle dietary restrictions?

During your tour, pay attention to important details:

  • Cleanliness of the apartments, grounds, dining area, and common areas
  • Safety features like guard rails, ramps, and grab bars
  • The overall feel of the community, Are the common areas comfortable and inviting? Are residents active and happy?
  • Available amenities like activity rooms, game rooms, library, craft areas, beauty salon
  • Outdoor patios, gazebos, and courtyards

Moving to Assisted Living

Moving to an assisted living community is a lot of work. If possible, don’t rush this process; give yourself and your loved one time to downsize and organize, especially if this is your childhood home. You need time to process and accept this change.   

Allow your loved one to choose personal items and furniture that are important to them.  You want their living space to feel like home. 

Below are some tips to make moving easier:

  • Hire professional movers
  • Make the day fun by ordering your loved one’s favorite food, invite family and friends to help
  • Pack personal items like medication, toiletries, photos, jewelry, and eyeglasses
  • Don’t forget favorite books, keepsakes, movies, hobby supplies, and computers
  • Bring family heirlooms, favorite furniture pieces, artwork, throws, pillows, and plants

Surprise your loved one by unpacking, organizing, and decorating their apartment with favorite items before they move in. This will ease the transition and help them to get adjusted to their new environment.

Transitioning a Loved One to Assisted Living

Preparation, organization, and understanding will make a move and transition more manageable for you, your family, and your loved one.

It’s normal to feel apprehensive, overwhelmed, worried, and even guilty. Especially if your loved one is not ready or doesn’t feel the need for a change, they may be resentful, fearful, and angry about leaving their home.

Make sure you’re patient and empathetic; this is a big move for everyone, especially your loved one.  

Give your loved one time to adjust to their new living arrangements. It may take weeks or even months for you and your loved one to adapt to this new normal.  

Make sure you and your family play an active role in the transition with the following tips:

  • Visit often and encourage family and friends to do the same
  • Encourage participation with social activities in the community
  • Connect with the staff and get to know your loved one’s neighbors
  • Take your loved one out for dinner and include them in family celebrations and events
  • Give them space when needed
  • Listen when they need to talk
  • Make adjustments when necessary
  • Encourage their independence 

Wrapping it Up

Choosing to move a loved one into assisted living is a lengthy process and a tough decision. However, there are steps you can take to ease the process and ensure a successful transition.

After reading this guide to assisted living, you should feel informed and ready to choose the best community for your family and loved one. 

Ready to speak with an expert? Complete this form for additional information on Hearthside Senior Living in Lebanon, TN.