Assisted living can get a bad rap. Many seniors mistakenly believe that when they move to an assisted living community they’ll lose their privacy and independence when, in reality, it’s just the opposite. Assisted living communities are now designed to empower seniors to maintain their independence while allowing for easy access to assistance, activities and companionship.
Additionally, each assisted living community is unique. Whether your loved one is looking for a formal, traditional community in a sprawling complex in the suburbs, a mid-century modern apartment in a towering building in the city center or a home-like cottage in the country, they’ll be able to find a community that’s right for them.
Despite the great advantages of senior living, making the decision to move is a difficult one for many seniors and their families. And if you’re just beginning the search for an assisted living community to care for an aging loved one, it can be easy to assume that it’ll be just like the nursing homes or retirement homes of the 1960s. To make the process a little easier, try and clear your head of any misconceptions you may have about assisted living in general. Here are the top five myths about assisted living.
1. Myth: Assisted Living Strips Seniors of Their Independence
Reality: Seniors still have their own space, just without any of the hassles. In fact, living in an assisted living community is similar to having a private apartment, complete with private bathroom and kitchen, but seniors — and their families — can rest easy knowing that trained staff is on hand to help when necessary.
The average person age 65-plus spends almost three hours a day, seven days a week, on housework, shopping and home maintenance, such as repairs and taking care of the lawn or garden. Add that to the 30 minutes they spend each day socializing with friends; 15 minutes participating in sports, recreation or exercise; and almost no time taking classes or engaged in other educational activities.
Because assisted living communities offer daily meals, basic housekeeping, laundry and transportation, seniors have more time to spend doing the things they enjoy, such as socializing and learning. Additionally, communities provide physical and occupational therapists whose job it is to help preserve independence for as long as possible. So, if your mom has always loved to cook but a recent injury has made it difficult, an occupational therapist can offer adaptive tools and rehabilitation techniques that get her back in the kitchen.
2. Myth: Living at Home Is Less Expensive
Reality: Monthly expenses to maintain a home are higher than many seniors realize, and when combined with potential at-home care costs, living in their current home may end up being the most expensive option. According to the 2017 Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the national median annual cost for homemaker services is $47,934, and a home health aide costs $49,192. Plus, even if the mortgage has been paid off, utilities, homeowner taxes, maintenance and insurance payments add up.
Assisted living costs vary greatly depending on the type of residence, the size of the apartment, the types of services needed and the geographical location of the community. But the cost includes 24-hour supervision and security, daily meals, basic housekeeping, laundry, health and exercise programs and social programs, transportation, and access to medical services. It’s important to ask each community about their individual costs and services.
3. Myth: Seniors Can’t Bring Their Pet or Spouse
Reality: Many assisted living communities understand the benefits seniors receive from their pets, and many communities allow cats, dogs, birds and fish. Some communities even have pet coordinators to care for any feathered or furry friends.
Couples don’t always age at the same rate, so maybe you’re worried that one of your parents needs more assistance than the other. But there are assisted living options that can meet the needs of both of your parents. Most communities will work to accommodate couples in assisted living by placing them in double-occupancy apartments.
4. Myth: Seniors Will Lose Touch with Friends
Reality: Assisted living offers the best opportunity to continue an active social life and to stay connected with friends in the years ahead. Social events are encouraged, and community life usually means that seniors are more active than they were living alone. In fact, many seniors who remain at home experience growing isolation and loneliness. Additionally, families and friends are always invited and encouraged to spend time with residents at the assisted living community.
5. Myth: Assisted Living Communities Are Full of People Who Are Sick and Dying
Reality: Many people choose to live in assisted living because it offers opportunities for new learning, activities and a new chapter in life. Between group discussions on current events, exercise classes, shopping, art workshops, special outings, book clubs, lectures by guest speakers, and continuous interaction and engagement with other positive, vibrant residents, living at an assisted living community can offer far more mental stimulation and social engagement than staying at home.
Instead of waiting until they’re triggered or forced by poor health or other negative event, many seniors now see moving to an assisted living community as a proactive lifestyle move that allows them to choose the home and community that best meets their needs, dreams and ambitions for the years ahead. Assisted living isn’t where people go to die; it’s where they go to maintain the quality of life to which they are accustomed. Learn more about assisted living by checking out our free guide.