Across the United States, around one million people reside in an assisted living facility. Although assisted living facilities aren’t medical settings, senior people may choose to move into them when they require assistance to remain independent. Onsite staff members provide support for day-to-day activities, including dining, taking medications, and staying fit. As a result, these facilities provide a lot of comfort to residents and their families.
Facilities tend to vary significantly. Because of this, it’s important to research what you want from your new living situation. Whether you’re exploring the idea of assisted living for yourself or a family member, it’s a good idea to learn more about how it works.
Reasons to Use an Assisted Living Facility
It’s sometimes useful to think of assisted living as a home with care. Unlike a nursing home, there’s no guarantee that nursing or medical staff will be onsite at all times. However, you can expect to receive assistance with your hygiene routine, eating, taking medication, and using the bathroom.
The main reason seniors choose assisted living is to enjoy a balance between independence and the peace of mind of having someone there to help with what you can no longer handle alone. As we grow older, it’s normal to expect a decline in physical ability. Sometimes that decline arises from a chronic condition or an accident. If you’re suffering from limited mobility, you may find that moving around your usual home becomes challenging. By choosing to use an assisted living facility, you can enjoy a home-like setting, but with the assurance that help is always on hand.
Some assisted living residents choose facilities because they’re suffering from cognitive decline. Living on your own during the early phases of dementia or Alzheimer’s can feel daunting. When you live in an assisted facility, you may feel more secure.
The Social Benefits of Assisted Living
Experiencing a reduction in your mobility sometimes makes it harder to maintain your usual social calendar. If this results in you spending more time in your house than usual, assisted living can prevent isolation. As socializing plays a big role in happiness and limiting cognitive decline, you may enjoy the communal aspects of an assisted living facility.
Feeling More Secure
As you grow older, you may start to feel less secure in your home for a number of reasons. Assisted living facilities usually feature alarms and they have a 24-hour staff presence. Knowing that someone will be by your side quickly in the event of an emergency can provide you with a sense of security.
Look for Community Certifications
Before choosing an assisted living facility, make sure it has the right certification for your state. Certifications vary between states, but they act as an indication that someone has independently approved of the facility. In California, the California Senior Care Licensing Program certifies facilities.
You should be able to find evidence of a facility’s certification on its website. If the certification isn’t immediately obvious, contact the facility to ask them about it.
Choosing a Location
If there are lots of assisted living facilities in your locale, consider whether you want to be close to certain people. For example, if you’re used to seeing your grandchildren regularly, you may want to stay near them. Or if you routinely spend every Sunday with your kids, being within easy driving distance is probably still important.
Finding the Right Accommodation
Moving out of your current property and into a new one is a big step. As a result, you should write a list of features you expect before starting your search.
Bedroom facilities vary between properties. In some cases, the properties you’re looking at will offer different floor plans to choose from.
Decide whether you’re happy to live in an open plan area. Some assisted living properties offer open plans that come with partial partitions to separate the living and sleeping areas.
Consider factors such as alarms, rails, and safety barriers too. If you tend to move around a lot during the night, adding a safety barrier can guard you against unexpected falls. You may also feel more comfortable knowing that an alarm is within easy reach. In addition to alarms, decide whether you’d like to access a phone from the comfort of your bed.
Do you envisage taking some of your furniture to the facility with you? If so, you’ll need to make sure there’s enough space for it.
Additionally, if you have a lot of home comforts, will the facility provide enough storage space for them? And would you prefer being able to have family members come to stay with you from time to time? Anticipating your space requirements in advance gives you a better chance of choosing a facility that’s comfortable.
When you’ve dedicated years to a faithful dog or a cute cat, taking them with you probably feels important. Many assisted living facilities now let residents take their pets with them. Some even offer dedicated outdoor spaces for the pets to enjoy during the daytime.
Although many assisted living facilities prepare meals for you, you may want a kitchenette in your room. Being able to do the basics, brew your own coffee, and store snacks can make a big difference to your comfort level. Decide what cooking activities you’d like to retain and make sure the facility you choose makes it easy for you to do them.
Being able to maintain your usual hygiene routine is probably important to you. If you’ve recently struggled to use your bathroom at home, consider what would make your life easier. For example, you may feel nervous using your shower just in case you fall. A good facility will offer anti-slip surfaces and handrails so you can continue showering safely and independently.
Caring for Unique Medical Needs
Most people who enter an assisted living program have medical needs. From low blood pressure through to chronic conditions such as osteoporosis, they all require careful consideration before choosing a facility.
Some medical needs won’t require much input from healthcare staff. However, you may feel better knowing that someone will bring your medications to you. You might also want to choose a facility that provides transport to hospital appointments.
