Eenie, meenie, minie, mo…. ALF, SNF, NH. So many options, so many abbreviations, choosing the right one for yourself or a family member be confusing. We all want to ‘do the right thing’ for ourselves or loved ones and taking this giant step into a completely different type of living situation can be both confusing and frightening. Making a smart choice first requires an understanding of the primary purpose of each type of facility to set you in the right direction. Once upon a time, Nursing Homes were the only option for seniors, but in today’s world, there are several options depending on the level of care needed and the length of time one will remain at the facility.The three primary types of care centers are Assisted Living Facilities, Skilled Nursing Facilities, and Nursing Homes, each having its own purpose and levels of care.
Assisted Living Facility
According to the NationalCenter for Assisted Living (www.ahcancal.org/ncal/about/assistedliving/Pages/What-is-Assisted-Living.aspxan) ALF, as it’s often referred to is explained as:
“Assisted living is part of a continuum of long term care services that provides a combination of housing, personal care services, and health care designed to respond to individuals who need assistance with normal daily activities in a way that promotes maximum independence.”
Assisted living services can be provided in freestanding communities, near or integrated with skilled nursing homes or hospitals, as components of a Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC), or at independent housing complexes. Assisted living communities offer a multi-faceted residential setting that provides personal care services, 24-hour supervision and assistance, physical, occupational and speech therapy, activities and health-related services, designed to:
- Minimize the need to relocate (age in place);
- Accommodate individual residents’ changing needs and preferences;
- Maximize residents’ dignity, autonomy, privacy, independence, choice and safety; and
- Encourage family and community involvement.
With almost 30,000 ALFs in the USA, one can choose from a comprehensive menu of options depending on what your goals are.While some are communities offer and encourage independence with additional services in living options for their residents, others may specialize in care for dementia patients or other medical conditions requiring more intensive support with daily life. Most residents are seniors, but some have residents with dementia or other debilitating disability that have occurred earlier in life. A resident may remain in an Assisted Living Facility as long as desired or needed.
As each community may differ from the other, some may provide group dining only for their residents, some may offer private rooms or apartments with kitchenettes, and still others may have an on site cocktail bar or cafe. An ALF may consist of one contained building or may be spread out on a larger property, much like some apartment complexes. Services offered are usually charged additionally to monthly charges and you should ask about them when researching a facility.
In general, most ALFs offer services to encompass a resident’s health and living needs which may include:
- Group dining hall or apartments with kitchenettes or both
- 24-hour supervision by trained staff
- Therapy services including physical, occupational and speech therapy
- Assistance with medications
- Transportation to activities/shopping in town
- Transportation assistance to medical appointments
- Housekeeping and laundry
- Group exercise classes/wellness programs
- Help with daily self-care (bathing, dressing)
- Assistance with medical appointments in-house or external
- Spiritual activities
- Recreational activities (dances, cards, swimming pool, arts & crafts)
- Support medical services assistance (psychological needs, etc)
- Other services (hair salon, barber, cocktail lounge)
- Entertainment(musicians, comics, movies, plays)
All ALF centers are heavily regulated by federal, state and county laws and standards to assure residents’ safety, comfort and care. Those specializing in a particular population, such as memory care, will have additional levels of regulations. All of this is to ensure that the resident is receiving the maximum of care and living standards.
Medicare’s website is an easy, and reliable way, to research a particular facility or to find facilities meeting your needs in a certain geographical area. Go to https://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html?. There is a wealth of information to be found on each facility.
In Part 2, we’ll look at what Skilled Nursing Facilities and Nursing Homes are and how they differ from anAssisted Living Facility.