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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.

Guide to Independent Living

You’re healthy, retired or near retirement, and you just want to enjoy life without the daily responsibilities of taking care of a home. You want to socialize, travel, lounge by the pool, and connect with your peers. 

If that sounds like you, then independent living may be a perfect choice!

Today’s seniors are healthy, active, and more independent than ever. They’re looking for safe long-term living solutions that provide a sense of community and encourage health and wellness.

The growing senior population will continue to move the demand for high-quality independent living communities. 

Finding an independent living community that fits your needs takes time. But, with more than 49,000 independent living communities in the United States, feeling overwhelmed and stressed is normal. 

Whether you’re looking for an independent living community for yourself or a loved one, the following guide to independent living has everything you need to choose the perfect community.

What Is Independent Living?

Independent living communities (also known as retirement or active adult communities) offer seniors and families an independent lifestyle in a safe community setting. 

Seniors in independent living communities want to maintain their independence without home maintenance and daily household responsibilities. These communities offer various living options from apartments to beautiful single-family detached two or three-bedroom homes with spacious open floor plans with gorgeous amenities. 

Independent living communities offer residents the convenience of housekeeping services, home maintenance, yard, and landscaping service. Planned activities, classes, transportation, and amenities, like fitness centers and pools, are some of the most popular amenities. 

On-site medical care is typically not an option for residents in independent living. This is because residents in independent living are primarily healthy and don’t need regular medical care.

Is Independent Living Right for Me?

Choosing where you’re going to spend your retirement is an important decision. However, make sure you take the time to consider your lifestyle before you decide. 

To determine if independent living is the right choice for you or a loved one, consider the following:

Consider Your Health

If you or your spouse require help with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, or toileting, an assisted living community might be a better choice. 

Some long-term care communities like Hearthside Senior Living combine assisted living and independent living, giving residents and their families the option of transitioning to assisted living when needed. 

Seniors that are active, healthy, and can manage their own doctor visits and medication are perfect for independent living communities. 


Are You Lonely?

Many seniors live alone and often become less socially active, leading to isolation, loneliness, and depression.

It may be harder to drive as we age, making it more difficult to run daily errands or attend social gatherings with family and friends. Even the most well-intentioned family members get busy, and former friends may also have difficulty getting around.  

Independent living communities help fight these trends. Seniors often thrive in independent living communities thanks to the services and activities offered by the community. Residents enjoy a calendar full of planned activities, social events, group fitness classes, and more. 

Being in an active community with the support and company of other seniors is the best part of living in an independent community.

Are You Having Trouble Maintaining Your Home?

For many seniors, maintaining a home is a struggle. Cleaning, yard upkeep, and home repairs are time-consuming, expensive, and stressful. In addition, doing your own home repairs as a senior can be dangerous.

Selling or renting out your current home and moving into an independent living community can give you extra income and allow you to enjoy retirement without the responsibility of maintaining a home.

Independent Living Costs

Choosing a community that meets your needs and fits your budget is a major deciding factor for most. On average, monthly costs for independent living can range anywhere from $1500 to $7000 per month.

Independent living expenses will vary dramatically between states and even within communities in the same city. Genworth’s cost calculator tool is a great place to start for information on your specific state. 

The good news is that independent living is less expensive than other types of senior care, such as assisted living communities and nursing homes because personal care and health services are not needed. 

Independent living costs will also vary depending on the amenities that are offered in the community. For example, communities with upscale amenities like pools or spas may be more expensive. Making a list of what’s most important to you is a great way to control costs and find the right community for your lifestyle and budget. 

Accommodation selection will also affect your cost. Larger accommodations with added amenities will increase your expenses.

Independent living communities can have different cost structures.  Some will have set monthly fees that include rent and other essentials. Others may use an a la carte pricing structure where you pay for specific services as needed.  

Make sure you ask the following questions before signing a contract:

  • Is a deposit required? Is it refundable?
  • What services are included in my monthly fee?
  • How am I billed?
  • What if I need to cancel my contract?
  • Do you offer financial assistance?
  • Are there entrance fees?
  • What amenities are included?

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Paying for Independent Living

Of course, paying for independent living is a concern for many seniors. Although Medicare doesn’t cover these costs, there are several other options. 

Personal Income & Savings

Many retirees opt to pay out-of-pocket for independent living expenses. If possible, meet with a financial advisor to discuss your ability to pay with savings and personal income.

Distributions from pensions, social security benefits, retirement accounts, liquidated assets, and investments are excellent ways to pay for independent living expenses.  

Long-term Care Insurance

A long-term care insurance policy will probably help pay for some independent living costs. Policies can vary, so make sure you speak with your insurance professional for guidance. 

Life Insurance Policy

If you’re healthy and have multiple life insurance policies, you may want to consider cashing out a whole life insurance policy to pay for independent living expenses.

Reverse Mortgages

A reverse mortgage allows seniors 62 years of age and older to borrow cash against the equity in their home. A reverse mortgage requires you to be married, and a spouse must remain in the house. Payments can be received in a lump sum or as a line of credit or monthly installments.

Selling or Renting Your Current Home

Selling or renting your current home makes sense for many seniors. However, selling a home can be emotional for seniors and families. Talk with your children, especially if they grew up in the house before deciding to sell.  

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)

If you’re a veteran or spouse of a veteran, you may qualify for help with independent living expenses. The Veteran Directed Care Program may offer some support services for veterans in independent living communities.

Choosing an Independent Living Community

Deciding to move into an independent living community is a significant life change. Seniors often experience moments of worry, doubt, fear, and even excitement at the prospect of starting a new life. 

You want to make sure your new home is a place where you’re happy, safe, and can remain independent. Finding the perfect community takes time, patience, and a lot of research. So begin your search early and visit multiple communities in your city. 

