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Senior Assisted Living Blog

Assisted Living: What to Ask During Your Search - Greensboro, NC

Joseph Coupal - Friday, February 24, 2017

Spring Arbor Assisted Living, Richmond, VAYou’ve decided that an assisted living residence is the right choice for you or someone you care for. This checklist will help you choose the right residence to meet your needs. Make a copy of this checklist for each of the residences you’re considering. It may make comparing them a little easier.

The Call

Once you have a list of residences to visit, call each one. Think about what is important for you and your loved one: location, size, and types of services offered. Bear in mind that the person you speak with will most likely be a marketing or sales representative whose job is to promote the residence.
Take this checklist with you as you compare different assisted living residences.

The Call Checklist:

  • How many living units are in the residence?
  • Where is the residence located?
  • Are different sizes and types of units available?
  • Do any units have kitchens or kitchenettes?
  • Are all the rooms private?
  • Are bathrooms private?
  • Does the residence offer special care units such as those serving people with Alzheimer’s disease?
  • Is a contract available that details fees, services, and admission and discharge policies?
  • Is there a written care plan for each resident?
  • What role does the resident have in developing the care plan? Are additional services available on the same campus if a resident's needs change?
  • Can residents choose their own doctors, therapists, or pharmacies?
  • How does the residence bill for services?
  • What if a resident runs out of money?
  • Under what conditions would a resident have to leave the residence?

This will help you compare residences. It’s a real challenge to choose a quality assisted living residence. Remember that it can be expensive and a long-term decision. If you’re searching out a unit for yourself, try not to make the visits and decisions alone. Talk with family members and friends. Learn as much as you can about assisted living and each of the residences you are considering. This will build the confidence and comfort level you’ll need to make the best choice.

The Visit

Take along your checklist and some written questions for the staff when you visit. As you meet with them and tour a residence, pay close attention to how you feel and what is going on around you. Spend time with the staff and residents; ask them what they like and dislike about the place. It’s a good idea to visit more than once; an unscheduled visit on a weekend or in the evening might be very helpful in your decision making.

The Visit Checklist:

  • Is the residence clean?
  • Is the residence cheerful?
  • Do you feel good about it?
  • Are stairs and hallways well lit?
  • Are exits well marked?
  • Do rooms and bathrooms have handrails and call buttons?
  • Are there safety locks on the doors and windows?
  • Are there security and fire safety systems?
  • Is there an emergency generator or alternate power source?
  • Is the floor plan logical and easy to follow?
  • Are rooms large enough for a residents’ needs?
  • Are there kitchens or kitchenettes?
  • Are there enough common areas, such as dens and living rooms?
  • What special services are available?

The Contract:

  • Is the contract easy to read?
  • Do you understand everything in it?
  • Are specific services provided by the residence?
  • Does the contract include all of the services you are looking for?
  • How frequently are services provided?
  • What do additional services cost?
  • Are health care services included? Which ones?
  • When and where are meals served?
  • Are all meals served 7 days a week?
  • Does the contract address levels of care? How many levels?  Who determines level of care? Are there services for each level?
  • Are linens/laundry provided?
  • Are transportation services provided?
  • Is there a parking fee for residents? For visitors?
  • Does the residence offer worship services?
  • Is transportation to worship services provided?
  • What are the entrance fee(s)?
  • What is the monthly rent?
  • What is the security deposit? Are deposits refundable?
  • Are utilities included? Which ones? Is telephone included?       
  • How are rate increases or late payments handled?
  • Does the contract cover transfer and discharge policies?
  • Who makes a transfer or discharge decision?
  • How much notice is given to residents who have to leave?
  • Is the living area held if the resident is in the hospital? For what cost?
  • Can you have a pet?
  • Can you have personal furniture?
  • Does the contract deny your right to bring legal action against the residence for injury, negligence, or other cause?
  • Can personal visitors come and go at will?

For more information on assisted living, contact Spring Arbor.


Is it Time to Look into Assisted Living? - Richmond, VA

Joseph Coupal - Friday, February 17, 2017

Spring Arbor Assisted Living, Richmond, VAThe family gatherings during the holiday season might have left you with more than a few extra pounds to lose. If you’re like many adult children who enjoyed a visit with your parents, you might also have some nagging concerns about their health and safety. These family events are typically when people first notice warning signs that their aging relatives aren’t managing on their own as well as they used to.

