What is Assisted Living and Does My Loved One Need It?

Although you’re pretty sure your loved one needs assisted living, you feel like you need more information about what “assisted living” actually means. There are so many senior living terms, like memory care or personal care—how do they relate to assisted living?

Getting answers about senior living can seem overwhelming when it’s hard to understand the difference between the options. Most people just want answers to two things: What is assisted living, and does my loved one need it? 

What Is Assisted Living?

Senior assisted living is designed for people who need different levels of care and services, both medical and personal. For many assisted living residents, their lifestyle includes different levels of personal care and memory care. Assisted living residences are usually apartments or, in some cases, companion suites.

These days, assisted living can be as unique as each senior who needs it. While their medical and personal needs are being taken care of, they’re free to enjoy doing whatever they want to do, from visiting with family and friends in their apartment to taking an excursion to see a local show. Seniors in assisted living today can enjoy chef-styled meals, religious services, and yoga. Senior living communities offer a wide variety of amenities and services.

What Is Memory Care?

Memory care and assisted living are similar. However, memory care provides special assistance for seniors who may have memory issues related to dementia or Alzheimer’s. 

Experts with special training provide seniors with memory care services, which often come at an additional cost to assisted living. These experts understand how to deal with the unique challenges presented by memory issues. Seniors in memory care have more structure and supervision to help them navigate each day.  

If your loved one has dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other memory issues, make sure any assisted living community you choose offers memory care services, and consider how the cost will impact your loved one’s overall monthly senior living costs.

What Is Assisted Living Like?

Today, assisted living communities make residents feel like they’re moving to a new home, with everything geared toward maintaining an appropriate level of independence and supporting each senior’s specific wants and needs. Assisted living should offer daily assistance with activities, from cleaning to managing medications.

Assisted living communities typically offer:

  • Meals with different dietary options
  • Medication management 
  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • 24-hour care, including emergency care
  • Enriching social and recreational activities

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What Levels of Care Are Included With Assisted Living?

Senior living communities have come a long way. One reason there are so many options these days is to provide a care level to meet almost anyone’s needs. Assisted living residents aren’t cookie cutters, and they should never be treated as such.

To ensure they meet each resident’s needs, assisted living communities offer various levels of care, including the following.

Supportive Care

Supportive care focuses on delivering in-person reminders to complete daily tasks, such as brushing teeth. This minimal level of care is designed to ensure that regular, healthy habits are maintained, not overlooked.

Assistive Care

Assistive Care is more attentive and supervisory, including in-person reminders such as those included in supportive care, plus one-on-one assistance.

Comprehensive Care

Comprehensive care is the maximum level of care, putting the responsibility of all daily tasks in the hands of a trained, encouraging staff member.

Medication Management

Care that includes medication management is crucial to ensuring a high quality of life for most seniors.


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Which Seniors Will Benefit the Most From Assisted Living?

If you’re wondering what “type” of senior benefits from assisted living, the answer is pretty simple: Many different types of people benefit from assisted living. 

Forget about old ideas of what assisted living means. Assisted living today is all about focusing on a resident’s holistic needs, from their medical care to what makes them happy. Assisted living communities welcome residents’ families, often offer spaces for special events, and plan social activities and outings for residents. Many worried children wind up realizing that moving to an assisted living community empowered their parents to be more active and social, taking away the stresses of living at home. 

The old stereotypes about senior living need to be left in the past. Seniors who thrive in today’s assisted living environments include those who: 

  • Are tired of the daily maintenance of a house and are ready to let someone else do the cleaning and maintenance while they do what makes them happy
  • Need assistance but also still want to be independent
  • Enjoy making new friends and creating tight bonds with others

What Are The Signs My Loved One Needs Assisted Living?

Making the decision to find a senior assisted living community for your loved one comes after a lot of thought and consideration. The hardest question people usually have is simply, “How do I know when my loved one needs assisted living?”

The answer to this question should involve you, your loved one, appropriate family members, and your loved one’s healthcare professionals. If you’re looking for confirmation of things you already suspect, here are a few questions to ask yourself. 

If you answer yes to any of these, it might be time to start talking about assisted living:

  • Are my loved one’s medical conditions getting worse?
  • Is my loved one having trouble managing their medication?
  • Is my loved one struggling to handle money properly?
  • Is my loved one becoming more isolated and depressed?
  • Is my loved one falling behind on personal hygiene and grooming?
  • Is my loved one more sedentary and depressed?

Check Your Loved One’s ADLs and IADLs 

Determining the level of care your loved one may need can seem overwhelming—you want to make the right decision. If it hasn’t happened already, see if your loved one’s healthcare professionals will perform an “activities of daily living” (ADL) and/or “instrumental activities of daily living” (IADL) check. What are ADLs and IADLs?

Activities of daily living (ADLs) include:

  • Feeding
  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Walking

Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are those activities that help an individual to live independently in a community, and they include:

  • Managing budgets—ATM, checks, bills, and so forth
  • Remembering doctor’s appointments and medications
  • Handling housework, meal preparation, and shopping
  • Using the phone and computer to communicate

Healthcare professionals often use an ADL/IADL worksheet to chart these benchmarks and determine the level of care that a senior needs. You may use the checklist to ballpark the level of care your loved one needs, but make sure you have a healthcare professional assess your loved one for an accurate idea of what type of assisted living is appropriate.

How Do I Learn More About Assisted Living Options?

Now that you’re empowered with more information, you want to dig a little deeper and learn more about things like personal care, memory care, or even independent senior living. It’s also important to find out what amenities and services you can expect when searching for a senior living community for your loved one.

Get the answers you need—check out this Where to Start senior living guide.

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