Assisted living for a family member or loved one can be a difficult reality to consider, let alone research and decide on. “Am I looking for independent living? Senior living? A retirement community? What’s the difference? What services am I looking for? Does Medicaid help with this?,” are just some of the questions you’ll have to navigate. If this process seems overwhelming, we get it, and we’re here to help you learn the basics so you can make the best decisions for you and the people you love.
What’s tricky about assisted living is that even though the concept is vaguely familiar to most people, the hope and potential benefits are not as widely known. For example, at Weatherly, we strive to provide our residents with as much independence as possible- assisting them only with the things that they need.
Assisted living facilities should concentrate their efforts on allowing residents to actively focus on the fun parts of life while receiving the care they need, and allowing family members to return to being family instead of “caregivers.”
In this post, we’ll walk you through some common misconceptions regarding the assisted living experience, talk through the people who benefit from assisted living, and provide helpful guides to navigate difficult conversations with loved ones, research potential assisted living facilities, and ultimately make important care decisions.
Common Misconceptions Regarding Assisted Living
With so much causal information floating around, we’ll start by clearing up some common misconceptions regarding assisted living.
First, assisted living is not a nursing home. Though we do provide quality care to residents, it is also not hospice (which means our focus is not on end of life care.) Assisted living is also often cheaper than in-home care.
Additionally, while you may see a wide-range of terminology thrown around when describing assisted living (senior housing, senior living community, senior care, adult family homes, etc.), for the purpose of clarity and accuracy we will with assisted living as our term of choice.
So, Who Goes To An Assisted Living Community?
Lots of people, for a variety of reasons! Some common examples:
- Independent residents looking to alleviate the worries and concerns of homeownership.
- People who need a little help with daily living: help with medication management, assistance getting in or out of bed, help with the trickier parts of getting dressed, or help managing diseases like diabetes. Sometimes, residents just want to have someone around in the event something unexpected happens.
- People who need care and who can no longer live safely in their home and don’t want to.
- People needed a safe and comfortable environment after they’ve been released from the hospital.
Because the overall “goal” of assisted living is to provide care where the resident needs it, while respecting independence in the places they don’t, the assisted living experience becomes deeply contextual to each person.
A Quality Assisted Living Experience Will Depend On The Needs Of The Person
Every assisted living center is different, and thus can cater to different people with a variety of living options. Everyone wants something that works for them. For example, Weatherly could be a great fit for one person because of its size, and a less than ideal experience for someone who wants a smaller environment.
At Weatherly, we think that a quality assisted living experience revolves around the following:
- Both residents and families are happy
- A variety of available activities so that everyone “has something”
- Residents collectively have a voice and are heard by staff
- Staff are attentive and caring
- Health care and life care are done correctly and respectfully
- The community is welcoming/feels like home
- The facilities look, feel, and smell clean and put-together
If you’re struggling to imagine what a quality assisted living experience could look like, feel free to start with our list and modify it to suit your needs!
When Does It Make Sense For A Person To Move To Assisted Living?
It’s never a simple decision to move into assisted living, but we strongly encourage people to decide before they find themselves in an emergency. The more proactive that you can be the better.
Some natural life events could be when the person is done with the workload of owning a home or when a person wants help with medication management (or other health services), but to remain “independent” otherwise.
The key is the preparation before you think it’s time. This will allow you to avoid “caregiver burnout” as a loved one or spouse, and save a lot of emotional strain.
4 Essential Criteria To Help You Choose An Assisted Living Facility
When choosing an assisted living facility, there are four essential elements to consider in your overall evaluation of a facility. Location, financial cost, care options, and activities all must be weighed and thought through in your decision making.
Location. It’s important that residents love the area they move to. Proximity to family, geographic preferences like a waterfront view or golf course, shopping in the area, and travel requirements should all be considered. All of these things should be evaluated in light of what the person wants. For example, at Weatherly, we’ve encountered people who worry that even though they want to move to Tacoma, because their family is in Lakewood, that it will be too far. Be sure to encourage your family member that you will visit them no matter where they choose, and an extra 7-minute drive won’t make or break this. What matters is where the resident wants to live.
Financial Cost. At the Weatherly Inn, we don’t look at incoming residents finances. We encourage you to take our packet home, and go over your finances as a family. It’s important to get pricing and plan ahead within your budget.