A mom once full of energy now seems frail, or a dad who was always on top of his game is now experiencing issues with memory loss.

We all value our independence, so considering assisted living can be a difficult idea to embrace and a tough topic to broach. However, in most instances, the residents experience improvements in their quality of life once arriving in an assisted living community. Some even expressed regret at not having made the move sooner.

As you consider what you witnessed over the holidays, ask others if they noticed the same things you did. Specifically, here are three warning signs to look out for:

  1. Loss of social drive – As our parents and older relatives age, their social circles also get smaller, which can lead to major health and safety issues. That’s where assisted living communities come in, offering companionship and a sense of purpose, which can help combat depression and other health challenges.
  2. Unfinished business – Are there unpaid bills or stacks of unopened mail that have gone unnoticed? It might be a sign that your parent or older relative is physically or emotionally unable to handle the task. It’s important to ascertain if this is a one-time situation or something that has been going on for a while, so it’s important to check in on this frequently. If you live far away, ask a neighbor or friend to check in, and if it’s ongoing, it might be time for assisted living.
  3. Eating habits – If you notice changes in weight loss or weight gain, it may be a sign that your parents or older relatives are either forgetting to eat altogether or forgetting they ate and eating meals twice. It’s important to check for stale, spoiled or expired food as that may be a sign of changed eating habits. It’s also important to check that they’re going to the store or have ample items in stock.

The transition to an assisted living community is challenging for residents and their families alike, so look for places that provide support to everyone involved so that it becomes an empowering change rather than a stressful one. A community where residents have access to outings and programming, art classes and great meals. Through movie nights and game tournaments, they can remain socially active while maintaining their privacy and dignity. It’s not uncommon for people to regain their confidence and zest for life once the daily stress of caring for themselves and their home is removed.

Moving a loved one to an assisted living situation isn’t the easiest task, but it doesn’t have to be the scariest either. When approached with compassion and understanding, it can make the senior years golden indeed.

For more information on assisted living, contact Spring Arbor.


Work and Caregiving: Finding the Balance - Greensboro, NC

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, February 09, 2017

Spring Arbor, Greensboro, NCThese tips can help you juggle your job responsibilities and your demands at home.

You've got important meetings at the office and projects that are almost due. But you care for your parents and they’ve been waking up every night this week and you would like to take him to the doctor. What should you do?

An estimated 25.5 million Americans face challenges like these every day as they struggle to balance work responsibilities with caring for a relative aged 50 or older. Not surprisingly, they wind up distracted, emotionally drained and physically exhausted.

The good news is that many employers are sympathetic to these demands. Some companies have programs to help caregivers find community services, counseling, respite care, legal and financial assistance, and caregiver support groups. Others have begun offering caregiving leave and flexible work arrangements.

Of course, every caregiver's job is different, and even within the same company, different managers may be more or less supportive. These tips will help you manage your dual roles.

Learn about company policies. Talk to your human resources department or read your employee handbook to ascertain your company's policy regarding caregivers. Find out about any benefits your company may offer, such as an employee assistance program.

Know your rights. Ask your human resources department for information about the Family and Medical Leave Act. Have them send a copy to your supervisor as well, if appropriate. Under the FMLA, eligible workers are entitled to 12 weeks per year of unpaid leave for family caregiving, without the loss of job security or health benefits.

Talk to your manager. Be upfront about your role as a caregiver and the demands that it puts on you. It's better that she or he hear from you why you're coming in late or seem preoccupied. Spell out the concrete steps you can take to juggle your competing demands. For instance, say, "I just found out my mother needs weekly physical therapy on Wednesday afternoons. While I'm looking for other arrangements, I propose that I work late on Tuesdays." Chances are your company will reward your honesty and sense of responsibility toward both your family and your job.

Inquire about flex-time. Even if no formal policies exist, you should ask your boss if he or she would consider an arrangement to help you accommodate your caregiving responsibilities. For instance, you might ask if you could work from home a day or two a week. You could inquire about a part-time job or job-sharing arrangement.

Don't abuse work time. Whenever possible, avoid taking care of caregiving chores when you should be working. If you have to make phone calls or search the Internet for information related to your parent's needs, do it on your lunch break.

Stay organized. Do your best to manage your time efficiently. Use to-do lists and calendar reminders. Set priorities, then tackle the most important items first. Delegate at work and at home.

