Previously, we looked at whether your loved one may need a nursing home. The options existing for today's growing elderly population, our baby boomer generation, are much more extensive than what you might realize.
One of the best summaries of living arrangements available today can be found on the U.S. government's Medicare website:
These options include the full range of assisted care, from modifications and in-law-suits in your own home for a loved one to live with you, to retirement communities and assisted living facilities, where your loved one lives in a community of other similarly aged persons.
In retirement communities or assisted living environments, your loved one would have their own dwelling place, whether a small home, duplex, or apartment. These communities have access to structured activities and entertainment options to keep your loved one engaged with friends and new acquaintances. This arrangement prevents the possible long-term solitude many elderly people face which can lead to depression and other health concerns. Assisted living arrangements either have healthcare professionals available on staff or immediately accessible.
In assisted living environments, help is available and can range from meal preparation, to some light health care and transportation assistance. This can be a great option for someone who is still primarily independent and capable of taking care of most of their daily needs, but who may need some oversight with ensuring medications are properly taken, getting to and from appointments, and ensuring that they receive a well-balanced diet without the trouble or hardship of preparing their own meals. Arrangements can also be made for slightly more involved personal needs, such as assistance with eating, bathing and toileting. At the other end of the range of these facilities is what we often think of as a more traditional nursing home environment. It is a place where people can safely reside who cannot be cared for at home or even in some sort of assisted living environment. Persons needing a full-time nursing home environment are often those that have already fallen and are recovering from a serious injury to those with dementia or Alzheimer's. Frequently, these persons need daily help with bathing, toileting, and are generally unable to care for themselves due to some other physical, emotional, or mental health issues. Nursing homes are staffed with around the clock healthcare professionals including nurses and on-call physicians. Additionally nursing homes are licensed by the government and regulated by state and federal agencies that require them to meet certain standards for continued operation.
Another very important consideration is the pricing and financial planning required for these types of environments. Unfortunately, Medicare will only pay for skilled nursing care under certain circumstances and does not cover assisted living options, so prior advanced planning and financial arrangements are important to consider. However, there are many different pricing options available depending on the type of facility chosen, and the opportunities for structured programs and activities, as well as the extent of staffing requirements to support the intended function of the facility. Although Medicare will pay for inpatient nursing home care after an acute illness for 30-60 days at a time based on evaluations by licensed clinicians, Medicaid does offer payment for skilled nursing home placement to those who qualify for benefits.
Whether a retirement community or assisted living facility may seem to fit your loved ones personal needs, or whether more assistance may be required such as that available in a traditional nursing home type environment, frank and good communications with your loved one about their own wishes and desires are also important considerations in making this type of life changing decision. Regardless of the type of facility, it is important for your loved one to realize that visitors from friends and family are always welcome and encouraged, and these facilities make every attempt to make visitation as convenient as possible as the staff and administrators in these settings recognize the importance of continued family interaction while in a facility setting.