Your parents took care of you for most of your life. Or maybe it was a beloved aunt, uncle, grandparent, or family friend who was always there for you. Regardless of the bloodline, that love is unbreakable. As your loved ones age, health issues may be slowing them down. You may be noticing they need help around the house or with errands. Roles are reversed and it becomes your turn to take care of them. Inevitably, to keep them healthy and safe, hard decisions must be made. One of the most important decisions you’ll make is deciding whether your loved one can stay at home or should move to an assisted living community. There are both pros and cons to each living situation and no right or wrong decision. The debate over home care versus assisted living is entirely personal for each family.
What is Assisted Living?
Assisted living (AL) communities offer your loved one help with the activities of daily living (ADL) such as bathing, dressing, eating, and mobility assistance. ALs also offer limited healthcare such as medication management, therapy, general health assessments, and medical equipment needs like oxygen tanks. Most ALs provide several levels of care so that your loved one would pay for only the care they need and then add care as they need it. ALs typically feature emergency pull cords in apartments and safety alert pendants for residents to wear. But ALs are also communities where people live. Residents live in their own apartments and enjoy many congregate living amenities. These amenities are designed to keep your loved one active and engaged, including social activities, gyms, and outings. They also can take advantage of housekeeping and laundry services as well as meals cooked by chefs and served in a dining room.
Memory (Dementia) Care
Unfortunately, the need for communities that specialize in memory or dementia care has increased in the United States. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.8 million Americans ages 65 and older are living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, this number is projected to rise to about 14 million. Brain diseases call for a very specialized living environment. Safety and structure are the most important features of any memory care community. Seniors suffering from dementia are often confused and exhibit behavior issues that can be dangerous for themselves and others. 24-hour supervision is necessary as well as locked doors and emergency services. That’s not to say that your loved one would not enjoy their life. The best memory care communities offer a full schedule of activities geared towards stimulating brains and bodies. For loved ones with the beginning stages of brain disease, there are memory care units within assisted living communities that offer more flexibility in care than a skilled nursing facility. Let’s look at the pros and cons of assisted living communities to help you make that home care versus assisted living decision.
Pros of Assisted Living
- Safety: If you are concerned about your loved one spending any time alone, an AL will give you peace of mind with 24/7 staffing and building security protocols. Also, most ALs offer apartments with grab bars in the bathrooms, non-slip floors, and no stoves for the personal safety of your loved one.
- Engagement: If you think that your loved one will be lonely or bored at home, an AL will offer activities and events to keep your loved one busy and active.
- Instrumental Activities of Daily Living: ALs handle the activities necessary to run a household including laundry, cleaning, preparing meals, maintenance, and more.
- Activities of Daily Living: Your loved one will receive the personal support they need for daily living including bathing, dressing, and eating.
- Medical Assistance: ALs can provide some medical assistance to your loved one including medication management, pain management, and physical, speech, and occupational therapy.
Cons of Assisted Living
- Cost: According to Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey 2020, the average cost of assisted living in Colorado is $4,575 per month. Memory Care units typically charge fees 20% – 30% higher than traditional assisted living communities. As your loved one ages and needs more services, your monthly costs may increase.
- Infection Control: While ALs can offer security protocols for your loved one’s physical living space, they may not be so consistent in infection control protocols. As we’ve seen during the recent pandemic, it is difficult to control a contagious virus in a congregate living setting.
- Staffing Issues: At an AL, you can’t control who or how often staff interacts with your loved one. Most states, including Colorado, do not mandate a certain staff/resident ratio. The senior care industry is currently experiencing a staffing shortage which could affect how your loved one is taken care of.
- Nursing Care: Most ALs employ aides to handle ADL and other services instead of licensed nurses. While nurses are required to be on staff, they are there primarily to do medical assessments and care plans and to handle medical emergencies.
- Inconsistent Care: Your loved one will not receive the same personal care they could receive at home from you or another loved one. Staff turnover and shortages can cause inconsistencies in quality care and in how often care is given.