One of the major concerns of old age is to be able to continue to lead a normal healthy life of dignity, in the privacy of what we call home, and the liberty to make personal choices. This idea of a free and safe retired life is most often threatened due to lack of awareness, support (financial and otherwise) and resources, and at a time when we are the most vulnerable.
The situation is one of the most difficult ones to be in, and is equally unpleasant for family members of the senior citizen. The most difficult question near ones face is to decide where to keep the senior adult that ensures safety, round-the-clock care, along with a helping hand at day-to-day activities. While many of our older family members may not need support 24 hours a day, there are the more aged members of our families (like the ageing grandparent) who may need to be looked after at regular intervals and may need help with every little activity. One option people try is assisted living, because it seemingly sounds perfect, with a promise of ‘assistance’ to the aged al through the day and night. However, before you take such a decision and move your dear one away from the familiar surroundings of his or her home, research carefully. It is necessary that you know the reality of assisted living facilities, and what exactly you should expect from such arrangements.
Let us first understand who is assisted-living meant for. Put simply, it is a facility meant for ageing adults who find it difficult to live independently, and want to opt for an economic way to avail senior care. So assisted living services are mainly used by senior adults who need assistance with daily activities but are not in need of constant medical treatment. As such, these facilities are supposed to be equipped with caregivers and amenities that help senior adults socialize, share facilities, and live a dignified life as a community.
In reality, most assisted living facilities become a place which hosts multiple ageing adults, each with unique needs. With age, they get more demanding, and their need to be taken care of increases. Added to that, is the setback of separation from family, the familiar surroundings to live at a place away from what they called their home. This itself is a situation which can be a challenge to deal with at this late stage of life.
One of the major drawbacks of assisted living is lack of personal care. Even if there are caregivers to attend to the routine needs of the residents, each ageing adult has some unique and specific needs which seldom get met. Ageing adults have different nutritional needs and fitness support requirement. The same equation may not fit them all, and as a result they may cause deficiencies and difficulties which remain unnoticed. While most inmates become frail and weak with age, and need a hand with physical activity, some need a constant reminder of petty activities. From needing help with the most basic activities like taking their medicine, doing their beds, they even have to be aided to maintain personal hygiene. With lack of personal care to address these needs, it becomes more stressful and may even become unhygienic for the aged citizens. In fact, in many facilities there are situations where the older residents stay by themselves at night, and do not have an attendant. This could be as bad as staying alone at home all night!
The most common catch with assisted living is medical care. Of course they offer non-medical assistance as opposed to a nursing care unit, and are not permitted by law to offer medical treatment. In this dilemma, often medical needs of elders go unnoticed and are unattended as it is considered the family’s responsibility. In fact, before the elderly is admitted to the facility, a thorough check-up of his mental and physical state needs to be monitored to see if he is fit to stay at the shared facility, or if he needs more attention and a constant medical care. This rarely happens, and can be detrimental to the health and well-being of the senior.
To sum it up, assisted living has limited scope for residents to live an independent life. While these arrangements are meant to offer a more economic care to senior adults living as a community, there are less liberties and scope for the inmates to go beyond the routine to exercise personal choice.
In home care is a more preferred senior care solution for the ageing citizens, for one of the sole reasons that it prevents further isolation of the aged adult from his near and dear ones, his familiar surroundings and parting with his personal possession. This can be a huge boost for individuals to feel wanted and loved, and can help them stay content and hopeful. Some might feel that in-home care services are expensive. Generally speaking, this depends on the duration and type of care the individual needs. For aged members who do not need a 24 hour in-home care, and can do with a few hours’ help every morning, may actually spend a lot less than in an assisted living facility.
At a point of time in life, when we face this question in regards to our dear ones, this decision should be taken in consultation with the aged adult in question, his family members who have been caring for him, his physician who can review his health condition and prescribe the kind of care he needs to cope with his growing age and needs. Either way, it should be an informed decision and must be well researched. Ultimately, the point to care for the aged family member in the best possible way we can afford, and offer him the best resources to help him stay safe, happy, and in good health.