Assisted Living: A Senior Housing Option Gaining Popularity
"As far as I'm concerned, it's a life I never thought I would experience -- happy and complete," says 89-year-old Genevieve Peters, who has lived at an Assisted Living
facility called Sterling House in Palm Coast, Fla., for two years. She lost her home in the 2004 hurricane, and with all her family gone, Peters wanted to live as independently as possible, with just the right amount of help to maintain her lifestyle. "I didn't know what Assisted Living
was," she explains. "I always had my own home and didn't know how I would accept it or how I would be accepted."
What Is Assisted Living?
"Someone who can no longer live on their own safely but does not need skilled nursing care" is an ideal candidate for assisted living, says Nancy Wier, director of communications for Brookdale Senior Living Inc. "It's ideal for someone who needs some assistance with activities of daily living like bathing, grooming, eating, etc." Brookdale is a leading provider of high-quality senior housing in the United States for seniors and families desiring a variety of service and care options through their Independent Living
, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing communities.
Assisted living services vary greatly among assisted living facilities. Meals, housekeeping, laundry service, transportation, medication assistance, emergency call service, planned activities, licensed nursing, and round-the-clock staff are some of the amenities provided, depending on what a resident wants and needs. "Most communities offer licensed nurses on staff, with caregiver staff available 24 hours, medication assistance, observation of health status, limited health care assistance in accordance with state regulations, and assistance with accessing outside health care services," Wier explains.
"We're out there encouraging assisted living as a community-based alternative or option for seniors who can live independently but need some assistance," adds Paul Williams, a spokesperson for the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA). ALFA is the largest trade association representing assisted living in the U.S. Williams says more seniors are opting for assisted living because the environment is more home-like; it's not the institutional type of setting of the past. "There have been a lot of innovations and functions that assisted living facilities have acquired over the last few years," he says. "There are a tremendous amount of options out there."
Peters lives in what is called a studio. She didn't want a lot of room or furniture. "To me, it's very cozy; it's comfortable, cheerful, and the service I get is absolutely fantastic," she beams. "It's my home."
Typical Costs Associated With Assisted Living
An assisted living report released by the MetLife Mature Market Institute last October noted the monthly costs in various regions in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. It found that the private pay rate for an individual at an assisted living facility averaged $2,968 per month, or $35,616 yearly. Assisted living can be costly because it is not covered by Medicare or most other medical insurance.
"Some assisted living facilities charge a one-time entrance fee and have additional fees for items such as having meals delivered to living quarters, for dementia care or for extra transportation services," the study reveals. "While an increasing number of state Medicaid waiver programs are providing coverage for assisted living facilities for low-income individuals who qualify, most residents pay privately or through a long-term care insurance policy," according to the report.
Williams affirms these findings. "Close to 90 percent of it is private pay," he says, which means seniors pay out of pocket with private funds, usually when Medicaid is not an accepted form of payment for senior housing expenses.
Assisted Living: Utopia?
"The benefit of assisted living is that it provides a nice blend of a home-like residential setting, opportunities for socialization, and personal care services," Wier says. "But we're not saying assisted living can take care of every senior," Williams stresses.
"One of the big benefits I see is the socialization function," he adds. "You may have seniors who were not engaged, watching TV all day, [not interacting] with other people. They go to assisted living, start participating in activities, and are around other seniors."
Though Peters enjoys the activities offered at Sterling House (among its current offerings: exercise classes, movies, scenic bus trips, and shopping excursions), she says she still remains independent and picks and chooses how she spends her time. "As far as my experience is concerned, it is fantastic," Peters says. "I know everybody here -- their names and most of their conditions," she concludes.
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