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Assisted Living: Everything You Need to Know to Find the Perfect Home

Affordable Assisted Living Options for Seniors

With U.S. baby boomers – 77 million strong – heading into their golden years, assisted living is growing by leaps and bounds in 2020.

According to McKnight’s Senior Living, U.S. senior living facilities stood at 86.9% capacity in 2010, placing home capacity at risk. But in the ensuing 10 years, the U.S. has seen 50,000 more senior housing units built, adding 10% in new inventory in the process

Far and away, most of those new senior housing units cater to assisted living residents, making assisted living communities one of the fastest-growing sections of the entire senior care sector.

Assisted Living Defined

By definition, assisted living is a major component of senior care. Assisted living facilities cater to seniors who need medical and lifestyle help in their daily activities, but don’t need significant help in dealing with serious illness or injury.

That, in essence, is the difference between an assisted living facility and a nursing home.

In a nursing home setting, residents receive care in a clinical setting.

Assisted living offers seniors a more independent lifestyle, enabling them to receive care in a more at home-style environment. Seniors residing in an assisted living facility routinely get help with everyday issues like shopping and dining, transportation, exercise and wellness, housekeeping, along with medical and health issues.

Assisted living communities typically discourage disabled or severely ill seniors to enter into a facility. That could mean an elderly women in a wheelchair or a 90-year-old male with a severe cognitive disorder.

In one major way, though, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are closely linked.

In many cases, seniors who enter into an assisted living facility wind up in a nursing home in several years, as their health suffers. In that way, medical professionals deem an assisted living community as a good path to nursing home care, as it exposes seniors to senior care life, and gets them accustomed to how senior home care center’s operate.

Otherwise, seniors leave assisted care facilities because they want return to their homes, run out the financial assets needed to cover senior home care, or they move on to another assisted living community.

Rights of Assistance Care Residents

Assisted living residents also have a full menu of rights and privileges that come part and parcel with their senior care experiences. Those rights include:

— Being treated with dignity and respect from care center staffers and management.

— Having the right to practice their faith.

— No issues with abuse, neglect or malfeasance from employees and other residents.

— The freedom to come and go as they choose.

— The right to full privacy.

— Access and accountability for health and wellness services, including access to prescription drugs.

— Rights to their personal possessions, with no use by employees or other residents.

— The right to make their own money management decisions.

Assisted care residents also have certain lifestyle privileges they’ve long been accustomed to at home. Those privileges include access to alcohol, the ability to keep and care for pets, the right have to have visitors during the day and, by previous notice, to have overnight guests, as well.

The Data on Assisted Living Facilities

How pervasive is assisted living from a statistical point of view? Data from the National Center for Assisted Living

offers some details:

— There are more than 835,000 U.S. seniors residing in assisted living facilities.

— Most of those residents are 85-years-old and are female.

— The average stay for an assisted living facility resident is 22 months.

— Over one million Americans live in some type of senior housing facility. The NCAL estimates that number will double in the next 10 years.

— Over 70 percent of Americans will require some standard of assisted living/long-term care during their lifetimes.

— There are over 30,000 assisted living facilities in the U.S., with approximately one million beds. On average, each assisted living community offers room for 33 residents, with more sizeable communities offering up to 100 beds for seniors needing care.

According to the NCAL, here are the types of services being offered by assisted living facilities:

— 24-hour supervision and assistance.

— Exercise, health and wellness programs.

— Housekeeping and maintenance

— Meals and dining services

— Medication management and assistance

— Personal care services

— Transportation.

Some assisted living facilities offer more specific medical care services, like treating Alzheimer patients or other forms of dementia. In fact, 14.3 percent of assisted living centers offer dementia care, according to the National Center for Health Statistics

More common form of assisted living medical care services, as a percentage of all senior care centers, include:

— Pharmacy services – 84% of centers.

