While many seniors would love to age at home, the goal isn’t always viable. Instead, seniors often need more support than family members can provide.
Assisted living doesn’t have to be a bad thing either. It can mean that the senior gets extra care. In fact, assisted living can actually promote independence and give seniors the chance to make new friends and find new hobbies.
This all makes assisted living an appealing option, especially for seniors who have serious needs and caregivers who are struggling.
But, as a recent article from Next Avenue points out, assisted living isn’t always what you expect. The facilities do provide a large amount of support but it isn’t the same as living in a nursing home with 24/7 nursing staff and supervision.
Many assisted living facilities are even struggling, especially as the elderly often have complex needs and may experience multiple chronic conditions at the same time.
This creates a situation where your family member may enter assisted living – but your workload doesn’t end up decreasing at all. In some cases, it might even increase.
For example, some family members still find themselves managing medication and regularly checking in on family members. Large assisted living facilities often have less ability to monitor issues with medication or with health, which can result in some problems going unnoticed in the short-term.
What does all this mean?
For seniors who are still relatively healthy, without complex medical needs, assisted living can still work well. The approach provides much more social contact and support. This is particularly relevant for seniors who would normally be living on their own.
But, for seniors with significant medical or social issues, you can expect to have to do some work yourself.
In some cases, the tradeoff may not be worth it. After all, assisted living can be expensive. If you still end up with a high workload, then it may be time to look for other solutions.
It’s also worth taking the time to research different nursing homes and talk to staff. If possible, you could talk to residents and their families to get a better picture. Doing this would give you an idea of what services the environment offers and whether it is likely to be enough for your family member’s needs.
There is also no national definition of assisted living.
This means that places will vary in the level of service and support that they provide.
Another important step is encouraging communication.
Make sure the staff will keep in touch with you about health challenges and also about the steps that are being taken. This is critical for reducing the risk of serious problems.
The ideal is that you, your family member, and the assisted living staff act as a team, helping to support the health of your family member. This includes ensuring good communication and preventing information being lost throughout the process.
An assisted living facility will never end your role as a caregiver, nor should it. You will still have some responsibilities and you will still be involved in your family member’s life. But, it’s critical to research the facility carefully and make sure it is going to provide the best possible support.
Thankfully, the situation is changing
There is growing recognition of the many challenges that seniors face and assisted living facilities are looking for ways to address these issues.
Some facilities are sourcing outside services to ensure that medical needs are met. Others may offer specific services that help promote communication and optimal outcomes. But, as always, change is slow.
And regardless, it will always be important to weigh up what the assisted living facility offers against what your family member currently needs.