Aging causes many changes in the human body. Some things occur due to genetics or lifestyle choices, but others are simply a part of nature. Even healthy, active people need to be mindful of their medical care when they get older.
You can’t control everything, but there are things you can do to lower medical risks and protect yourself from common health concerns. Starting as early as possible will give you the best chance of remaining healthy and mobile for years.
Whether you are just entering your golden years or have been there for a while, it’s never too late to improve your wellness. Find out what you can do now to take control of your health.
Eat a Nutritious Senior-Friendly Diet Every Day
A nutritious diet is important at any age, but seniors face more health risks that diet can make better or worse. Older adults should eat high-fiber foods like wholegrain breads, nuts, seeds, and beans. Fried foods are not recommended. Instead, look for dishes that are grilled, boiled, or broiled for maximum benefit.
Also, monitor your fluid intake. Vitamin D-fortified low-fat milk or non-dairy almond, rice, or soy drinks with vitamin D and calcium added are good choices for bone health.
Elderly people tend to not feel thirsty as often as younger people, but still need to drink water to stay hydrated. Talk to your doctor about the right amount and type of fluids to drink if you have bladder problems.
Make sure your diet meets your individual health needs, like allergies or diabetes. If you are a resident in an assisted living community, most facilities will provide special menu items for seniors with dietary restrictions. Having a professional who prepares food for you helps when it comes to healthy eating.
Make Exercise a Normal Part of Your Week
Physical activity helps keep the body in good shape. It also has mental health benefits. People who exercise tend to feel better and are less likely to experience aches and pains. Regular exercise keeps the body limber and strong, which helps to maintain mobility as we age.
Remember to stick with a workout that is safe for you based on your ability level. Seniors who have trouble with balance or strength can still exercise. However, they should stick with exercises that won’t put them at risk for a fall or injury. Seated chair exercises are a good choice.
Seniors should also look for low-impact activities that won’t put too must stress on the joints. Good choices include Pilates, Yoga, swimming, walking, and cycling. Your doctor can recommend exercises that are ideal based on your mobility and health status.
Residents in assisted living usually have access to an event calendar that includes group workouts and fitness classes. These are great opportunities to stay fit and socialize.
All seniors should consult a doctor before making any significant changes to their exercise routine.
Keep Your Weight Where Your Doctor Says It Should Be
Pay close attention to your weight. Your doctor can recommend an ideal weight range based on your build, height, and age. Weight gain is common among older populations who may become more sedentary due to health problems or limited mobility.
Obesity in seniors raises the risk of several serious health conditions including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Weight loss is also a concern. A noticeable drop in weight can indicate an underlying health problem. Seniors should schedule a doctor’s appointment right away if they notice an unexplained change in their weight. Catching problems earlier increases the chances of a better outcome.
Be Proactive About Socializing and Building Friendships
Did you know that our social lives have an impact on our health and wellbeing? Social isolation has been linked to health conditions. Those with poor social relationships were 32% more likely to have a stroke and 29% more likely to develop heart disease.
Loneliness also increases the risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide. Mental health has a direct impact on quality of life and can also have a physical effect. If you or someone you love is isolated or showing signs of depression, seek professional assistance right away.
One of the biggest benefits of living in a retirement community are the social gatherings. Residents are always close to a group of peers and others who they interact with every day. Staff can monitor health and provide more interactions to prevent isolation.
Most facilities host weekly and monthly events, parties, and groups. Residents can join in to meet new people and extend their social circle in a safe, comfortable environment.
Schedule All Recommended Health Screenings and Check-ups
Regular health screenings and check-up appointments are essential to taking control of your health. Catching health problems sooner will give your doctor a better chance at finding a treatment option that works.
If you aren’t sure where to start, begin with a basic check-up with your general practitioner. While at the appointment, talk to your doctor about your health risks and which screenings you need to schedule. They can also suggest how often you should schedule each screening.
Remember to also check in with your dentist and eye doctor. Most adults should have an exam every two to three years but may need to do so sooner if they have health concerns.
