As we, our parents and relatives age, their ability to live independently eventually becomes unsafe, unrealistic—or both. One option in having them avoid the very real possibilities of household accidents and injuries can be found in convincing our elder loved ones to reside in assisted living facilities. Not to be confused with convalescent homes, assisted living accommodations are less expensive and offer options that can enable seniors to enjoy a large degree of autonomy.
They range from single residences to multi-level apartment complexes. Visually, they are more appealing than nursing homes (without their depressing atmosphere). In addition, they provide a more traditional residential ambiance in that they have reading areas, kitchenettes and private sleeping quarters. What also distinguishes them from a convalescent setting is that they reinforce “activities of daily living” or ADL’s (morning routines, bathing, preparing meals, and getting dressed). This is provided by staffing case managers who instruct and recommend more efficient ways to help them continue to live independent lives.
In many ways, it is the best of both worlds. Seniors are able to have onsite care/support as needed, while being able to enjoy their golden years in a safe, independent environment. Tenants are encouraged to participate in group activities (such as shuttle service to attend concerts, movies, and casinos). In addition, many are allowed to have small pets live with them. As they age, seniors can transition to an elder care facility once it becomes evident that intensive medical care and attention are needed.
Assisted living facilities are regulated at the state level. In general, these facilities are required to maintain high standards for food handling, elder care, and safety. In addition, there are government programs (which are available from Medi-Cal, Medicaid, and the Veteran’s Administration) and long term care insurance policies that are designed to offset costs. The state of California has an Assisted Living Waiver Program, which began as a pilot program in 2006. It is designed to help low income or disabled seniors to continue to live in an assisted living facility (without being obligated to relocate to a nursing facility). This plan is currently being offered in most counties in our state (excluding Orange County).