Make a list of your wants, needs, and must-haves. Independent living communities differ in amenities, services, housing options, cultures, and prices, so you want to make sure you clearly understand what you’re looking for. 

A great place to start is to ask for referrals from trusted friends, family, neighbors, church members, and even your physician. 

Make a list of independent living communities that meet your requirements and set up in-person tours. Request a virtual tour if in-person tours are not offered due to COVID-19 protocols. Make sure you take a trusted friend or family member with you for a second opinion.  

Ask if you can have lunch or dinner during your tour, this will allow you and your guest to assess the dining room, residents, and the quality of the food. 

As you tour the community, make a note of:

  • Cleanliness of dining room, apartments, and common areas
  • Amenities, like beauty salon, fitness center, chapel, or library
  • Safety features like guard rails, ramps, grab bars, lighting
  • Does the community have amenities that interest you?
  • Are residents active and social? Are they participating in activities?
  • Are there clubs, activities, and religious organizations that align with your interests?
  • Is the staff friendly and engaging?

Make the most of your visit. Below are some factors to consider when visiting independent living communities and specific questions to ask.

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Overall Community & Living Options

You want your new home to be safe and inviting. Take the time to tour the housing options offered by the community. 

You want your living space to reflect your personality and individual preferences. For example, do you like modern or traditional interiors? Would you prefer an apartment-style living or a single-family detached home?

Check out the impressive condo-style adjoining homes that feature one-car garages, patios, and beautiful front porches at Hearthside Independent Living Community

  • What types of housing are currently available?
  • Do you help residents move in?
  • Can I bring my furniture?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • Are housekeeping and laundry included in my monthly fee? 
  • What security measures or in place?
  • What happens if there is an emergency?
  • What are your COVID-19 safety/testing measures? What happens if a resident tests positive?

Dining Services

Your dining experience is one of the most important factors to consider when visiting independent living communities. Choose communities that are in line with your preferences. Do you like variety? Do you like to snack or eat late at night? Below are some dining considerations when selecting an independent living community.

  • What type of dining packages are offered?What is the cost?
  • What are my daily meal choices? Does the community offer residents a variety of food options, or are residents served the same meal?
  • How are meals served? 
  • Is there an on-staff dietician or nutritionist?
  • How are dietary restrictions handled?
  • Can I order meals to be delivered to my apartment or home?
  • Are meals/snacks offered outside of scheduled dining hours?

Administration & Staff 

The staff is the backbone of the community. You want to feel comfortable with management and employees. You want to live in a community where the staff is happy and friendly with residents. 

Make notes and ask the following questions during your tour.

  • Are background checks performed?
  • How easy is it to set a meeting with the community director if I have a concern or question?
  • Are staff interacting with residents 
  • What are COVID-19 protocols for staff?
  • What is your staff to resident ratio?
  • What are the training and education requirements for staff?

Health & Wellness 

Now is an excellent time for health-conscious seniors to move into independent living communities. 

Many communities are offering residents a variety of options to stay healthy. Virtual workouts, in-person fitness classes, yoga, meditation, and strength training geared toward seniors are just some of the possibilities offered in communities. 

Choosing a community that promotes and prioritizes health is essential; that’s why it’s vital to choose a community that offers a variety of ways to stay healthy. 

Consider the following:

  • What types of fitness classes are offered?
  • Are virtual workouts an option?
  • Are classes designed for seniors?
  • Ask to see a fitness calendar
  • Do you have healthy food options?
  • Visit the fitness center, if possible ask to meet instructors

Activities & Amenities

Retirement should be fun and active. One of the advantages of independent living is socializing with other residents. Make sure you ask questions to determine if the social scene fits your lifestyle.

  • What social and recreational activities are planned for residents? Ask to look at their monthly calendar
  • Are social activities included in my monthly fee? If not, what are the costs?
  • Do you have plans for new activities/amenities in the future?
  • Do you have planned activities outside of the community? Is transportation offered?
  • Can residents request activities?

Transitioning to Independent Living

You’ve chosen an independent living community that has everything you need. Yet, you don’t understand why you feel anxious. 

Even if you’re excited about the maintenance-free lifestyle and social opportunities offered by independent living, it’s perfectly normal to feel regret, sadness, and apprehension about leaving your home.

Moving is a significant life change for anyone, especially if you’re selling a home that holds lifelong memories. Give yourself time to adjust, be honest about your feelings, talk to your family and spouse. 

Stay positive and enjoy the process. This is an exciting change! Ensure a smooth transition to the independent living community with the following tips.

  • Contact the independent living community and give them your move-in date and time; some communities have specific guidelines and may offer assistance.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to purge and pack up your current home. Keep only the items you love. Donate, throw away, or give things you don’t want to family and friends. This is a great time to make a fresh start. Your new home should be organized and filled with your favorite things. 
  • Reach out to family and friends. Your inner circle can help with your move. They can also be there to listen when you feel anxious, apprehensive, or need a little advice.
  • Bring personal and sentimental items like pictures, favorite furniture pieces, and family heirlooms to make your new space feel like home.
  • Get creative when decorating your new space. If you’ve always lived in a traditional-style home, try modern. You’re starting a new chapter in your life! Try something new.
  • Once you move, get to know your neighbors. Sign up for a variety of social events and recreational activities. Try a new class or hobby. Have fun!

Enjoy Your New Home

Congratulations on your decision to move into an independent living community. After reading this guide to independent living, you’ll have all of the information you need to choose your next home.

Independent living communities are an exceptional lifestyle choice for older adults. Enjoy your maintenance-free, carefree lifestyle without the responsibility of home maintenance and repairs.

Socialize with your peers and enjoy the many activities in your new community. To learn more about independent living, fill out the contact form and a staff member will reach out. 

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