Are Assisted Living Facilities Really Facilities?

Group of seniors drinking coffee who are playing chess in an Assisted Living FacilityIt’s a reasonable question to ask yourself: Why would I want to put my loved one in a “facility”?

The word “facility” isn’t typically one that sounds appealing. It can sound cold or even institutional. While some senior living providers may still use the word “facility,” others have chosen to use the word “community” or “communities” instead.

When you decide it’s time for your loved one to receive assisted living care, you may be unsure of what else to search for other than “facility.” It may be a holdover from earlier times, but you’d be surprised to find that many assisted living facilities offer a lot more than you expect — including a warm and home-like environment. Not comparable to what your parents may remember of the nursing home type experience. 

What Is Assisted Living?

The services and benefits associated with assisted living are known by many different names. Overall, the term can indicate the availability of 24/7 care and oversight that meet the needs of seniors who require assistance with some of the tasks of daily living. Those tasks might include bathing, dressing, and eating, among many others.

Beyond that, assisted living offerings can vary greatly by location, owner, management, and model. Whether a senior living community feels like a facility or a community can depend on whether it identifies as a place where the main priority is that residents receive quality medical care or if it considers itself primarily a social setting (with medical support and services occurring in the background).

Nearly 75% of families who participated in a survey said that an older loved one's quality of life improved after moving into an assisted living community. In this same study, 62% of seniors initially said they would rather continue living at home and be taken care of by someone they know and 85% of families surveyed said they delayed their senior living searches because the older adult in their lives didn't want to move or because a family member associated substandard care with assisted living. Perhaps all the confusion stems from the use of the word “facility” when talking about assisted living?

Assisted living can model two different structures: medical model assisted living and social model assisted living.

Medical Model Assisted Living Facilities

In assisted living that primarily focuses on delivery of medical care and support, it may feel much more like a “facility.” Residents are more likely to reside in rooms and may even have to share space with another resident. 

Medical model assisted living facilities typically have some visible differences if you visit them. You may notice medication carts in the hallway, employees wearing medical scrubs as a uniform, and a centrally located nurses station when you walk in the door. These types of assisted livings most closely resemble a nursing home. 

Social Model Assisted Living Communities

By contrast, assisted living communities that operate based on a social model typically resemble more closely an apartment complex. Emphasis is on maintaining or improving an active lifestyle with focus on quality recreational programs and flexible dining programs. Health care within social model assisted living communities is equally present (as compared to medical model assisted living facilities). Uniforms are not comprised of scrubs, and instead of centrally located nurses stations, there is usually an office within the community that residents can visit the nurse.  

The type of assisted living you choose for your loved one is based on preferences related to how prevalent you want medical care to be. While many assume that assisted living facilities are just like the nursing homes of yesterday, in many cases the word “community” is much more descriptive of what assisted living can offer.

If assisted living is a newer concept to you, or you just want to learn more, check out our latest eBook for more information on what assisted living can offer you and your loved one. 

Complete Guide to Assisted Living