Many people have heard horror stories about assisted living facilities in the United States. The good news is that these horror stories aren’t true for every facility, and most older adults can age in place (remain in their own homes safely and comfortably). Assisted living facilities are also not all bad, especially when you find one that is the right fit for you or your aging loved one. Here are some of the pros and cons of assisted living facilities.

Pro: Activities

Activities are critical in assisted living facilities as older adults are often bored and isolated, which can harm their mental and, ultimately, physical health. The good news is that most facilities allow for daily activities. Some even plan specialized activities for those with dementia, as they tend to lose interest in activities they once loved. Examples of activities in assisted living facilities include:

  • Walking
  • Reading/Story time
  • Parties
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Music/dance
  • Gardening
  • Exercising
  • Cooking classes
  • Board games
  • Arts and crafts

When it comes to finding activities that everyone can enjoy, nursing home staff must pay attention to what each of the residents enjoys doing. Not everyone will like, or be able to participate in, every activity, so keeping everyone’s abilities in mind is essential. Also, the goal is to enjoy the action and not necessarily achieve or accomplish a particular task.

Con: Costs

One of the most well-known issues of nursing homes and other types of assisted living is their costs— and the more amenities a facility has to offer, the more it will cost. As of July 2023, the median price of nursing home care in the U.S. is around $9,000 monthly for a private room, and shared rooms are a little less expensive. This also depends on the type of facility, whether it’s a skilled nursing center, assisted living, or memory care for elders with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Another con is the inability of Medicare to cover assisted living costs for all people. Medicare usually only covers assisted living costs if medical, skilled nursing, and long-term care are needed. Some residents of assisted living facilities have to depend on extra coverage from Medicaid, social security administration programs, and long-term care insurance.

Pro: Medical Care

On the other hand, many assisted living facilities provide medical and skilled nursing care, essential for elders with certain medical conditions requiring specialized care. Specialized care implies that the families of the nursing home residents don’t possess these skills themselves, and they will receive better care in a skilled nursing facility. This is especially true for dementia patients, although elders without dementia may still need round-the-clock care in some way, and only a skilled nursing facility can provide that type of care.
This also ties into nursing home costs as some of the more affordable nursing homes don’t provide as quality skilled nursing care as some of the more expensive facilities. But at the same time, most Medicare plans will help pay for those who need this specialized care so that it won’t be so expensive for the families or the patients themselves.

Con: Poor Conditions

Another well-known downside to assisted living facilities— nursing homes, particularly— is their poor conditions. While there are good quality nursing homes, far too many are overcrowded with patients and understaffed. These two combinations can lead to things like:

  • Wandering patients
  • Medication errors
  • Falls, fractures, and dropped patients
  • Dehydration, malnutrition, and choking accidents
  • Bed rail entrapments
  • Assisted living abuse and neglect (in general)

Too many patients and too few staff members can lead to improper patient monitoring and even burnout leading to assisted living staff abusing and purposefully neglecting their patients. Patients may be too afraid (or unable) to speak out against abuse, so it’s vital to notice signs like sudden changes in behavior and bruises or broken bones.

Placing your aging loved one in an assisted living facility is a good idea if this is the best option— meaning that no other option would be better for their well-being. With that said, Medicare and other insurance may be able to help pay for a high-quality nursing home that is adequately staffed and the staff is appropriately trained. If your aging loved one doesn’t need specialized care 24/7, then a retirement community may be a better option, or maybe they can age in place.

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