As seniors grow older, a safe, secure home setting becomes more and more important. Most seniors want to age in place, in their own homes; however, this is not always the safest, most secure and most convenient setting possible. Is it better for seniors to live in an assisted living setting or stay at home? In this article, we compare and contrast these two options to help you make an informed decision. Read on to learn more.
It’s Natural to Want to Live at Home
Most people would like to age in place gracefully in their family home setting, but this is often impractical. As we age, we tend to need more and more care, and most families are simply not equipped to provide the level of care needed. What can be done about this? It is possible to hire in home care and incorporate community programs to help fill the gaps.
Although hiring in-home care can be expensive, there are programs to help assist with these costs, and the passage of President Biden’s Build Back Better program may make more resources and funding available to help with these needs. In fact, $150B could be made available to help reduce the wait for in-home care services and to raise the pay level of in home service providers.
Additionally, $20M is earmarked to help support hospice and palliative care programs. The proposed availability of this funding stands to make the choice of aging in place easier and more affordable. Funding to help support affordable housing will also make it easier for seniors to age in place.
Is it Better for Seniors to Age in Place?
Very often it is better because seniors, just like everyone, want to be independent and free to make their own choices and decisions. Seniors who could get by with an adapted living space and/or some in-home help should not have to move away from a familiar setting into a situation where many choices regarding activities of daily living are made for them.
On the other hand, seniors who are no longer able to thrive independently may greatly benefit from an assisted living setting.
What are the Signs of Loss of Independence in Seniors?
As we age, we tend to lose independence in three main realms: social, physical and mental. This innate loss of the ability to be independent can take a toll on seniors overall health and well-being.
Seniors may often find themselves socially isolated when getting around and driving become difficult or impossible. While a senior who has lost mobility may be able to take care of basic needs around the house, lack of interaction with others can be very depressing.
Loss of strength and mobility tends to lead to even greater loss of strength and mobility, which leads to spiraling physical decline. The less we do, the less we are able to do, so a senior who starts out having a hard time walking around the block may quickly decline and become unable to do simple things, such as getting dressed, bathing or even arising from bed.
Isolation and loss of physical abilities, along with the effects of aging, can lead to cognitive decline. When this happens, a senior may forget to perform personal care, such as grooming, taking medications, remembering appointments, staying hydrated and even eating regularly.
All of this adds up to a solid formula for depression, fear, shame, guilt and even anger. It is confusing to lose abilities one right after another, and many seniors feel they are being betrayed by their bodies.
Without good in-home assistance, this can be a very dangerous situation. If this situation gets too out of hand, an assisted living situation may become absolutely necessary.
How Can You Tell if a Senior is Depressed?
Just as with anyone else, loss of interest in activities that once brought pleasure is a dead giveaway for depression. If your loved one used to like to get out and visit and do things with friends but suddenly just wants to be alone, you can be pretty sure depression is the culprit.
You may also notice lethargy, self-criticism, failure to bathe, change out of pajamas, take required medications, eat, etc. All of this can lead to very strong feelings of shame and self loathing.
Lack of activity and stimulation and loss of the ability to take care of activities of daily living can very quickly cause cognitive decline. It can be easy for this sort of situation to develop for a senior living alone, but life in an assisted living setting may provide just the right level of support, assistance and stimulation to alleviate depression.
How Can You Help Seniors With Depression?
Seniors suffering from depression can be very difficult to be around, but socializing and engaging are essential to recovery. Remember that the root of the problem is loss of independence, so when you visit with your senior and talk about his or her current life situation, be sure to listen for solutions rather than imposing them. Help identify areas where help is needed and then brainstorm to come up with ways of getting that help.
If it’s not possible for you to visit frequently and/or you cannot get good in-home help, you may want to consider an assisted living setting. One of the ways you can help bring your depressed senior out of his/her shell is to take little trips together. You might begin incorporating visits to assisted living facilities during Life Enrichment events just to introduce the concept of assisted living.
How Can Assisted Living Help?
