What Is Assisted Living Really Like?

Navigating senior living can be overwhelming for many families as the transition is often emotional and uncertain.What Is Assisted Living Really Like?

Having an idea of what assisted living offers on a daily basis — including activities, amenities and care — can help families better understand what their parent or senior loved one will experience there.

Ways Assisted Living Has Changed Over Time

Assisted living is no longer “institutionalized.” In fact, most assisted living communities have moved towards luxury, resort-style living that has become more attractive to active seniors and their families.

There are a plethora of activities and amenities offered to seniors in assisted living today, including:

  • Barber and beautician services
  • Book groups
  • Dining and food services
  • Gardening clubs
  • Housekeeping and laundering services
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Scheduled transportation services to outings outside of the community
  • Theater outings
  • Wellness and physical fitness, catered to individual needs, including:
    • Catered fitness regimes
    • Water aerobics
    • Walking

It’s important to consider whether your loved one would want to take advantage of amenities and participate in the events offered before moving into an assisted living community.

What Assisted Living Is Like, Today

Assisted living really depends on the senior living professionals in each community. The good and forward-thinking companies and providers have created senior condo-like settings where care is provided discreetly, on a resident’s own schedule, inside their own apartment or home, and by consistent staff.

Daily schedules are different for each resident and should be, as they are catered to individual needs. That alone shows how the trend in care has shifted to each individual.

A regional sales representative discusses these changes:

“An example of how assisted living has evolved over the years would be that I have eleven events planned for today in one location. Our approximately 100 residents choose to do several, or none of these events. However, these events are in addition to social and family events, and planning their own days that might include reading, walking, socializing, driving, and television. The biggest difference is that they are invited to double the opportunities to engage, learn new hobbies, or go out in a group if driving is difficult, or no longer feasible. There is no cleaning, shopping, or cooking time unless chosen, so each resident has a different routine, which is self-selected — and we provide the opportunity. It makes every day more engaging and fun. Even mealtimes in our dining room offer many options and times, so residents can choose to come when it works best for their schedule.”

Why Ongoing Staff Training Is Important

Trusting every person on staff who interacts with residents to provide great care carefully — and respectfully — is a huge task. Asking them to do it lovingly, and then ensuring follow through is also monumentally important. Many communities provide emotion-based care training, which emphasizes person-centered care; a great way to hire caregivers for their heart, and train them to do tasks correctly.

Communities also have a hiring, screening, and orientation process which is detailed and organized to find the right associates. Managers need to be constantly monitoring and modeling great care to new staff, as well as constantly offering ongoing training to all staff. At the end of the day, communities have people taking care of people. Things can inevitably go wrong, so each community needs to be able to address, correct and always apologize when they do. In fact, sometimes entire company policies need to be changed to prevent the same mistakes, but the important part is communication with families and staff. These are dads and moms, aunts and uncles, friends and loved ones, and they need to feel honored and respected.

Learn how many communities build their assisted living care team through ongoing communication, teamwork, training and standards of care.

Why Emotional Connections With Staff Are Important

Families, without exception, want communities to care for their loved one the way they do. They want to be asked personal questions and they want to share family stories. They want to trust care staff and any associate working in senior care should be attempting to gain that trust once it is earned. Staff becomes part of the family, and an integral conduit of communication, support, and guidance.

A community operations representative discusses her relationship with residents and how they positively impact her life:

“I’ve been invited to family parties, holiday gatherings, and I’ve had residents and staff throw me a surprise baby shower after living with me at work during my first pregnancy. I received knitted baby gifts sent to me at home after his birth, and I was so honored residents did this kind and thoughtful things for me. I have loved working in assisted living communities because you are working in 100 seniors’ homes. These are the stories that happen everyday if you are looking at the right communities.”

Family and staff and resident interaction are what most families respond to when they visit. It’s a palpable energy when the community is working in synergy, which is why the emotional connections are so important.

Caitlin Burm is the manager of web content at A Place for Mom. She currently oversees and writes content for A Place for Mom and its affiliate websites, a position she's held since 2014. She is an advocate for enhancing care for seniors and volunteers her time providing support to local senior living communities. When she's not working with content, she's at the airport out exploring the U.S. with her daughter and husband. You can connect with her on Google+, LinkedIn or Twitter.

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