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Senior Assisted Living Blog

Assisted Living Homes: What you Didn’t Know – Greensboro, NC

Joseph Coupal - Monday, August 29, 2016

If you’re just beginning your search for a senior community to care for a loved one, you may not be entirely clear about what an assisted living community means.

1. What Assisted Living Provides

Because there is no nationwide definition for assisted living senior communities that call themselves assisted living facilities can offer differing levels of care. They offer a less-expensive, residential approach to delivering many of the same services available in skilled nursing, either by employing personal care staff or contracting with home health agencies and other outside professionals.

Not all assisted living communities are equal. Some provide lighter care, and some can even provide care for those who bedridden or who need help eating while still remaining in assisted living as opposed to a nursing home. It often depends on the community’s licensing. Many states have a tiered system of licensing whereby communities with a higher degree of licensing are able to provide more care.

2. Each Community Has a Unique Personality

Care aside, the look and feel of communities varies as well. Some communities have a more formal, traditional design sensibility, while others may have a more home-like, down to earth ambiance. Assisted living communities come in all shapes and sizes. Every assisted living community has a different personality. You can visit two communities down the street from one another that offer the same care and services, they may even look identical to one another, but that feel very different. Just because your loved one didn’t like one community, doesn’t mean the next one won’t feel right.

There’s no nationwide standard size, but assisted living communities are licensed to care for at least 20 people, but many communities have hundreds of residents. Smaller communities usually offer a homelike atmosphere while the larger communities offer an abundance of interest clubs, recreational opportunities, and acreage for recreation.

3. Yes, You Can Bring Your Pet

Senior living communities have different pet policies with specific weight limits and breed restrictions, so it’s important to do your research. Make sure to contact your communities of choice and ask about their particular pet policy.

4. Assisted Living Costs are Lower Than You Think

Assisted living is often less expensive than home health or nursing home care in the same geographic area. According to a survey, the national average rate for a one-bedroom apartment is approximately $3,300 per month. While 86.2% of assisted living residents pay from their personal financial resources, 41 states offer “home and community-based waivers” that allow low-income residents to live in assisted living.

Additionally, more seniors are purchasing long-term care insurance to help plan for and finance their long-term care needs. Wartime veterans and their spouses may eligible for VA benefits that can offset the cost of care.

5. Assisted Living is Not Synonymous with Nursing Homes

Many families believe they need they need nursing homes for their ailing older loved one when in fact assisted living is the most appropriate option. An assessment by an Advisor or medical professional is the best way to determine the care type needed, but some general distinctions can be drawn between assisted living and nursing homes. For instance:

  • Assisted living residents are mainly independent but may need help with daily living personal care tasks such as bathing and dressing, while nursing home residents tend to need 24-hour assistance with every activity of daily living
  • Assisted living residents are mobile, while those who are bed ridden require nursing homes
  • Nursing home residents generally have a single or semi-private room, while assisted living residents typically live in a studio or one-bedroom apartment
  • Nursing home residents require fully staffed, skilled nursing medical attention on a daily basis, while assisted living residents are more stable and do not need ongoing medical attention

6. Culturally Diverse Options

An increasing number of assisted living communities are designed to meet the unique cultural, religious, dietary and language-based needs of local populations.

Some communities offer multiple cultural, religious and dietary options.

As America simultaneously diversifies and ages, we’re bound to see an ever increasing demand for niche retirement communities.

7. Assisted Living Dementia Care

In 2012 there were more than 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia who required specialized dementia care treatment. Many assisted living facilities offer dedicated Alzheimer’s memory care programs for residents which are designed to decrease wandering, agitation and improve their quality of life. Generally residents with early stage Alzheimer’s or dementia can live among the regular population of assisted living residents, but when the condition becomes advanced, residents are then transitioned from the regular assisted living section to the memory care area. Memory care is specialized assisted living that’s secure to protect residents, that has staff specially trained to care for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and that have other design and caregiving adaptations for the comfort and safety of memory-impaired residents.

For more information, contact Spring Arbor.

A Place for Mom

What Assisted Living is Really Like? Richmond, VA

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, August 18, 2016

Many people are unclear of what life in assisted living is like these days; especially if they have predisposed notions that communities are synonymous with institutional nursing homes of the past. Families may not be entirely clear about what an assisted living community means — especially in today’s world with state-of-the-art amenities, chef-inspired cuisine, occupational and physical therapy, field trip outings and most important; a staff of expertly trained professionals who care for residents.

Many families are deeply affected by their elderly loved ones’ transitions to assisted living. It’s not only a highly emotional time, but also a time when decisions are expedited for quick moves resulting from declining health. Here is some insight to help families going through this emotional turmoil.