A senior who needs some care with activities of daily living (but is not bed bound and in need of a nursing home) will benefit and may enjoy an assisted living setting. In this setting, adults who are still fairly independent are provided an array of services, including:
An assisted living facility may be fairly small and may very much resemble living in a home with a group of twenty or so friends. On the other hand, there are some very large assisted living facilities that more closely resemble large apartment buildings. Of course, there are many choices in between, so you are bound to be able to find a situation that is comfortable for your senior.
No matter what size assisted living you choose, one of the best advantages of this sort of living arrangement is that the person can still maintain privacy and autonomy while still having help and companionship close at hand. In a smaller facility, each resident might have his or her own room and bath while sharing living areas. In a larger facility, each resident might have his or her own apartment with shared socializing, dining and exercise areas.
Most assisted living facilities offer several levels of care, so if a senior enters the facility quite independent and then declines with the passage of time, more services can be added that will allow him or her to age gracefully in a familiar place.
What if My Senior isn’t a “Joiner”?
Assisted living is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Before entering an assisted living setting, you and your senior should have many meetings with the staff, and they should thoroughly understand your situation. This will help them come up with a personalized menu of care and services so that they can create a care plan that provides just the right amount of help and just the right amount of independence.
A good assisted living should offer choices in activities. It should have areas where seniors can enjoy card games, television, board games and the like, as well as areas where they can take time on their own to read or pursue other quiet, independent pursuits. A good life enrichment program should include opportunities for independent activities, one-on-one activities as well as group activities.
Very often, seniors who move into a well-run assisted living will find themselves gaining new interests and making new friends, even if they have been rather solitary by choice in the past. An assisted living that offers a comprehensive life enrichment program will offer appropriate, enjoyable activities that respect the intelligence and wisdom of the residents.
Why Would Some Seniors Resist Assisted Living?
Very often, seniors don’t want to relocate because they are afraid of being away from their friends and family members. They may also think that assisted living will be too expensive or that it may be dull and dreary.
All of these are good reasons why you should involve your senior in the process of looking for just the right assisted living situation. When your loved one is able to see what’s in store and make meaningful choices, the feelings around the move from home to assisted living can change from dread to eager anticipation.
Is Assisted Living More Expensive Than Aging in Place?
There are so many variables involved, that it is impossible to give a yes-or-no answer to that question. The cost of assisted living depends very much on the level of care your senior needs, your location, the types of services offered by the facility and so much more.
Keep in mind that the advantage of the right assisted living is that it does offer all the services you’ll need in one place. Once you’ve made your decision, you won’t have to do any advertising for help, interviewing, hiring or supervising. That will all be taken care of.
Additionally, an assisted living can offer a lot more enrichment all in one place than you would probably be able to provide at home.
When Should You Start Looking for an Assisted Living?
Ideally, it’s a good idea to start looking before you need an assisted living. Take your senior to events at good assisted living facilities early on, while he or she is still fairly independent. Doing this will allow you to take your time, talk things over and provide the opportunity for your loved one to make real choices about his or her own future.
If you wait until your family member is over the age of 70, you are quite likely to be dealing with chronic illness, memory loss and fragility that will make the move difficult and frightening.
These conditions will also limit your options. It is easier to find a placement for a senior who can still get around pretty well, interact easily and make adjustments to changes. The assisted living home is more likely to accommodate the changes of aging in an established resident than to take on a resident who will be very hard to deal with right from the start.
Additionally, your loved one’s placement is more likely to be successful if you start the process early, take your time and then make the move while the person can still enjoy everything the assisted living facility has to offer.
The staff in a good assisted living facility will understand the changes your loved one will inevitably go through during the aging process. If they are able to get to know your loved one before serious decline occurs, they will have more success in adapting and continuing to provide an enjoyable and comfortable environment.
Active Seniors Can Enjoy Assisted Living
When a senior moves into an assisted living facility before his or her need for assistance becomes urgent, it provides an opportunity to become familiar with the community, make friends, enjoy activities and get a well deserved break from chores, such as housekeeping, laundry, cooking and the like.
Additionally, the move to an assisted living can improve family relations. Knowing that your loved one is well cared for and always has skilled assistance at hand can relieve a great deal of stress. It provides an opportunity for you to socialize with and enjoy each other again without the pressure of being a full time care provider.