Stay Mentally Active with Brain Games and Activities
Your physical and mental health are connected. Keep your brain active with thinking games and activities. Staying sharp with these kinds of exercises helps improve memory and overall mental health. They also reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Seniors can use brain games to monitor their health. If you struggle with activities that were not a problem before, seek medical advice. The signs of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can start as subtle difficulties with familiar tasks.
Mental activities can be lots of fun. Find something that you enjoy that will keep your brain working. Good choices for seniors include:
- Word puzzles
- Memory games
- Trivia games
Choose a Living Situation That’s Safe for You
A big part of taking control of your health and wellness is knowing when you need more support. Even a healthy adult will notice physical changes as they age. Those changes can make it harder to do the things that a person has to do to stay healthy each day.
An assisted living community is a great alternative that puts you in control of your health. These facilities are designed to be safe and accessible for seniors of all ages and mobility levels.
If you have questions about assisted living, let us know. Visit Vista Living Senior Care to find out how we can help you stay in control of your health.
Moving into an assisted living community is a big life change for seniors. It comes with many benefits, including greater convenience, safety, and access to care. The key is choosing a senior home that offers the things you need within your budget.
Many of today’s assisted living facilities have adopted modern amenities and décor styles. They often have websites, which can be a good place to gather information. You can get an overview of what they have to offer along with basic details like location and contact information.
While this is a starting point, it shouldn’t be the only thing you consider when choosing your assisted living home.
Many things can affect your experience in a senior community. Things like how many residents live there, average age, amenities, and the level of care provided influence what life is like for residents.
Once you find an assisted living community that you are interested in, the next step should be asking some direct questions. The following list will help you get started.
How Are New Residents Welcomed at the Senior Community?
Assisted living communities should be committed to creating a positive, comfortable environment for residents. That should start from day one.
Find out how the facility handles welcoming new residents. Do they have a process for introducing staff? Do they offer support for adjusting to the new setting? What steps do they take to understand the needs of a new resident? Is additional staff time allotted to new residents to help them get settled in?
This is important for your first days in the assisted living community but can also indicate how residents are treated overall. A facility that truly cares about the seniors who live there will provide support as soon as they arrive.
How Many Residents Live There and How Old Are They?
Some seniors prefer a smaller group home setting while others may appreciate having a larger community to meet new people. Find out how many residents live at the facility. You should also ask about the average age group.
Find out what the ratio of staff to residents is to ensure that you will have access to assistance if you need it. Too few staff could indicate that you will have to wait a long time if you need something.
Most assisted living communities have approximately one staff member per six to eight residents during the day. The ratio may be closer to one staff member for around 15 residents at night.
You can also ask what the average response time is when a resident requests assistance. A reasonable wait time during the day is around 10 minutes. That will likely be a little longer after bedtime.
How Are Staff Trained and What Skills Do They Have?
Find out how assisted living staff are trained and what skills they possess. Well-educated staff with certifications will give residents the best experience. They will be able to react quickly to situations and provide better care overall.
You should also ask about standards and compliance. Learn more about employee orientation practices and company philosophy. You should also find out how employees are evaluated and how often. This information will help paint a picture of the standard of care provided at the facility.
You should also verify whether staff members are available 24 hours a day and if medical professionals like trained nurses are there.
What Amenities Are Available On-Site?
One of the benefits of living in a senior community is the convenience. Find out what amenities are available on-site. Some may offer things like dining, barber or salon services, podiatry, and more.
The best amenities will depend on your needs and expectations. If there is something you are looking for, ask. If it is not available in the community, you can also inquire about transportation. Some facilities provide transport for medical services and other appointments or to visit local businesses.
Does the Community Host Activities and Events?
A great assisted living community fosters a sense of togetherness among residents and staff. That effort should include activities and events.
Ask about the community’s upcoming events calendar. Do they host holiday gatherings and parties for special occasions? Do they do anything in between, like group workouts, craft sessions, or classes? What about movie nights or musical performances?
See if there is anything that might interest you. Events and activities are great for mental health and they encourage socialization, which can prevent depression and isolation among seniors.
What Is the Meal Service Like?
