Senior-focused Living Can Enhance Your Loved One’s Golden Years

May 7th 2016

Caring for an aging parent can take a deep physical, marital, emotional and social toll on the caregiver. It can also be difficult for seniors to feel dependent on an adult child for all of their hygiene, housekeeping, meal preparation and transportation needs — and simply for in-person conversation. Senior-living communities can benefit both senior and caregiver, help alleviate caregiver resentment, and give seniors a renewed sense of independence and dignity.

Assisted-Living Residences and Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)

Assisted-living facilities are similar in many ways to college dormitories. They’re both housing communities populated by people in the same general age group and stage of life. They both provide 24-hour supervision and assistance, dining halls, housekeeping assistance, shared communal areas for socializing, and organized activities and special events.

CCRCs are similar to assisted-living facilities. They offer a "tiered approach" to the changing needs of aging. For example, a married retired couple may move into a single-family home or apartment within the community. If one spouse passes away or develops serious health issues, that spouse can transition to an assisted-living or nursing-care facility in the same complex. This option provides the peace of mind of knowing that, as long as it's financially feasible, aging parents will receive the care they need for the duration of their lives.

Amenities and Facilities Vary

Neither assisted-living nor CCRC facilities are regulated by the federal government. Instead, they're subject to state licensing requirements, which vary. Before selecting a facility, it's important to pinpoint what degree of care your parent will need. Some assisted-living facilities have on-site healthcare and pharmaceutical services and some offer transportation services, but not all seniors will need those services.

Often, facilities that are focused more on social stimulation rather than medical intervention are more affordable. However, it's important to keep the big picture in mind. If a parent likely will need skilled nursing care in the future, it may be best to choose a facility that offers this upfront rather than facing a possible relocation down the road.

Eden Alternative

A recent trend in elder care is enhancing the quality of individuals' golden years. A leader in this arena, Eden Alternative is an international nonprofit organization whose goal is to enhance quality of life for seniors and their caregivers and to transform the institutional culture of long-term elder-care facilities. The organization strives to teach care facilities how to transition from the cold, clinical, stoic, stereotypical nursing home model into living, thriving, creative communities that encourage residents and staff to be mentally and physically active and emotionally engaged.

When visiting one of the 300-plus Eden Alternative-certified senior care facilities in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia, you might see pets wandering the halls, an abundance of blooming plants and children’s groups visiting their "adopted" grandparents. You might hear music and the buzz of animated conversation echoing in the halls. When looking for elder-care facilities for an active, social adult parent, an Eden Alternative-registered facility is a good place to start.

The Green House Project

Similar to the Eden Alternative, the Green House Project is a nonprofit whose goals include creating "caring homes for meaningful lives" and "transforming the culture of long-term care." The premise is that elder care need not be boring, monotonous and lonely. Rather, it can be designed to function like a family in a traditional home. Currently, there are more than 100 Green Houses with another 100 or so in planning in the United States. These elder care facilities resemble private homes and cap the number of residents per home to 10. Each resident has his or her own bedroom and bathroom, and all residents share a common living and dining area. Caretakers are encouraged to spend time meaningfully interacting with their charges.

Engaging, positive, senior living arrangements are out there! With a little research, you'll find one that will be a source of comfort and enjoyment for your elderly relatives in their later years.


Image Courtesy of Salvation Army USA West via Flickr


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