Common Myths and Assumptions About Assisted Living

Assisted living is often the most attractive option for the elderly. Yet many elderly people, or the younger relatives on whom they depend, are afraid to try it because of the many myths that surround it, which often focus on negative aspects of this form of elderly care. In this article we will dispel many of those myths and talk about what assisted living is really like.

What exactly is assisted living?

One of the common myths relates to the very term “assisted living” itself. Many people think that it is just a newly coined term which refers to something that has already existed for a long time—namely, living in a nursing home. The fact is that assisted living is as modern as the term; it arose only in the 1990s and is a way of helping the elderly live as independently as possible during the final years of their lives. Assisted living facilities are thus replete with programs to enable their residents to enjoy the activities of daily life—playing games, watching TV, listening to music, and outdoor activities such as swimming or going on walks or hikes. Thus, they typically do not have the special equipment for medical monitoring that one would expect to find in a nursing home, although they do have trained personnel who work around the clock to provide required services.

The residence of an assisted living facility usually have their own private apartments, complete with their own bedrooms and bathrooms; or they may be built in the form of semi- private dormitories, with a common room for social activities, as well as a dining room and kitchen.

Who is admitted to an ALF?

Many people also have the misunderstanding that if an elder person needs to be in a wheelchair, or is suffering from urinary incontinence, then he or she will not be admitted into an assisted living facility. The fact is, wheelchairs are allowed on such facilities; however, if a person needs the help of more than one other person in getting in and out of the chair, then an assisted living facility is definitely not the appropriate solution. As for the problem of urinary incontinence, most ALFs will accept such patients as long as the problem can be easily managed, though if it cannot be, the resident will need to be put into a nursing home because it might pose a health risk.

Does Medicare pay?

A third myth is that the services provided at an ALF will be paid for by Medicare. But only highly skilled care services are financed through that system; the less skilled ones have to be paid for either by private individuals or be covered by a long term health insurance policy. Recipients of Medicaid may sometimes be able to live in apartments licensed by ALFs, which may also have programs for those below a certain median income level.

Why are people so reluctant?

Elderly people often think that they cannot move into an ALF because they need to have their families around in case they need help. But many assisted living communities have emergency features that their residence can use when they need them. Others are afraid of the prospect of having to give up the independence that they have grown accustomed to over many decades of living in the houses that they own and have worked so hard to attain—and similarly, being able to come and go any time they want to. In fact, not only do the residents of an ALF enjoy the same privacy and independence as they did in years gone by, but they can also choose among the types of apartments they get to live in—sizes, floor plans, even whether they have separate entrances.

Yet another reason why so many senior citizens are reluctant to move into an ALF is that they do not know the people there, and that they will not be able to do the things they love to do. An ALF can be a great place to make new friends, and residents can choose among the activities they participate in; they can even discover new hobbies!