Some older adults really blossom in assisted living, mainly because assisted living often provides a lot more social activity — and even a family — for those who were lonely and even somewhat isolated in their home environment. This is especially true of older adults who had previously been having difficulty leaving home due to physical or cognitive limitations. Assisted living’s medication management services can also be very helpful, and sometimes I see seniors improve a lot medically simply because they begin taking their medications consistently.

It’s important for families to visit and get a feel for a community to see whether it’s a good fit for their loved one’s personality and level-of-care needed. It’s not the amenities, it’s the emotional and expertise that’s important. Communities are also looking at ways to improve not just providing good care, but also exceeding customer service expectations and improving the lives of seniors through research and advocacy means.

How Assisted Living Has Changed Over the Years

In most states there is better, cleaner, operational regulation and more adept staff training requirements. There has been a huge shift in the consumer. Families and seniors themselves are more comfortable with senior care communities as a clear method to potentially postponing nursing home care, which was not the case, years ago.  The concept of resort-style living is becoming more attractive to active seniors.  A really nice shift has been a decrease in the level of skepticism, and increase in the trust.

Today there is also a plethora of activities and amenities, in addition to state-of-the art care from medical and therapist professionals, including:

  • Barber and beautician services
  • Book groups
  • Dining and food services
  • Gardening clubs
  • Housekeeping and laundering services
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Scheduled transportation services to outings outside of community
  • Theater outings
  • Wellness and physical fitness, catered to individual needs, including: Catered fitness regimes, Water aerobics, Walking

It’s important to consider whether your loved one would want to participate in the events and amenities in the community, if their basic needs are met. After all, unless the senior is suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, the mind of a 90-year-old in assisted living hasn’t aged; just the body has.

What Assisted Living is Like Today

Assisted living depends on the professionals at each community. The good and forward thinking providers and companies have created senior condo-like settings where care is provided discreetly, on a resident’s own schedule, inside their own apartment or home, and by consistent staff.  Daily schedules are different for each resident, and should be, as they are catered to individual needs. That alone shows how the trend in care has shifted to each individual.

The Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Activities of daily living (ADLs) are the tasks necessary to participate in a senior’s daily care. Assisted living associates are trained to supplement where a resident has weaknesses, and to not do the tasks for them, but to help them. Life tasks include two areas:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Feeding
  • Grooming
  • Using the toilet independently
  • Walking and getting around

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLS):

  • Finances
  • House Cleaning and Chores
  • Meal Preparation
  • Shopping
  • Transportation
  • Using the Telephone

In assisted living, many of the IADLS are handled by either the community or a relative of the resident. Each community has their own system, so it’s important to find the options that work for each family’s unique situation.

Care professionals become like family for the residents and they come to rely on them for their daily activities, whether it’s dressing them, helping them shower, or simply bringing them the right types of meals or newspaper articles for their morning routines. Staff at communities become a part of each resident’s life. They can even become family who are missed if they’re on vacation or leave.

Why Emotional Connections with Staff Are Important

Families, without exception want communities to care for their loved one the way they do. They want to be asked personal questions, and they want to share family stories. They want to trust care staff, and any associate working in senior care should be attempting to gain that trust once it is earned. Staff becomes part of the family, and an integral conduit of communication, support, and guidance.

Family and staff and resident interaction is what most families respond to when they visit. It’s a palpable energy when the community is working in synergy, which is why the emotional connections are so important.

For more information on assisted living, contact Spring Arbor.

A Place for Mom

Why Seniors Prefer Assisted Living Communities – Richmond, VA

Joseph Coupal - Friday, August 12, 2016

If you haven’t visited a senior living community in a while, you may have some misconceptions – senior communities have changed significantly over the last few years.

Senior Living Communities Today

Senior communities range from homelike to the posh luxury of a high-end hotel or cruise ship, and they definitely don’t feel institutional today.

Most seniors who have moved to assisted living or independent living communities report that they prefer life at their new home to life alone. Here are some common reasons why:

1. No Stress Yard Work and Home Maintenance

Keeping up a home is hard, especially for those of us who have developed physical ailments. Mowing the lawn, climbing a ladder to change light bulbs, shoveling snow, pulling weeds, vacuuming– these become things of the past. But don’t worry green thumbs – residents are often able to garden.

2. Vanquishing Boredom

Residents need never be bored at a senior living community. There’s something for everyone. All kinds of entertainment and activities are offered, both on-site and in the local community. Entertainment can range from visiting musicians and performers, to day trips that might include local landmarks, forays into nature, or just an outing to the local art museum.