Your assisted living accommodations will likely include a meal plan. Find out what is included and what kinds of items are typically on the menu. You should look for facilities that offer nutritious, home-cooked meals that are good for you and satisfying.
Most meal plans will include three meals per day, but some also provide snacks.
You should discuss dietary needs with the facility before moving in. If you have an allergy or medical condition that affects what you can eat, make sure they can accommodate it. Most facilities will provide special menus for people with dietary limitations.
Do Residents and Their Families Have a Say?
You and your loved ones should have a say in the care you receive. Find out what voice residents have and what role they and their families play in their care.
Does the facility have a way to share comments or concerns? Are there town hall meetings or a resident council? Do you have recourse if something is wrong or a way to make suggestions?
Also, find out how staff will communicate with your family. This is especially important in case of a medical emergency but should go beyond that. Do they allow visits and if so, what are visiting hours? Are visitors required to contact the facility ahead of time?
What are the points of contact for family members? Who can they call if they have questions about you or your care?
You should also ask about COVID-19 rules. Even if they are not in effect now, they may be reinstated in the future. Your family should know how they can communicate with you if they have to social distance.
What Safety and Security Measures are in Place?
Safety and security should be a top priority for any assisted living community. Find out what measures are in place to protect residents.
Common safety equipment includes railings, non-slip bathtub mats, non-skid step treads, shower chairs, and little to no tripping hazards. Many also include high-profile toilets and levers instead of doorknobs.
As far as security, the facility should have a camera system to monitor entry points and other key areas. Fire alarms are also a requirement as well as an escape plan in case of an incident. Facilities often have areas that are locked and can only be opened by staff to keep residents with dementia safe from wandering.
Is Medication Management Offered?
Older adults tend to take more medications compared to younger people. More pills mean more potential for error. This is even more likely when someone has cognitive decline or other health conditions that interfere with their ability to live independently.
Assisted living communities usually offer medication management. This ensures that residents take the correct dose on schedule. It prevents a potential overdose or missed medication that could lead to worsening health problems.
What Levels of Care Are Provided at the Facility?
Your healthcare needs may change as you age. You may need more support or develop a condition that requires specialized attention, like Alzheimer’s disease.
Can the assisted living community accommodate you as your needs change? Do they offer higher levels of care?
It can be difficult to move an elderly person from one home to another without causing stress or potential harm. Being able to stay at the same location can make these changes easier to manage.
If you want to learn more about moving into assisted living, let us know. Visit Vista Living Senior Care to discuss your needs or schedule a tour at one of our Arizona senior communities.
Staying fit should be a top priority for every senior citizen. When your body is in good shape, you will live more comfortably with fewer limitations. A healthy person is better able to fight off illness and recover from injuries. Improved strength and balance will reduce a senior’s fall risk.
Exercise also improves mental health and wellbeing. Physical activity releases endorphins that boost mood. Regular workouts improve cognitive function and motor skills, lowering the risk of dementia.
Sometimes, going outside or leaving your home isn’t an option. Bad weather makes travel dangerous while social distancing can force seniors to remain in their homes. When this happens, you should have a plan to continue your exercise routine indoors.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 42.5% of people ages 65 to 74 met the federal guidelines for aerobic activity. Approximately 30.9% of people ages 75 to 84 met the guidelines. Those were improvements from previous years, which were around 35.7% and 24.5% respectively for each age group. These numbers should continue to increase as more seniors focus on their health.
Overall, a regular workout routine can improve your quality of life and help you remain independent for longer. The key is knowing how to safely exercise, even if you cannot leave home. The following list will help you build a senior-friendly indoor workout routine.
Walking Around at Home
Walking is a basic form of exercise that is beneficial at any age. It improves cardiovascular health, leading to better circulation and lower blood pressure. Studies conducted at the University of Tennessee and University of Colorado found that walking reduced the risk of stroke for older women.
A Harvard study of 12,000 people found that those who walked briskly for about one hour a day were less likely to experience the effects of over 30 obesity-promoting genes.
