Chapter 10: Assisted Living

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A great and relatively recent advance in the support of seniors has been the development of the assisted living facility, or ALF as it is known to professional caregivers.

As institutions, ALFs lie on the senior care spectrum somewhere between retirement communities, where seniors are mostly on their own, and nursing homes, where seniors are under the constant supervision of nurses and others. In ALFs, help for seniors who have begun to decline physically or mentally is always available on the premises but is not ever-present or overbearing.

ALFs hire staff who can watch from a distance and intervene only when necessary. The level of protection at an ALF is very different from that of both a retirement community and a nursing home.

A Profile of Assisted Living in the United States

According to the National Center for Assisted Living, nearly one million older Americans live in about 38,000 ALF residences. They are generally apartment buildings, where residents live in studio or sometimes one-bedroom apartments. ALFs are outfitted with all of the helpful adaptive devices, like grab bars and ramps.

Striking Diversity

The diversity among ALFs is striking. “If you’ve seen one assisted living community, you’ve seen one assisted living community,” quips Grimes of the Assisted Living Federation. “There’s a lot of pride in our industry in designing communities to meet the needs of the people in the community. Some places are very folksy. Some may be designed around Victorian themes. Some may be modern, contemporary design.” (Grimes, by the way, strongly objects to the use of the term “facility,” which he associates with people being kept against their will; he prefers “community.”)

When you investigate an ALF, find out whether it is able to cope with seniors who develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Review additional chapters of Stages of Senior Care:

Previous: Chapter 9: Retirement and Independent Living Communities  
Next: Chapter 11: Skilled Nursing Homes