Caregivers: Know your Assisted Living Options

February is National Caregivers Month. One task that can be daunting for family caregivers is identifying the assisted living community that best fits their loved one’s unique needs. It is important for caregivers to be able to identify the different assisted living options available. Sometimes a private home is no longer a safe environment. The home could be structured such that it is not possible to live entirely in a first floor space. An older adult can be isolated from social stimulation, and living with heightened risks of malnutrition and dehydration. When these and other concerns are identified, it is often the role of adult children to do research about local assisted living communities which can provide the next level of care required by their loved one.

Assisted living communities typically charge a monthly fee for room and board. Included within that fee are 2-3 meals per day, housekeeping, and transportation services. There is also typically an offering of activities both in the building and in the larger community. Services offered by the nursing staff, such as medication management and assistance with personal care, are available at an additional cost. Always get a clear understanding of what is covered by the monthly fee and what is not. Understand how costs might be affected by a loved one’s changing care needs.

Some (but certainly not all) assisted living communities feature designated wings of their building called memory care units. These units offer a separate living environment and likely smaller, more manageable apartments when compared with the ones in the traditional assisted living section of the building. Memory care units usually offer 24-hour supervision from certified nursing assistants (CNAs), and the staff assigned to memory care units are trained to work specifically with residents with cognitive impairments. The physical layout of the wing is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of those living with dementia. Memory care units are also secured and often require a passcode to unlock the main door to the wing in an effort to prevent residents from wandering to unsupervised and possibly unsafe areas.

There is a monthly fee associated with memory care units similar to the apartments and supports offered in the traditional assisted living apartments. However, average costs of memory care units are higher given the increased oversight and specially designed programming for its residents. One local assisted living here in Connecticut is presently offering a studio apartment in the traditional assisted living at roughly $4,000 per month and the same type of apartment in the memory care unit is offered at roughly $7,000 per month. This is just one present example. Please keep in mind that costs do fluctuate depending on location. Some assisted livings do not just feature a specific memory care wing, but rather the entire building is dedicated to memory care services for its residents. Be sure to visit different options if memory care is what you feel would be best for your loved one. The resident service director, who is typically a registered nurse, will offer an assessment of any prospective resident to help determine what type of assisted living environment would be most appropriate.

If you are considering assisted living on behalf of a loved one, consider the full range of options. Also, take the time to understand the differences between traditional assisted living and memory care assisted living. It is vital that you visit all the communities you are considering and have your loved one have a meal there and participate in events with the current residents. If your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, consider the safety measures and programming that is inherent in memory care units. Consult with the resident service director at the community you are considering to get a better understanding of how your loved one would thrive within the environment offered.

At Weatherby & Associates, PC, our life care coordinator is committed to helping our clients and their loved ones understand the diverse living environments offered in their area. Working to ensure that our clients maximize their quality of life is a vital aspect of our unique law practice. If you have additional questions, please contact us at 860-769-6938.

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