Seek help. Turn to the community for caregiving resources and services.

Say thanks. Show your appreciation for co-workers and colleagues who pitch in and help you out with your job. Agree to take on extra work when the dust settles, and be willing to help someone else who is suddenly thrust into a situation you may know all too well.

For information on assisted living for your loved one, contact Spring Arbor.


Alzheimer’s Caregivers Can Feel Overwhelmed – Richmond, VA

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Spring Arbor, Alzheimer's careSometimes, it is easier for a non-family member to care for someone with Alzheimer’s.

The caregivers know the patient as they are now, while a loved one knows them as they were yesterday. Caregivers don’t focus on what your loved ones could do, but on what they can do.

Alzheimer’s affects not only the patient but also the patient’s caregivers, who often become overwhelmed and isolated as the disease progresses in a loved one.

Finding help for caregivers has become more important.

Often caregivers become very isolated, especially as the disease progresses.

In the early stages of the disease, the patient are still able to handle most of his or her day-to-day activities, still understanding what is happening and able to share in the decision-making process.

These partnerships begin to become unequal in the middle stages. At this stage the patient loses certain memories. They may remember how to mow the lawn, but not how to turn on the mower, or completely forget about paying bills. It adds to the frustration for the caregiver, who is taking on more and more roles … there is a significant increase in stress.

As the disease progresses, it can be hugely difficult to leave the house because the patient behaves inappropriately in public. In fact, it is not uncommon for a caregiver to not leave the house in months, relying on others to pick up needed groceries and other items and drop them off.

Social lives change. If a couple used to play cards with friends on a regular basis, but now one person in that couple can no longer remember how to play, behave in public or even who the friends are, the ties to those friends loosen, especially if the caretaker often cannot find, or afford to pay, someone to stay with the affected spouse while the main caretaker leaves to shop or visit with friends.

Excursions also are often painful and disorienting for the Alzheimer’s patient, who now might not recognize the proper way to use silverware — if they even try to use it.

But caregivers are not alone and are encouraged to form partnerships with others — perhaps even other caregivers — to help handle the burden of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient.

Finding an outlet and finding time to stretch, dance, sing, write or any other relaxing or energizing activity helps.

For more information contact Spring Arbor.


All About Assisted Living Options – Greensboro, NC

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, February 02, 2017

Spring Arbor Assisted living, Greensbor, NCThe number of older Americans (65-plus years) is increasing by the minute. In 2014 they comprised 46.2 million, representing 14.5 percent of the U.S. population. By 2040 seniors are projected to make up 21.7 percent of the population. As these baby boomers retire from full-time careers and become empty nesters, their lifestyles will certainly change. As they age, their health and wellness needs will also change.

Unable or uninterested in living on their own, many will look for a residential senior community—there are many variables to consider. Some have a formal, traditional feel, while others may have a more relaxed, home-like ambiance. Some cater to a particular culture or religious preference. The centers themselves can be towering apartment buildings in urban centers, sprawling complexes in the suburbs, small cottages or more intimate communities catering to a small number. Populations can range from 20 people to hundreds of residents.

These communities offer many different amenities for residents, just as they offer differing levels of health care services. Personal preferences, in addition to an assessment by a medical professional, will help determine the type of community that fits an older person’s needs.

Independent living is perfect for those seniors who are still healthy and active. These residents typically do not need assistance with daily tasks. Instead they are looking to socialize, meet new people, and enjoy their senior years.

Assisted living residents are largely independent, but may need help with personal care such as bathing and dressing. They are mobile, and typically live in a studio or one-bedroom apartment. Their health is generally stable, so they do not need ongoing medical attention. This is a great intermediate step for seniors who need more help than family members can typically provide at home, but who don’t need the continuous medical care.

Nursing home residents are often bedridden. They generally have a single or semi-private room and receive 24-hour assistance from skilled nursing staff.

A Closer Look at Assisted Living

Assisted living centers should provide seniors with an environment that promotes accessibility, independence, quality of life, dignity, and personal choice. An ideal housing option for those in a transitional stage of aging, residents generally have continuous access to personal care, as well as nutrition and wellness services designed specifically for older adults. In these settings seniors can also enjoy social contact, security, and support while maintaining their independence. Common advantages of assisted living communities include:

Physical Fitness Programs
With the latest in gym equipment, swimming pools, group exercise classes like Tai Chi and Zumba, and personal trainers well acquainted with the needs of older adults, assisted living communities frequently offer opportunities for physical fitness that go far beyond what was available when the resident lived at home.

