If we look online and search, “What is assisted living?”, we get a list of websites that tell us the technical definition. Per the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, “Assisted living is part of a continuum of long-term care services that provides a combination of housing, personal care services, and health care designed to respond to individuals who need assistance with normal daily activities in a way that promotes maximum independence.” If we walk down the street, and ask someone at random the same question, they will likely say, “it’s a nursing home”.
It is no wonder we have an increasingly ageing population that refuses to leave their home for the benefits of an assisted living setting. And with the cost of home healthcare, the burden of caretaking for these people ends up being close friends and family. What I have experienced is that the further a person is allowed to struggle in their home setting, the harder it is to get them the outside help they need and eventually move into a long-term care community. That is why, I define assisted living differently.
First, what is not. Assisted living is NOT a nursing home. Nursing homes are so critical in our healthcare system and provide so much value to patients. But that is exactly what it caters to, patients. Patient is defined as a person receiving or registered to receive medical treatment. Assisted living communities cater to RESIDENTS. Not all residents in a community will require care. There are a vast majority of residents that can perform all activities of daily living and are just there for the perks of living in a fun and engaging communal setting.
Secondly, what is. Assisted living IS a place for older adults to have fun! In our communities, our events and activities provide the residents with a ton of fun and enjoyment. Live music, restaurant outings, shopping trips, BBQ cookouts… we have fun! The staff and the residents partake together and form a family bond inside the community. That leads me to our next definition of assisted living.
Assisted living IS where our residents call home. The residents make their apartments into their personal settings while the staff make the communal spaces as homely as possible. A home is defined as a place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. The staff and residents form very strong bonds that truly make assisted living a home.
And finally, assisted living IS a place for older adults to find purpose. Assisted living communities are setup to deliver purpose to the residents. Understanding who each resident was and finding ways for that resident to be who they are, delivers purpose. Many assisted living communities have clubs, committees, and councils tailored to meet a group of resident’s psychological needs and deliver purpose.
One of the hardest things to witness is when someone moves into an assisted living community too late. This happens when people move in when they NEED care and cannot partake in all the community has to offer. This often leads to quick transitions into skilled nursing settings. My advice is to move while you can still have fun! Assisted living is for the active older adults who want to have fun, feel home, and have purpose.