Assisted living retirement is ideal for residents of all ages who have some limitations in physical and cognitive health. Care in these retirement communities is intended for residents who need on-site assistance with personal care, mobility, medication management and support. "Assisted living" is a part of the traditional continuum of care, a model of care services that is changing with time.
Assisted living residents may be young or old and may have problems with memory, incontinence or mobility. In general, they need help with at least one of the activities of daily living, the basic functions that able-bodied people take for granted: eating, bathing, dressing themselves, toileting or walking. Quite often, seniors will put off the move into assistive care until they need help with two or more of these basic capacities.
Residents of assisted living retirement communities may need help with a number of activities, including:
The most common types of activities requiring care support in an assisted living home are bathing and dressing, according to a survey by the US-based National Centre for Assisted Living. However, toileting, transferring and eating assistance are all typical care requirements. A survey in 2010 showed the following results in terms of percentages of residents requiring which services.
This offers a good overview of typical resident requirements:
In addition, nearly 40% of residents required aid with three or more ADLs. In North America, an estimated 1.2 million people are living in this type of care facility, with this number increasing steadily every year as the baby boom generation ages1. Since people in general value self-reliance, many people resist the idea of getting help, but as seen here, there are many others in the same boat. Having these basic needs taken care of frees residents up to enjoy life as much as ever, otherwise.
In the evolving world of seniors' care, definitions are not always clear, and are certainly not consistent from one province to another. "Assisted care may mean something different in every retirement community," says Barb Sutcliffe of Schlegel Villages in Ontario. Assistance with eating may be the result of a physical disability for one resident, but caused by a mental issue with another, and the assistance required may be different for each of those residents. In many independent living facilities, people get assistance in the form of meals provided, housework done, etc.
A look at some of the more specialized care offered, is as follows:
Memory care may be a special section or wing in some assisted living homes. In general, memory care is a specialized care offered by residences, where residents' needs are understood by all attendants, and specialized technology may be in use. Memory care means dedicated resources to deal with Alzheimer's Disease and its symptoms. Learn more about memory care.
Mobility care in an assisted living home. Many retirement residences, especially newer ones, are designed with mobility concerns in mind. Personal assistants are onsite to help seniors who are immobile, and there will be many mobility aids onsite. These will include in-suite hand rails, bathroom mobility, elevators, wheelchair ramps and more.
Incontinence is embarrassing to all involved but the discomfort can be eased greatly when handled by professional caregivers in a proper care home. Retirement homes with incontinence care offer relief to elderly patients suffering from urinary or bowel control problems. They handle it with grace, professionalism, care and dignity. Care and services offered in assisted living homes will include dealing with bedwetting, fluid monitoring, bladder volume training, bedwetting alarm systems and various pharmacological therapies.
Not every assisted living retirement home is the same as the next; each may have different stated specializations, and each home may have different abilities and facilities at any given time. This is why it is important to look around at different options in your area and research as much as you can, online and elsewhere. Different homes may be differently equipped to suit the specific needs of yourself or your loved one, so you want to find the one that is best outfitted to take care of your specific requirements. Speak in great detail, with a variety of operators and don't rush into a decision based solely on proximity to your home, or cost, or some other aspect of convenience only.
As the resident ages, needs may change (conditions may worsen, that is). There may be additional personal care required, and this may end up costing families more. As time goes on, families sometimes see fit to move to a different facility where specializations or other conditions may be different. 77% of residents who live in assisted living have moved there from a private home or residence (sometimes having lived with a family member) but another 23% have moved there from another facility, where their care needs (or perhaps other values) had changed. 1
For people trying to remain in their own home, life can eventually become too difficult, and you have to know when it is time to move. Various people – including family, social care workers, medical professionals – may be urging you to move into a retirement home where you can get the care you require. Many people, though, are reluctant to move.
Marie was one senior who did not want to move. “I’ll admit to you,” she said, “it was very hard to leave.” However, her husband suffered from deteriorating health and required assistance in just getting around the house.
Like Marie, you may come from a generation that finds it hard to admit the need for help. Prepare yourself to be pleasantly surprised at how beneficial some assisted living facilities can be. Before finally moving out of her own home, after, admitting that her husband "couldn’t do things around the house anymore," Marie took the doctor’s advice and gave a chance at looking into assisted living retirement homes near her family. "I was amazed at how it actually felt like a home!"
The residence she moved into was amazing for a variety of reasons. First, everything was wheelchair accessible, and every wheelchair in the entire facility is equipped with a GPS pendant that brings instant help when pushed. The couple takes part in many of the recreational activities offered at the community. Marie also loves "not having to cook meals." Communal meals are just one more added benefit of living in an assisted living home; they simply eat together without groceries to buy, without preparation needed and without dishes to clean up. “I love how it gives me more time to do things with my husband,” says Marie. You can read more about how Marie grew to love the assisted living home she moved into.
Assisted living helps make daily living more comfortable and relieves many of the minor stresses of daily life. You’ll find great relief in handing off daily tasks to others.
1National Center for Assisted Living: demographics
2See, for example, Ontario's advice that resorts to advice on the importance of financial planning, while also noting Ontario Works availability: http://www.seniors.gov.on.ca/en/seniorsguide/5.php