— Dietary and nutritional services – 83%

— Physical, occupational, or speech therapy – 71%

— Hospice – 67%

— Skilled nursing – 66%

— Mental health services – 55%

— Social services – 51%

Assisted Living Community Costs

By and large, most assisted living residents pay for their care privately, usually via personal savings or long-term care insurance.

Medicaid can and does provide financial assistance to low-income seniors, but that is dependent on the state where that senior resides. Overall, 16.5% of seniors pay for their assisted living care via Medicaid, the NCAL reports

Cost-wise, the average assisted living facility charges $4,000 per month or $48,000 per year, for quality senior care services. Again, costs do vary on a state-by-state basis.

In New York, for example, the monthly cost for homemaker services totals $4,767, according to data from Genworth A professional home health aide costs more per more in New York, at about $4,957.

Those costs are significantly lower than if the senior lived in a nursing home. According to Genworth, New York seniors can expect to pay $11,613 for a semi-private nursing home room and $12,349 for a private room.

Comparatively, costs are much lower for senior care in Mississippi. A home health aide, for example, costs $3,527 per month in the state, while residency in an assisted living facility costs $3,524 per month, compared to $4,630 in New York.

Best Questions to Ask Before Deciding on an Assisted Living Facility

Before you decide on an assisted living facility, you need to lay down a foundation that supports every decision you make along the way.

To lay out the best blueprint for living in an assisted care facility, engage with management and staff and ask these questions first.

What’s the best way to review your facility? It does take time, but the best decisions start with a full and through review of the local assistance living communities in your area. Your best move is to contact the facility via phone, videoconference or email, or even in person, and set up a tour of the facility. Make sure to check the state licensing of the facility, and note any complaints, charges, or violations.

Then visit the assisted living center and talk to staff, management, residents and their family members and ask what they like the most and dislike the most with the facility. If you’re unable to gain access to good contacts at the community, ask for references.

How can I negotiate cost for my residence in an assisted living community? Ask your contact at the assisted living facility about payment processes at the care center. Typically, you can knock off some of the cost of care by negotiating specific items.

For example, you can ask about move-in incentives, ask about specific discounts based on services required, and what needs to be done to waive any entrance fees. Depending on the care center, vacancies may be high, and the management will be willing to negotiate price. But they won’t do so if you don’t ask first.

Can you help with payment options? If you want to engage with an assisted care facility, but don’t have the money, insurance, or eligibility for Medicaid, don’t give up.

Senior care centers want your business and will be open to working with you on payment options. The finance manager at the assisted living facility can steer you financing options like bridge loans, veterans benefits, life insurance proceed options, and even reverse mortgage possibilities.

Also, ask about a la carte services, which allows you to pick and choose services you need and discard services you don’t want. That should help cut your total costs significantly.

What kind of social activities are available at your senior care center? Often, seniors go into an assisted living situation with emotions running high. A senior may be lonely, anxious, apprehensive, or even depressed entering an assisted living situation.

That’s why it’s a good idea to ask about social activities and other ways to make friends. Whether it’s regular poker nights, happy hours, or regular fitness activities, you’ll want to know to now you can engage with other care center residents, and reduce anxieties related to loneliness or other possible mental wellness issues.

How are meals prepared and what are my options? As individuals age, meal preparation and proper diet are critical issues upon entering an assisted living facility.

Consequently, getting accurate information on meals and dining options, along with nutritional assistance and access to prepared menus and special menus is imperative before deciding on an assisted living center.

Talk to the cooking staff and the facility managers, and see what comfort level you have with dining and meal options. Again, this is a good time to talk to current senior care residents and get their take on meals and nutritional assistance available at the center.

The Takeaway on Assisted Living Facilities

Living in an assisted living facility is highly recommended for healthy seniors looking to engage with their peers, get help with everyday living needs, and receive 24-7 care from a qualified senior care center.

Whether it’s getting medication administered by professional medical staff, getting aid in dressing each morning or assistance with bathing, or just sharing laughs with peers over ice cream sundaes, assisted living facilities have much to offer for American seniors.

In many cases, it’s help when they need it most.

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