Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Assisted Living offers options to families

Johns Hopkins University Press just announced the publication of a new book about assisted living titled “Inside Assisted Living: The Search for home.” In it, the authors explore the premise of assisted living, which is that the social model of care leads to a higher quality of life than the medical model as nursing homes are designed.

In general, the authors found that caregivers in assisted living are “professional, pleasant, courteous and caring,” and that the people who live in assisted living are generally satisfied with their care. The authors interview elders living in assisted living, and explore with them issues like aging in place, financing and relationships.

As a recent owner and operator of assisted living and a long-time advocate of the social model of care, I believe that educating families about the benefits of assisted living is vital. Unfortunately, many professionals whom we typically turn to for advice about care, physicians included, don’t clearly understand assisted living or its benefits. They rely far too often on the historical solution: nursing care.

Consumers are making their preference heard, however. Today in the U.S., nursing home bed availability is holding steady or declining while new assisted living communities are being opened in every region of the country. Both families and elders clearly prefer living in an environment that feels more like home; less like a hospital.

If you’re just beginning to seek care for a loved one, be sure to explore assisted living options in your community. Because there is no national definition of care or services, you’ll need to ask questions to learn if this is an appropriate care setting for your loved one. Among the questions to ask, be sure to include these:

  1. What is the limit of care my loved one can receive in this setting? Can he or she stay through the end of life here? Is hospice care available while remaining here as a resident?

  2. What is the full cost of care, including rent, care, supplies or other expenses? Do you accept any third party payment from Medicaid if my loved one runs out of money?

  3. How do you staff the caregivers? Are they trained and certified? What is the ratio of residents to caregivers during the day, evening and night?

Armed with this information you can begin to make an informed choice about assisted living as an option for care. Be sure, of course, to visit and talk to people living there, as well as other family visitors, if possible.

You may wish, as well, to read the book. According to Barbara Petty of Boom!, one of the reviewers of the book, it is “an excellent introduction for anyone who needs to acquaint himself or herself with assisted living in anticipation of having to choose assisted care for a parent or other loved one.”

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