Social Activities
Living alone can be isolating, particularly after an individual retires, or has trouble driving. Getting out of the house is difficult; seniors lose touch with lifelong friends due to health and mobility problems. Social skills can atrophy if they are not used, causing anxiety when seniors do go out. Without meaningful interaction, the elderly can become withdrawn and even depressed.

In assisted living, residents can easily socialize with peers through planned, structured activities like field trips to museums, zoos, farmers’ markets, shopping trips to local malls and stores, and cultural events both on and off-campus. In common areas seniors may meet for game nights, poker or bridge, movie nights, or special interest groups like scrapbooking or gardening clubs.

A Safe Living Environment
For seniors to be safe in their own homes when their physical health begins to decline, the house itself may need significant modifications, such as shower railings, expanded doorways and bathrooms, or medical alert systems. Assisted living facilities are designed for safety and accessibility. They can also provide immediate help in case of an accident.

Intellectual Stimulation
Recent studies conclude that older adults who remain intellectually engaged throughout their golden years —through reading and study—have healthier brains. This can significantly delay and/or reduce the cognitive effects of aging. To serve this need, many assisted living communities provide a wide range of lifelong learning activities, from computer classes and book clubs to art classes. Many facilities even offer lectures from visiting scholars and other professionals.

Supervised Nutrition
Several factors contribute to the problem of poor nutrition in seniors. Living alone, many may find it unappealing to cook for one, and it’s challenging for family caregivers to monitor whether their loved ones are receiving the necessary nutrients.

Some lack transportation to the grocery store. Appetites can also lessen as we age—either naturally, or due to side effects of various medications. And many people simply don’t like eating alone. They may have trouble following specially prescribed diet restrictions and with less interest in meals, they may indulge in unhealthy, ready-made snack food instead of preparing well balanced meals. They then may eat in front of the TV for company.

For those who like to cook once in a while, many assisted living centers offer kitchenettes, so residents have the option of preparing an occasional meal in their apartments. But in general, communities provide three nutritionally balanced meals, served in a communal environment. They also offer healthy snacks throughout the day. With good company for meals residents generally eat better, keeping them healthier. Dietitians in senior living communities can also design meal plans specifically for those with medical restrictions.

Home Maintenance and Housekeeping
Mowing the lawn, climbing a ladder to change light bulbs, shoveling snow, pulling weeds, vacuuming—caring for a home is a lot of work. As we grow older, routine maintenance becomes more difficult, repairs are delayed, and general housekeeping needs are sometimes overlooked.  Living in a senior community, residents are not only assured that their surroundings will be clean and well cared for, they decrease the risk of injury in trying to keep up with these tasks. (To satisfy a green thumb, residents are often invited to adopt a small garden plot.)

Even renters have to be proactive about their homes if something goes wrong. They need to contact a landlord if there are plumbing, electrical, or other problems in their apartment, and often they must follow up on repairs. For homeowners, it can be more complicated because in aging homes there are more systems and appliances that can break down. In assisted living, residents don’t have to worry about repair responsibilities. If something doesn’t work properly, they simply need to alert a caregiver or member of the maintenance staff and the problem will be addressed, at no extra cost. There’s no worry about the senior letting in a stranger to fix a leaky sink, or being taken advantage of by unscrupulous contractors and repair people.

When an elderly person begins to struggle with driving, the loss of transportation can be a hardship. Not only are they losing their independence, they must rely on friends and family to shuttle them back and forth to appointments. Fortunately, most assisted living facilities provide transportation services for shopping, routine outings, as well as special appointments.

Help with Activities of Daily Living
Family caregivers are often responsible for assisting with the tasks of daily living for an elderly relative, such as bathing, dressing, general hygiene, ensuring medications are taken on time. In other cases, the family employs a home care aide to assist with these activities. Both of these options can place emotional and financial strain on the family. In contrast, one of the basic cornerstones of assisted living is helping older adults with these activities, so that they can continue to live as independently as possible.

The Rewards of Independence
Being able to maintain one’s independence is tremendously valuable—and sometimes that requires accepting help from caring professionals. Assisted living gives seniors access to an active and rewarding lifestyle while meeting their specific physical and medical needs.

For more information on assisted living, contact Spring Arbor.