Life is a series of stages, each with unique benefits and challenges. The senior phase delivers many long-awaited perks, with retirement and free time topping the list for most people. Finally, after years of paying your dues, you can think about yourself and do what you want to do. Reading, gardening, fishing, traveling, nappingyou name it! But life after 65 can also present challenges. You may have health problems and chronic aches and pain. You may need help from friends and family to complete tasks you used to perform independently, such as paying bills, keeping up the house and yard, and shopping for groceries. Perhaps you're restricted physically or not able to remember everything. Those are common feelings, and there are many affordable, high-quality assisted living services available to meet your needs. Assisted living services include in-home care, plus many different types of homes or facilities where a person can live and get appropriate care services.
Whether you're looking for yourself or a loved one, it's helpful to start by understanding your options for assisted living services. Here are some of the primary models.
Many assisted living service providers can customize an in-home care approach that allows seniors to receive the services they need while remaining in their home. To preserve independence while ensuring health and quality of life, providers offer: companion care to help with housekeeping, meals, errands, transportation, and more; personal care to assist with bathing, toileting, and other needs; in-home safety technology, such a medical alert systems; dementia and memory loss care; and more.
An easy transition for many seniors seeking assisted living services is to move into an adult family home. These warm, familial residences, typically located in residential neighborhoods, are run by one or more skilled caregivers who take responsibility for the safety and well-being of two to six seniors. Residents receive a room, meals, laundry, supervision, companionship, access to common areas, and varying levels of assistance. Some adult family homes simply provide a small, supportive environment for residents while others specialize in managing medical issues, such as Alzheimer's and dementia. Carers may also provide feeding assistance, transportation, medication supervision, bathing and dressing help, and more. Seniors benefit emotionally from forming a relationship with a daily care provider who knows their personality, likes and dislikes, and care needs. Residents can bring their own bedroom furniture, bedding, and television and can decorate with cherished items.
Boarding homes are similar to adult family homes in many ways, but they typically involve more nursing services, such as oxygen provision, catheter care, and medication administration. In fact, many boarding homes call themselves assisted living facilities. Boarding homes are usually larger, too, providing assisted living services to seven or more residents. Typically, residents sleep in rooms furnished by the facility, which means less personalization and fewer creature comforts. Like adult family homes, boarding homes come in myriad styles and configurations, so you must review their assisted living services and credentials carefully to find the right match.
For seniors who don't need to be in a hospital but can't be cared for in a typical home setting due to illness or a debilitating condition, nursing homes are a primary option. A nursing home is a long-term assisted living services facility that offers 24-hour room and board and health care services, including basic and skilled nursing care, rehabilitation, occupational and speech therapies, and specialized treatments. Residents are cared for with a team approach by physicians, nurses, and other health professionals who work together to make sure the resident is as happy and healthy as possible. When seniors move to a nursing home, they can often continue their relationship with preferred physicians who will work with the assisted living services facility. Some nursing homes are set up like a hospital, possibly with hospital-look rooms (including roommates) and a nurse station on each floor. Other nursing homes try to create a home-like space, such as by allowing couples to live together and helping residents perform tasks independently when possible, such as preparing their own meals in the kitchen.
An option designed to grow with you is a continuing care retirement community (CCRC). People typically enter these communities when they are healthy but aware that they may need assisted living services as they age. Seniors can continue to live independently in a private home while enjoying optional access to coordinated social activities, dining services, and health care. Because CCRCs are so forward-looking, they often require members to sign a long-term contract regarding housing, assisted living services, house and yard maintenance, nursing services, and other factors. The contract usually involves an entry fee plus monthly service charges, which may change as your medical or personal service needs evolve. Experts recommend that you get financial and legal advice before signing any contract.
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Whether you're searching for yourself or a loved one, it can be overwhelming to wade through housing and care models, variations in programs, levels of care, licensing, and costs structures offered by different assisted living services providers. For help, call your local Council on Aging, ask your doctor for suggestions, or search online. There are many people who specialize in helping seniors find the best-fit assisted living services for their specific situation. And don't be afraid to discuss your changing needs with friends and family; they can be supportive and valuable resources.
The cost for assisted living services varies greatly based on level of care and location. Typically, when medical professionals and around-the-clock care are involved, such as in a nursing home (vs. independent living in a retirement community), the costs are significantly higher. In fact, financial experts say the average annual cost of a nursing home stay now ranges from $70,000 to $110,000; and the annual cost of living in a one-bedroom assisted living retirement community ranges from $30,000 to $50,000. Medicaid and Medicare may help some. Be sure to discuss your options with a professional trained in helping people understand the costs of assisted living services. These years are yours to enjoy, so don't wait another minute to find out what kind of care is available to help you live your life to the fullest.