Programs that Support Physical Ailments
It’s important to remember that assisted living facilities don’t always have qualified healthcare staff onsite. However, many will offer programs that support physical ailments. For example, if you suffer from osteoarthritis, you may want to find a facility that offers pain-reducing exercise classes.
Many facilities also provide wellness programs. Wellness programs examine your current state of health and look for ways that you can improve it. The aim is to get more from your physical wellbeing, while also reducing mental burdens such as stress.
Although assisted living programs don’t have to provide full-time nurses, many offer memory care. Memory care helps you maintain your independence and comfort while managing memory loss.
Memory care programs take place at facilities that are designed to keep people with dementia safe. An excellent provider will also recognize the differences between various types of dementia and create programs accordingly. Try to find a facility that encourages socializing, spending time in communal areas, enjoying activities, and maintaining independence. Such programs can help to slow down cognitive decline and will provide you with peace of mind if you’re trying to find a place for your loved one.
How Much Help Do You Need with Personal Care?
While some assisted living facilities provide supervision of personal care, others take a hands-on approach. Write a list of the types of activities you may need assistance with. Additionally, consider whether you need any routine health monitoring.
Some communities help their residents by providing professionals who routinely visit. From physical therapists through to nurses, being able to see someone regularly can prevent the need to go off-site to receive your usual healthcare. If you do need to go off-site, look for a facility that’ll provide regular transport.
Focus on Activities
When you retire, spending your time exploring different activities can help you get more out of your golden years. If you’ve already established a routine before leaving your home, going somewhere where you can maintain it will make a big difference to your personal well-being.
Many assisted living programs offer a daily calendar of activities. From yoga for seniors to gardening and walking, each one gives you the chance to stay busy.
In addition to looking for scheduled activities, focus on how the facility promotes socializing in other ways. Do you want to go somewhere with a lot of communal areas? Are you planning on spending time outdoors? Such facilities make it easier for you to meet others after settling into your new home.
Finally, inquire about onsite facilities such as salons, TV rooms, and movie theaters. The best facilities will create a mini-community that helps you to thrive and make the most of your surroundings.
Visiting the Facility
Ideally, you’ll create a shortlist of facilities that tick all the right boxes. Try to be ruthless while doing this. If the facility you’re looking at is lacking in one of your essential criteria, cross it off the list. This is a setting where you’ll be living for many years to come, so you need to feel happy there.
Before making your final decision, you’ll need to visit the facilities that look appealing. There’s an art to doing this while making a fair assessment of what’s available.
Write a List of Questions
Although you’ve already spent time narrowing the facilities down according to their offerings, you probably still have questions. Before going on a visit, write down a list of them so you don’t forget to ask them while you’re there.
Take Someone With You
It often helps to have more than one set of eyes when you’re touring a facility. Take a family member or a trusted friend with you so they can form an opinion too. Taking someone with you also ensures someone else is there to remember the answers to the questions you asked. They may also be able to think of questions that you wouldn’t consider yourself.
What to Look for During Your Visit
When you visit an assisted living facility, you’ll probably benefit from a tour. In addition to asking questions and listening to what your tour guide has to say, you need to look out for the following:
- Is the facility in a good state of repair? Facilities that look as though they’re well cared for should be a priority.
- Would you feel comfortable using the outdoor spaces? Look for those that have even surfaces to walk on and handrails for you to use when necessary.
- Do the residents look happy and engaged? You may see a lot of group activities happening during your tour. When residents look happy and engaged, it’s a sign that they genuinely enjoy themselves there.
- Is there plenty of space for your things? In addition to having plenty of storage space, make sure it’s easy for you to access.
- Can you socialize anywhere with your family? Plenty of facilities now provide communal areas that your family members can use with you when they visit.
- Can you take your car with you? If you’re independent enough to continue driving, look for car parking that’s safe and easy to use.
Signing a Contract
When you find an assisted living facility you’re happy to live in, you’ll need to sign a contract. Always make sure you give the contract the same attention as any other important legal document. And don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on clauses or for them to include something you need assurance of. The more detailed a contract is, the more protection it gives you.
Pay particularly close attention to clauses that prohibit certain activities. Overall, assisted living facilities aren’t restrictive. But if you have your heart set on family members visiting at a particular time and the facility doesn’t make accommodations for it, you should look elsewhere.
Finally, make sure you agree on a payment plan and look into all the charges you’re expected to face. You don’t want any hidden financial surprises further down the line.
Villas at San Bernardino offers assisted living accommodations that provide supportive care. In addition to our everyday living programs, we offer a memory care package. To discuss accommodations for yourself or one of your relatives, contact us.