Assisted Living: Providing Support While Preserving Independence

In the spectrum of senior care, assisted living is an option that falls between independent living and skilled nursing or long-term care. Assisted living facilities (ALFs) offer a viable solution for seniors who can live on their own but may also need some assistance. A new concept just three decades ago, assisted living is the fastest-growing housing option for seniors today. Nearly 16,000 ALFs are operating across the U.S.

“In assisted living communities, residents have the best of both worlds: independence, for a self-sufficient living experience – plus the assurance that care is available if it’s needed,” says Andrea Driggers, regional director of business development at StoneGate Senior Living. StoneGate is a leading provider of rehabilitation, skilled nursing, assisted living, and memory care services in Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.

“Unlike skilled nursing or long-term care, assisted living is not based on a medical model. We’re developed on a social model, offering our residents choice, fluidity, and community in their lifestyles.”

Bringing peace of mind

“For many seniors, assisted living provides exactly the level of care they need to thrive in the next phase of their lives,” Driggers notes. “They enjoy a home environment in a comfortable, apartment-like setting – with medication oversight, physician appointment management, and access to emergency medical help if it’s needed. This provides tremendous peace of mind to residents and their families.”

A licensed nurse is onsite 24×7 in StoneGate assisted living communities to monitor residents and ensure all care needs are met. Residents can also receive home health services, such as assistance with bathing and dressing, from an outside provider. “Residents contract independently with these providers, who deliver services in our ALFs, just as they would in the home.”

 Being independent

 Fostering independence is a key tenet of assisted living. Unlike being in a skilled nursing or long-term care facility, residents can lock their doors and come and go as they please.

StoneGate assisted living communities also offer several dining options for independent decision making. “Residents can eat in the dining room when they want to or dine in their own room,” Driggers notes. “We offer restaurant-style dining, with three fresh, nutritious meals a day. Residents also have their own kitchenettes, with a full-size refrigerator and a microwave, for eating or entertaining in their own space.”

Belonging to a community

 Living alone at home can lead to isolation and loneliness – feelings experienced by more than 40 percent of seniors. “Assisted living communities can be a remedy for loneliness,” Driggers says. “Living in a group setting provides abundant opportunities to connect – with a variety of activities under one roof and people to do them with.” Social events range from dances and movie nights to art classes, computer lessons, and group outings.

Residents can also participate in StoneGate’s LifeWorks Senior Wellness program, which offers a full roster of purpose-filled activities. “We promote overall wellness in body, mind, and spirit – providing everything from group fitness classes and wellness assessments to cognitive and music therapy.”

Beginning at the right time

Key to a successful ALF experience is knowing when it’s time to make a move from home to assisted living. “Often, families prolong keeping their loved one in the home setting,” Driggers notes. “They have the best intentions in maintaining mom’s or dad’s independence, but – as primary caretakers – may find themselves exhausted and ineffective as their loved one’s needs intensify.

“In skipping the assisted living option, many reach the point where mom or dad no longer meets the criteria for assisted living – for example, the ability to walk and to stand, sit, and evacuate the facility without assistance. At that point, the only options available are skilled nursing or long-term care.”

Part of the hesitance to pursue assisted living is financing. Two StoneGate assisted living facilities – Lakewest and Simpson Place – solve the cost challenge by working closely with government programs to provide funding. Low- and moderate-income residents receive financial assistance through a combination of Social Security, Medicaid, and Section 8 Housing vouchers.

 Bridging to future care

As residents in assisted living experience changing needs, they can step up their living experience to skilled nursing or long-term care. “Key to our role is monitoring each resident and working with the family to transition the resident to a higher level of care if it’s needed,” Driggers says. Many StoneGate communities are multilevel, offering independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and long-term care – all on the same campus.

“This range of living options enables seniors to age in place, so if they fall or suffer a debilitating illness, they can move to the next level of care without having to leave the community. They can continue to experience the comfort and familiarity of friends and staff – in the community they know as home.”