Assisted Living residences combine private suites with support services and social activities to help seniors with some limitations to continue living as independently as they can. It often provides the bridge between home support and residential care. Often residents are people who no longer want or are able to live totally independently in their own homes, but they aren't candidates yet for the total care provided by Residential Care (also called continuing care or complex care) residences. Assisted Living candidates need to be mobile or at least able to transfer on their own. Services you may expect at an Assisted Living residence include:
- Basic Housing (from private or double occupancy rooms to suites
- Meals and snacks
- 24-hour staff availability
- Assistance with activities of daily living, if needed, such as bathing, dressing, toileting, hygiene and grooming, eating, and walking
- Administration or assistance with self-administration of medications
- Housekeeping, maintenance, and help with laundry
- Social and recreational activities
- Transportation to activities, appointments, shopping, etc.
Residences can be subsidized by government, offering seniors a comfortable home for a percentage of their after-tax income (70% in British Columbia), or privately funded, providing accommodation at market rates. An increasing number of private residences are partnering with local and provincial health authorities to also provide units at subsidized costs. To qualify for subsidized rent, you must be assessed by a case worker from the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA).
Because health and safety is important to seniors, legislation introduced by the provincial government, under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act, requires all Assisted Living residences in British Columbia to be registered and meet health and safety standards. Any health or safety complaints will be investigated by the province's Assisted Living Registrar. The standards cover everything from safe building design to ensuring occupants' rooms are clean and that balanced and nutritious meals are served. They also include the requirements for helping occupants to take their medications.
For some seniors, moving into an Assisted Living residence is a logical choice. Usually they have been receiving home care several times during the week, but the tasks of maintaining a house and ensuring their needs are completely met in a timely and safe way begin to be a strain on them, and often their family members as well. The services and safety provided by an Assisted Living residence allow the resident to remain significantly independent - longer than they may have managed living on their own.
Not all residents at Assisted Living residences require significant care or assistance. Many are there because they want a simpler lifestyle without the worry of maintaining a home and they seek the companionship of other people their own age. They also may have chosen Assisted Living over an Independent Living residence because they want some minor help (monitoring medications, for example) or they anticipate the day when they may need this help. They want to settle into a stable, comfortable lifestyle and be ready for whatever comes.
Some residences may contract with home health agencies to come in and offer services to residences, while some may have a resident nurse or physiotherapist to help with minor medical problems. Some residences specialize in the care of Alzheimer's patients who often require supervision and locked entrance doors to prevent them from wandering from the building and getting lost or injured.
Today's Assisted Living residences do not look like the old-style nursing homes many of us are used to. Instead of a sterile hospital environment, Assisted Living residences are apartment buildings with private rooms or suites and locked doors. Instead of a nurse's station, there is a help or reception desk that handles any inquiries from residents. Instead of waiting areas and cafeterias, there are cozy gathering areas with couches, fireplaces, gardens, and atriums. Dining areas rival luxurious banquet rooms, complete with an experienced chef and table assistants in crisp, formal attire. Often entertainment is provided during or after mealtimes. Themed dinners and elegant soirees make up the mixture of monthly events residents look forward to with great anticipation. Pleasant surroundings contribute to the feeling of well-being as neighbors chat and plan their activities together. Stimulating outings are usually planned by an events coordinator, with transportation provided for those residents who don't drive.
For many, it's a big relief when they can place the day to day tasks in the hands of a care provider. Residents are free to enjoy the privacy of their own suite, entertain friends, or join in group social activities. The choice is theirs. With a positive attitude, many new friends can be made. Daily activities such as exercise programs and afternoon tea or happy hour make the time pass quickly. Special events such as bingo, sing-alongs around the grand piano, or movie nights, offer opportunities to mix and mingle with other residents.
An added benefit for family members is knowing that their parent is being well cared for in a safe and comfortable environment. Visits can take on a whole new dimension when the stresses of coping with daily living are not part of the relationship.
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