3. Improved Family Relationships

Older folks frequently become dependent on their grown children, or other close family members, for help of all kinds. Unnatural role reversals can strain relationships and foster unhealthy feelings of resentment, both by parents and their sons and daughters. Younger family members are liberated from the role of full-time caregivers, and are able to assure that time with their older loved one is meaningful and high-quality. Older residents are glad to return to the role of family matriarch or patriarch and often pleased that their grown children no longer have to “parent the parent.”

4. Better Food

There are many residents at senior communities who used to live alone and were not eating right. At senior living communities, residents don’t have to worry about grocery shopping, meal preparation or even coffee brewing. Instead, they get to enjoy a fine dining experience every day of the week. The food tastes good, alternative meals are almost always offered and special diet needs can ordinarily be accommodated. It’s common for new residents, who had been eating poorly before they moved-in, to experience improvements in their health and well-being just from three square meals per day.

5. An End to Stressful Driving

Driving can be tense and stressful as we age, and our driving abilities may not be what they once were either. For these reasons, most residents prefer to take advantage of the free transportation that’s provided by independent and assisted living communities. There’s no need to rely on a car any longer, although parking is available for residents who still drive.

6. Feeling Like Myself Again

Living alone, we may not be able to participate in games and activities we enjoyed, that were both fun and helped keep us sharp. But senior communities offer a wealth of opportunities to keep us engaged. This can include favorite games like chess, bridge and poker, engaging reading groups and discussion groups, and fascinating classes and lectures on every conceivable topic.

7. Making New Friends

Older adults who live alone often become isolated, which is unhealthy at any age. At senior communities we can make friends, share a meal and enjoy festive occasions with one another. On the other hand, those of us who are more introverted appreciate that our privacy is respected, but are still glad to have folks around.

8. Finally Feeling Safe

Residents can rest easy knowing that they are secured from thieves, con-men and ne’er-do-wells. Furthermore, residents enjoy the peace of mind that comes from the emergency response systems that are in each apartment, or sometimes on the resident’s person as a pendant. This alleviates fears about falling and becoming trapped for hours or even days, a scenario that’s all too common for senior’s residing alone.

Certainly, there are seniors who live alone and are just fine. We recognize that senior communities aren’t for everyone. But it’s without doubt that there are vast numbers of seniors living alone in unsafe or unhealthy situations who would benefit immensely from life at a senior community.

If you are interested in learning about assisted living, contact Spring Arbor.

A Place for Mom

What to Look for In a Memory Care Community - Greensboro, NC

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are progressive in nature. Therefore, an individual’s symptoms will become more pronounced and increasingly evident over time. Although the disease can progress at different rates among different people, the continued decline in one’s mental and physical capabilities is inevitable and irreversible. While extensive research continues toward solving the mystery of Alzheimer’s disease, there is currently no known cure.

Considering Your Options

Many experts agree that due to the progressive effects of the disease, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia will eventually require more care and support than can be appropriately provided within the home setting.

It is most often during the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease when it becomes necessary to provide 24-hour supervision to keep a person with dementia safe. As the disease progresses, care requirements become more intensive. Making the decision to move a loved one to a memory care community may be difficult, but it is not always possible to continue providing the level of care and supervision needed at home.

Ultimately, it is all about what is best for the person with memory loss. At-home caregivers must make choices that are in the best interests of their loved one’s physical, mental and emotional well-being—as well as their own. Despite possibly feeling an initial sense of guilt, many caregivers find that making the difficult decisions about their loved one’s care provides a welcome relief to the daily challenges and stresses of being a full-time caregiver.

Tips for Choosing the Right Residential Memory Care Community for Your Loved One

Memory care communities or communities with specialized memory care neighborhoods can be an ideal solution for those who require a substantial amount of care and supervision. However, it is important to do the appropriate research to assure you select the community that will make both you and your loved one the most comfortable. There are several important factors to consider in making this decision, including:

  • Programs and Services— Are there appropriate health and behavioral care services, regular planned activities and recurring care planning sessions? Is there a focus on resident engagement?
  • Environment—Do residents appear well cared for? Are rooms and common areas spacious, safe, and clean? Is there a family visiting area? Can residents bring favorite items with them?
  • Staffing— Do staff members have the proper tools, training and perspective to care for the special needs of those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory loss? Are privacy, respect and dignity a clear priority?
  • Meals—Is the food nutritious and appetizing and are there regular meal and snack times? Are family members and friends welcome to dine with their loved ones?
  • Family Involvement—Are you encouraged to be part of your loved one’s life and care planning, as well as to communicate as often as needed with staff?
  • Policies and Procedures— Can families participate in their loved one’s care and activities? Are visiting hours family-friendly?

