A Little Assistance To Live Independently

Tuesday, December 06, 2011
By Mr. Noah Kaminer, Administrator

After each sibling visited their parent’s house, they all walked away with the same nagging feeling – something was not right. Their once tidy childhood home was now filled with stacks of papers, their parents’ refrigerator seemed close to empty, the laundry hamper was overflowing, and it seemed like Tatty never took his diabetes medication. It was fairly obvious; Mommy and Tatty could no longer live on their own anymore.

While it was clear their parents needed help, the siblings were undecided about how to proceed. One sibling wanted to build an extension on his home for their parents to move into, another felt a little extra cleaning help coupled with a daily aide would be sufficient, while another felt he parents needed a nursing home with around the clock supervision.  Knowing their parents, however, none of these suggestions seemed feasible. 

Their parents were still mobile, lucid and independent; they just needed a little extra assistance. The siblings agreed that their parents needed a place where they could feel independent and in control of their lives, yet they wanted them to have the safety net of round the clock assistance should they need it.   They agreed to approach their parents with the idea of moving into an assisted living community. 

What is Assisted Living

Assisted living is often viewed as the best of both worlds — residents can have as much independence as they want, yet personal care and support services are available if they are needed.  For both seniors and their children, assisted living allows independent living with supports and amenities, and most importantly, a stable safety net.

In assisted living, residents generally live in their own private apartments, furnished to their taste and liking, consisting of a bedroom, bathroom, living space and kitchen offering the freedom for home cooking.  What sets assisted living apart from a private apartment or house, however, is that meals are always provided in a group dining room, nursing supervision is offered around the clock 24/7, and usually bedrooms, living rooms and bathrooms have a nurse-call alarm wired in.  Should the resident feel weak, ill, or in need of assistance, help will arrive within minutes.

In addition, aides are available to assist with numerous basic daily life skills such as eating, bathing, grooming, dressing, or getting to the bathroom.   Basic housekeeping and laundry services are also provided, as is the scheduling of doctors appointments.  Although assisted living does not offer complex medical services, it provides generally provides assistance with medication ordering, storage and administration.

Assisted living communities vary in size; therefore, amenities vary from community to community. Depending on the community, residents may have regular access to fitness centers, swimming pools, beauty salons, and transportation to shopping. The communities are often constructed with other amenities such as walking paths, libraries and ponds.  Handicapped-equipped buses usually make regular runs to such high-use locations like doctors’ offices, banks, drugstores and groceries.  And, for seniors that want to continue social interaction, assisted living provides a built in community filled with contemporaries in similar life circumstances.  Social and recreational activities are scheduled every day to facilitate these new friendships.

Primarily what differentiates assisted living from skilled nursing care in a nursing home is the degree to which medical interventions are made. In assisted living, a resident’s medication may be monitored, but extensive procedures such as intravenous services may not be administered.  And those whose mental decline makes them dangerous to themselves or others would generally not be suitable for assisted living, but could rather live in a nursing home.  Essentially, seniors who need around the clock medical attention or a great deal of help with activities of daily living, have severe cognitive impairment, or suffer from severe medical problems need a greater level of care than assisted living can provide.  These seniors would be better served in a high level skilled nursing facility.

An assisted living facility is a good choice if a senior needs more personal care services than they could get at home, but not the round-the-clock medical care and supervision of a nursing home. Assisted living facilities offer the safety and security of 24-hour support since help is only a phone call away.  Nevertheless, privacy and independence are respected and encouraged with residents maintaining control and freedom over what they can and want to do for themselves.

Their parents loved the idea.  Assisted living would give them the opportunity to stay vibrant, independent and in control over their lives.  Yet, help would be there for shopping, cooking, cleaning, and medication assistance if they needed it.  They could still be an independent couple, living independently in their community, in their private home, with a little assistance.