Care Options. Consider your loved one’s present and future care needs when choosing a care facility. They may be independent now, but need to transition to assisted living later. Some facilities allow this to happen in the same room. It’s also important to find out if communities offer end of life care or if they have a care cut out.
Activities. Having robust options for activities is important for staying engaged and stimulated. When you tour a facility, be sure to grab activity calendars and compare to other facilities. Make sure that the facility has activities your family member genuinely enjoys.
Best Practices For Talking With Someone About Assisted Living
Talking with a family member or loved one about assisted living can feel like a daunting task. It’s important to be thoughtful, kind, and clear as you start this conversation. Below, we’ve compiled some best practices to help guide you and your family as you start to talk about assisted living.
Involve The Person Making The Move. Maybe the most obvious, it’s vital that everyone feel involved in this process. This is particularly important for the person moving into assisted living. If they don’t feel empowered in the decision making process, everything else will be that much harder.
Listen. Continually hearing concerns, listening to feedback, and seeking to understand what your loved one or family member wants is key.
Genuinely Consider What’s Important To Them. This will be most reflected in the research that you do on different assisted living facilities. Go out of your way to find information about the things (activities, locations, meals, values) that are most important to the person considering assisted living.
Try A Happy Hour, Social Event, Or Meal. Getting into an assisted living facility, meeting people, participating in events, and sharing meals is a great way to get a feel for a community. We strongly recommend doing this!
Talk With A Current Resident. Having a conversation with a current resident of the assisted living facility you are considering can go a long way in easing everyone’s mind. Look for success stories to see what people have done to get the most out of their assisted living experience.
Bonus Tips For Independent Residents Talking With Their Families
Highlight The Value Of Transitional Care. Your kids and family want to know how assisted living will impact end of life care. It can ease their worry if they know that the assisted living facility you are considering would allow you to stay in the same room for transitional care.
Invite Your Family To Visit With You. Come take a look and invite your family! Having family present for activities or lunch can be a great way for them to get a better idea of what the community has to offer.
The Ultimate Assisted Living Services Checklist
As you research assisted living communities, we recommend using our “Ultimate Assisted Living Services Checklist” to ensure that you’re getting exactly the services you want for your family or loved one.
- Availability of medication management
- Types of care offered (including end of life care)
- Robust activity options
- Types of nursing offered (i.e. at Weatherly we have 24/7 LPN’s, CNA’s and a 5 day RN. Having a 24/7 nursing staff allows residents, even if they are Independent, the ability to call and ask for help if something comes up.)
- Smell and cleanliness of the facilities
- Escorting services
- Bathing services
- Transferring services
In addition to the basic services above, Weatherly Inn provides additional services that may be helpful to consider as you explore assisted living facilities in the Washington area.
- 2-person transfers
- 24/7 Nursing to offer a full spectrum of care
- Phone, cable, utilities, and internet included in base rent
- Personal laundry service
- Incontinence supplies
- Transitional Care
- Secured Memory Care (Essential for those with Alzheimer’s, our memory care residents are still able to go on many outings. Most families are shocked that their loved ones are still able travel off site so frequently!)
- End Of Life Care (We offer hospice on site. Our staff manage feeding tubes, offer 1 on 1 feeding assistance, and even hoyer lifts. At Weatherly, our goal is to see residents through to end of life care without disruption.)
- Family owned (Because Weatherly Inn is family owned, we have a flexibility that corporately owned assisted living communities cannot offer. Our General Manager meets with our residents monthly, and we have the ability to make the changes we need to best suit our residents.)
Don’t Make These 2 Mistakes When Choosing An Assisted Living Facility
The two biggest mistakes that people make when choosing an assisted living facility are waiting until an emergency to make a decision and deciding not to take a tour of the facility. Both can have serious ramifications for you and your family.
Don’t Wait. Waiting too long creates a multitude of issues. For starters there may be a wait list for the facility that you really want. If you wait until there’s an emergency, there’s no guarantee you’ll get the care you need when you need it most. Additionally, sometimes people because they get cold feet. Last minute nerves are completely normal, and while we’d never encourage someone to do something they’re not ready for, it’s important to trust your instincts and consult a physician. Don’t wait until an emergency to put down a deposit, especially if they’re 100% refundable. Get on the waiting list, and go from there.
Don’t Skip the Visit or Tour. It’s vital to visit every community your family member or loved one is interested in. Visiting the community allows you see the building you or your loved one will be moving into. Tours tell you the really important stuff, so it’s critical that you not skip an opportunity to visit.
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