Assisted living can improve the quality of life for seniors in a variety of ways. From arranging social events to helping residents manage their medication, staff members at assisted living facilities can boost the living standards of seniors in ways large and small. “Assisted living can improve quality of life in a multitude of ways that benefit both residents and their families,” says Katie Potter, chief executive officer of Five Star Senior Living, which is headquartered in Newton, Massachusetts, and provides services to older adults nationwide. “For one, residents are offered safety, socialization and a comprehensive array of amenities and support to ensure their happiness and comfort. Likewise, families receive peace of mind in knowing their loved ones are being well-cared for.”
Here are seven ways assisted living can improve residents’ quality of life:
1. Support for daily tasks.
Many routine daily chores are taken care of for you at assisted living facilities. For example, assisted living facilities typically serve three meals a day, says Sheila Molony, a professor of nursing at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. If a resident has special dietary needs, like a requirement for low-fat or low-sugar offerings, the meals are prepared to those specifications. Assisted living facilities also provide light housekeeping, laundry services and transportation. “If more services or supports are needed, such as assistance with bathing, dressing or grooming, or if short-term nursing care is required, these services may be provided by contracting with home care agencies for an additional fee,” she says. In some states, Medicaid reimbursement is available for personal care if the resident meets eligibility requirements for a Medicaid waiver program.
2. Community connections and social functions.
As we age, our social circles typically shrink and we have fewer opportunities to socialize, says Nora O’Brien, executive director of Willow Towers Assisted Living and Willow Gardens Memory Care, both located on the United Hebrew of New Rochelle’s campus. That’s in New Rochelle, New York. “Assisted living facilities provide an array of opportunities to make connections with other people,” O’Brien says. “They provide instant community for the people who live in them.” Because isolation and lonelinesscan have a significant negative impact on one’s health, maintaining good social connections is critically important for older people, she says. Assisted living facilities offer a wide range of social activities. For example, Willow Towers has a cooking club, a weekly poker tournament and music programs. “We provide opportunities to socialize and make new friends, which improves (residents’) overall quality of life,” she says.
3. Recreational opportunities.
Many assisted living communities have a host of recreational and exercise options for older people, says Eric Leopold, owner of CallEric Senior Living Advisors, based in New York City. CallEric helps people find the most cost-effective and appropriate senior living situations for them. Recreational and athletic amenities at assisted living facilities often include an in-house movie theater, gym, recreation room (that often includes a billiards table), library and computer room, Leopold says. “Some assisted living facilities even have indoor and outdoor pools,” Leopold says. “Most assisted living communities have activity schedules that could keep residents busy nearly every hour of the day.”
4. Help with managing medication.
Assisted living staff members typically help residents manage their medication or medications in a variety of ways, says Jennifer DiOrio, assisted living director at Glenmere at Cloverwood Senior Living in Rochester, New York. The assisted living facility will work with the resident’s pharmacy of choice, whether it’s a mail order operation or the corner drugstore. “Typically, assisted living facilities contract with an external pharmacy that delivers, which takes a lot of the weight off the individual and (his or her) family,” DiOrio says. Assisted living communities generally have policies that help residents manage their medications. This may include continuing education sessions and medication audits to verify that a resident is managing his or her medications independently. During such audits, staff members could ask residents if they know what each pill is for and inquire whether they’re taking the medications at the right time, DiOrio says.
5. Educational and cultural programs.
Many assisted living facilities provide scholarly and cultural opportunities, like lectures on a wide variety of subjects. For example, some assisted living facilities in the New York City area have partnerships with Hofstra University and Pace University in which professors talk about topics chosen by residents, Leopold says. The subjects are diverse. For one six-week curriculum, residents chose the topic of medieval knights; another educational course focused on the witches, goblins, ghosts and spirits of Halloween. Many assisted living communities also provide opportunities for residents to give talks about their life experiences and areas of expertise.
6. A safe living environment.
Certain pitfalls of aging, like falls, can have devastating consequences, says Dr. Scott Kaiser, a board-certified family physician and geriatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. While falls are common in older age, and often result in injuries that can range from a minor inconvenience to fatal, research suggests they can largely be prevented. Some assisted living facilities have fall prevention programs. “Even without a coordinated program, having a safe living environment, someone to give you a hand when you need it and access to support are things that might not be as easily accessible when living alone at home,” Kaiser says. “That can go a long way toward keeping you on the game. While people may be reticent to ask for help, sometimes asking for a little support up-front can help you maintain greater independence over the long run.”
7. Memory support.
Some people move into assisted living because they’re suffering from a neurocognitive disorder like Alzheimer’s and can no longer live alone safely, says Donna Fuller, director of outreach for Ingleside, a nonprofit that provides management services and strategic leadership for three continuing care retirement communities in and near the District of Columbia. Certain assisted living facilities offer memory support, which provides around-the-clock services to make sure residents are attended to, Fuller says. The goal is to ensure the residents’ well-being and to minimize confusion. Specially-trained staff members keep residents living with neurocognitive disorders safe, socially engaged and living as they would if they were on their own as much as possible. Services vary by provider but include direct-care staff members who help residents with daily living activities like medication administration, bathing, personal hygiene and therapeutic support. Therapeutic recreation staff engage with residents on a daily basis. For instance, they can involve residents in art or music activities that provide social stimulation and improve mood and quality of life.