This week is National Assisted Living Week, which presents providers with the perfect opportunity to help people learn more about this particular choice available to seniors who need help managing their long-term care.
An assisted living facility is the most popular choice for the majority of people who are often still independent but require some help with everyday activities. These facilities offer health care services when needed, in contrast to facilities that offer it on a 24-hour basis.
According to the National Center for Assisted Living, over 700,000 Americans now live in assisted-living facilities. As Americans continue to live longer, more productive lives, these numbers are expected to increase. With the growing demand for assisted living facilities comes tremendous change to the types of homes that are now available.
Today, there is often an assisted living facility for nearly every taste and budget. More expensive ones feature an almost hotel-like atmosphere, including many kinds of social activities to go along with restaurant-type dining, more food choices, and even room service. These facilities also include amenities such as suites, full baths, kitchenettes and walk-in closets.
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However, most facilities remain small and relatively simple, with six to 16 units that look and feel a lot like a large family home. Costs vary greatly but generally start around $2,500 per month. The profile of the average resident may surprise you: Just under half are younger than 85 years old and 75 percent, regardless of age, are women.
The decision to move into an assisted living facility should be preceded by extensive research; after all, the average length of stay for the average resident is nearly two years. Facility survey inspection histories can be accessed online from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, and consumers should consider visiting prospective facilities for extended periods to look around and talk to people.
Ask the other residents how they like living there, stay for a meal (most facilities welcome this), find a family member to talk to and speak with the staff. While the larger, fancier facilities have a lot of eye appeal, many seniors prefer the cozier, more houselike feel of some smaller facilities. Remember: it is going to be their home for a significant period of time.
Paying for a loved one to enter into an assisted living facility can seem daunting, but most good homes will have a member on staff experienced in helping prospective residents consider all of their financial options. While approximately 70 percent pay for their residency privately, there are many options available for help, including some for veterans and those eligible for Medicaid. Sometimes Medicare benefits may also be accessed from an outside agency.
As assisted living becomes an increasingly popular long-term care choice for many Idaho seniors, knowing your options and determining what to spend are all essential. As we acknowledge National Assisted Living Week, I invite you to learn more by visiting the website of the National Center for Assisted Living at ahcancal.org.
Scott Burpee, a past recipient of the L. Jean Schoonover Excellence in Caring Award, is CEO of Safe Haven Health Care, which owns and operates 14 assisted living facilities in Southern Idaho.