By: Kristin A. Morris, LMSW
As a social worker, with over 10 years’ experience working with seniors, I have found one of the most popular topics of discussion is senior housing. Many people don’t consider where they will live as they age or as their needs start to change. If you are too independent to be in a nursing home but feel unsafe living alone, it is time to consider Assisted Living.
Assisted Living (AL), for many older adults, is a new lease on life. It provides housing as well as a combination of recreational activities, home and personal care services in a family like setting. Services include meals, case management, access to medical services, medication management, emergency assistance and 24-hour supervision. So what does all of that mean…it means you can receive help with things like showering, dressing, etc. as well as assistance with benefits/bill pay, and housekeeping. It can be the ideal setting for people who are not ready for a nursing home but who are in need of additional support. Once a person moves in, a plan is developed with staff so that you receive just the right amount of assistance while still maintaining your independence. Once one’s needs are managed, people tend to stay independent longer because they are less overwhelmed with day to day tasks which may have become too much to manage alone. They tend to be more healthy because they are regularly being monitored and getting necessary medical attention.
The greatest benefit to Assisted Living is social interaction and the ability to make friends and engage with a variety of people on a daily basis. As you begin to age and are faced with medical frailties it is easy to become socially isolated at home. Assisted Living is filled with events and activities so your days can be as full or as empty as you wish. Another important benefit is that AL facilities have the ability to accommodate not only your needs as they change but also your preferences.
The next question becomes when is the right time to transition into one of these settings? The ideal time is before you have to move because of a health related concern. It is common for people to look to transition after a crisis has occurred. You should make this decision when you are of sound body and mind and not being rushed. Make time to visit, research the locations and amenities available. Make an informed decision on what is the best place for you based on your likes and dislikes and who offers the best care services. The most successful transitions are when you have made the commitment on your own terms and you know that you have made the best decision given your specific circumstances.
As you age, think about your future and what/where you envision yourself living. Consider all options based upon your specific health and physical needs. Have conversations with your loved ones about what you want for the future and include them in the process. And most of all remember to choose the place that makes you feel like you’re at home.