Taking time to evaluate your options is well worth the effort. You’ll find that the best communities offer a wide range of treatments, services and amenities that address a resident’s mental, physical and emotional well-being through best-practice care, a philosophy of respect and dignity, and social engagement activities that stimulate the mind. Knowing your loved one is in the best possible environment provides peace of mind and confidence.

Help Is Available for Caregivers

Today, a variety of resources are available to assist caregivers who are caring for loved ones at home, including Alzheimer’s Association services, support groups, self-help guides, respite care services, in-home support, community-based services and educational programs. Communities with dedicated memory care neighborhoods offer quality care and specialized support around the clock, along with a variety of educational programs and special events that can help families connect and engage with their loved ones on a daily basis.

For more information on memory care contact Spring Arbor.


Long-Term Care Myths Debunked - Richmond, VA

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, August 04, 2016

Baby boomers are turning 65 at a pace of 10,000 people per day and while most baby boomers in their 60s are healthy, the majority of Americans will begin to suffer health problems once they get into their 70s. Because diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's disease strike later in life, most Americans will require long-term care at some point.

Let's debunk some common myths about long-term care so that you can better prepare yourself for that eventuality.

No. 1: I won't need long-term care

Cancer, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and arthritis are all major reasons why people require long-term care, and because these life-altering conditions tend to occur later in life, many people who are in their 60s underestimate the likelihood that they'll eventually need a long-term helping hand.

That assumption, however, is woefully incorrect. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 70% of people turning 65 this year will require long-term care in the future. And while only about 10% of long-term care insurance claims are initiated by people who are younger than 70, 25% of claims are initiated by those in their 70s and nearly 64% of claims are initiated by those in their 80s.

No. 2: Insurance will cover long-term care

Private insurance and Medicare may cover skilled nursing, short-term care, and medically necessary care, but they won't cover custodial or personal care services, and those services represent a significant proportion of long-term care expenses. Similarly, Medigap plans pick up many of the costs for services that aren't covered by Medicare, but Medigap doesn't cover long-term care costs, either. In short, private insurance and Medicare won't pay for assisted living, continuing care in retirement communities, or adult day services. And the costs of the care they will cover is often limited to specific situations and to a short period of time.

Medicaid will cover long-term care. But qualifying for Medicaid is a challenge for many retirees. Medicaid eligibility differs from state to state, but only those of us without assets and with limited income typically qualify.

No. 3: My savings will cover my long-term care

The average person enters retirement with a median $131,000 in retirement savings and that's not going to be enough to pay for long-term care.
The average assisted living facility costs $43,539 per year and the average nursing home costs $82,125 per year, and that's for a semi-private room. Given that costs for long-term care are climbing, retiree nest eggs aren't likely to be big enough to cover these expenses all by their lonesome. That's especially true given that 50% of people require long-term care for more than one year and the average length of a long-term insurance claim for those people is 3.9 years.

No. 4: Medicaid can't touch my home

If you do qualify for Medicaid and Medicaid covers the cost of long-term care, federal law requires states to recover the money spent by Medicaid on your behalf from your estate after you pass away. Probate law dictates what states include in your estate, but most states include real and personal property, such as a home, in it.

Medicaid won't recoup long-term care costs by forcing your spouse to sell your home after you die, but Medicaid can also put a lien on your house in the amount of your costs after your spouse dies.

No. 5: There's nothing I can do to plan ahead

Staying healthy for as long as possible is obviously the best plan for reducing long-term care expenses, but there are other steps you can take to minimize the impact of long-term care expenses on your estate.

First, you can buy a long-term care insurance policy. The cost of these plans depends on your age, health, and your coverage choices, but the cost of $162,000 in coverage for a couple ranged from $1,816 per year to $3,725 per year in 2013.

Because the availability of long-term care insurance depends on your health, it may pay to get benefits sooner rather than later. Most people apply for long-term care insurance between the age of 55 and 64, and historically, only 25% of applicants between 60 and 69 have their applications rejected because of unacceptable health.

Admittedly, these plans aren't cheap. But if you're under age 65, you may be able to pay your premiums with pre-tax money if you own a health savings account. Also, if you own a business, your premiums may qualify for special tax treatment as well.

Another option that may be worth considering is combination life and long-term care insurance policies. These policies can offer both death benefits to survivors and some form of insurance protection against long-term care costs.

There may also be options available to you that will allow you to protect your home. Although state laws differ widely, strategies involving trusts and asset transfers may be useful -- especially if they're implemented prior to the five-year look-back period used by Medicaid in determining Medicaid eligibility. However, strategies that work in one state may not work in another, so it's important to discuss your options with an elder law attorney before you take any action.

For more information contact Spring Arbor.

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