What is Assisted Living?
Assisted living is a viable option for giving seniors the quality of life they deserve and it empowers them to live life on their terms. There is no standard definition for Assisted Living centers. At The Continental at St. Joseph’s (CSJ), we define Assisted Living, as “independent apartment living with some assistance with daily activities.” Tara Koestner, Administrator, states, “Assisted Living communities are designed to help disabled or senior adults bridge the gap between living at home and long term nursing care.” Assisted Living centers do not provide nursing home-type services. Independence and choice are the key operating principles in Assisted Living communities. Just like living at home, tenants are free to come and go as they please. They have freedom to decorate and personalize their apartments and they choose to participate in activities and outings. Assisted Living centers do offer assistance with household chores, personal care, and professional nurse monitoring. Think of Assisted Living as a place designed for people who are able to care for themselves except for assistance with a few activities of daily living. Tenants maintain personal privacy and independence in a setting that also offers numerous opportunities to build friendships. New tenants often comment, “I should have moved here years ago!”
The primary difference between living in an apartment at The Continental at St. Joseph’s Assisted Living community and living at home is peace of mind. Peace comes knowing that help is available 24 hours a day with a simple push of a button. Caring and knowledgeable staff are always there to provide help when needed. Routinely, CSJ staff cooks meals, cleans apartments, does laundry, shops for tenants, transports tenants to medical appointments, and most importantly makes sure that tenants take their medications on time. Professional nurses are on staff to talk to tenants about any health concerns and communicate with doctors, pharmacists, or therapists to ensure that tenant’s health concerns are addressed. No one can predict what challenges any of us may face in the future. When unpredictable situations arise, tenants do not have to worry. They will not face these challenges alone. Qualified, caring personnel are moments away ready to help.
Comparing the Costs: Living at Home, Assisted Living, or Long Term Care
“When comparing the cost of daily assistance for a health challenged senior adult, Assisted Living centers compare very favorability when it comes to quality, convenience, and affordability.” states Tara Koestner, Administrator, The Continental at St Joseph’s Assisted Living Center. Of course, everyone wants to live in their own home as long as possible. This is understandable and always the ideal situation as long as the aging adult is able to maintain a reasonable quality of life at home. Gradually, over time, subtle signs appear that indicate that aging adult may not be doing as well at home alone as the family would hope. Lora Lyons, Healthcare Coordinator at CSJ recommends that the family look for the following signs of unsafe behavior:
- Falling and unable to get up without assistance.
- Missed doses of medications and out of date medications.
- Gradual loss of weight.
- Lack of personal hygiene.
- Unable to hear the phone or call for help.
- Inability or unwillingness to leave their home.
- Gets lost or looses objects frequently.
- Living space shrinking to a space around the favorite chair.
- Periodic little driving accidents.
All of the above behaviors happen normally with age and individually do not necessarily indicate unsafe behavior.. However, when an ongoing trend starts to appear, it is time for the family to consider making arrangement to assist this adult. There comes a point in time in this process where Assisted Living becomes the most cost effective means of providing quality of life assistance for a loved one.
When comparing the cost of Assisted Living and living at home, families need to take into consideration the following costs:
- Rent, or mortgage, property taxes, and insurance.
- Utility costs including: gas, electric, water, trash pick-up.
- Home maintenance including; furnace maintenance, lawn care, snow removal, and home repairs. Consider the inconvenience of arranging maintenance and waiting for repairs.
- Cost of food and/or meal delivery. Consider the quality of nutrition and the lack of enjoyment eating alone.
- Cost of outside assistance for housekeeping, laundry services, transportation to medical appointments, or home health.
- Cost of technology, such as cable TV, Life Line, and medical monitoring devices.
- Concerns about management of medical issues, for example; oxygen use and obtaining oxygen supplies, diabetes management and obtaining diabetic supplies, and proper incontinent management.
When considering all of the costs associated with living at home, Assisted Living Centers like The Continental at St. Joseph’s, become more affordable than one might initially think, especially when long term care insurance could pay most if not all of the costs. If you compare the cost of living in an Assisted Living apartment compared to the cost of living in a Long Term Care facility, Assisted Living Centers costs less.
According to Tara Koestner, “Assisted Living Centers are places where senior adults thrive not simply exist.” A daily social interactions, outings, physical exercise, etc. keep seniors mentally sharp and physically strong. Monthly tenants can enjoy social activities, like Bingo or Wii Bowling, and musical entertainment. At The Continental at St. Joseph’s, all of these ammenities are included in the basic rent, in addition to weekly shopping, transportation to and from local appointments, and three well-balanced meals each and every day. Most important to families is the peace of mind that comes with the healthcare monitoring services. of 24 hour security services and daily onsite health aide visits which most seniors just don’t have at home.
The main thing to remember here is quality of life. Our loved ones have worked very hard to get to where they are. Don’t they deserve every opportunity to relax and enjoy this phase of their lives? Why not let someone else do the things that they don’t enjoy so that there is more time for them to do the things they love. Assisted living is a unique environment where seniors can do just that.