The easiest way to get started is to have a planned route through your home. You can increase distance by doing more laps, walking around the perimeter of each room, and by walking around furniture.
Assuming you have no limiting health issues, you should try to get in around 2.5 hours of walking per week. That translates to approximately 30 minutes of daily walking on most days of the week. If you can jog instead, then you can reduce that duration to 1 hour and 15 minutes weekly.
Before you begin, make sure you have cleared away any tripping hazards like low-sitting furniture and rugs. You should have a clear, even path to follow.
Housework Keeps You Fit
You can get things done and stay fit by working chores into your exercise routine. Doing things around the house also burns calories and uses your muscles. The effectiveness of each session will depend on what you are doing, so this might be harder to measure. However, it’s still beneficial in the end.
Have a plan to do as much of the housework as you safely can. You should only do things that you can do based on your mobility and health status. For example, if you have back problems, then carrying a heavy basket of laundry may not be a good idea. However, you could stand and fold the laundry once it’s done to get more time on your feet.
Vacuuming and sweeping floors are also great for physical health because it requires you to both stand and move your arms.
If you have questions about staying safe, talk to your doctor. They can assess your health and mobility and let you know if there are any chores you should avoid.
Low-Impact Yoga or Tai Chi
Tai Chi and Yoga are popular exercises for seniors. They are similar, both being low-impact and gentle on the body. They also introduce a mental component that encourages peace and calmness.
The internet is a great resource for seniors who want to expand their at-home exercise routine with one or both practices. You can search for free online videos that discuss how to get started. You can also connect with instructors that offer virtual classes for a more interactive experience.
Don’t forget to check in with your assisted living events coordinator to find out if they will be offering Yoga or Tai Chi classes or something similar. If you live in a retirement community, then you may have access to group workouts that don’t require travel to an off-site studio or gym.
When learning Tai Chi, Yoga, or any other new workout routine, remember to start slowly. Let yourself learn how to perform each move correctly for maximum benefit and to minimize the risk of injury.
If you are participating in a virtual class, remember that you should focus on personal progress rather than what those around you are doing. Everyone starts at a different ability level, so you should work to improve upon where you were rather than trying to catch up with others. This is the best way to stay motivated and push yourself to do better without getting frustrated or risking injury.
Strength and Balance Exercises
Good strength and balance are essential for senior citizens. Both have an impact on your daily activities. They play a role in your quality of life and significantly influence your fall risk.
A fall injury can be devastating for an older adult. Every year, around 3 million people go to the emergency room due to a fall. At least 300,000 older adults are hospitalized for hip fractures annually. Over 95% of those fractures are caused by a fall. Falls are also the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries.
Anything that you can do to reduce your fall risk is a smart move.
Many exercises that can help in this area. You can try walking heel to toe, putting one foot in front of the other so that your heel and toes touch each time you step. Walk 20 steps this way.
You can also try a single-limb stance. Hold on to the back of a sturdy chair. Lift your right foot and hold that position for as long as you can before switching to your left foot. You should work toward being able to perform this exercise with both legs for one minute without holding the chair.
Wall push-ups are another senior-safe exercise option. Stand one arm length away from a wall. Lean forward and put your palms on the wall at the same height and width as your shoulders. Next, slowly lower your body toward the wall and push back up. It works just like a regular push-up but without having to get on the floor.
Seated Exercises for Senior Citizens
Seniors with mobility limitations may prefer to try seated exercises. These involve sitting in a chair. It’s a better choice for people with back or balance issues. You can still burn calories and build muscle without risking your safety.
Always use a sturdy chair that doesn’t have wheels. You can warm up by doing 30 to 60 seconds of marching while seated followed by 30 seconds of arm circles. Repeat this process for 3 to 5 minutes before moving on.
Next, you can choose exercises based on your needs. If you want to build leg strength, try pillow squeezes. Place a pillow between your thighs or knees and squeeze using your inner thigh muscles. Hold the squeeze for 3 seconds before releasing. You should repeat this exercise 12 times.
If you want more of a challenge, add dumbbells to your seated workout. While sitting, hold a dumbbell in each hand and lift them to shoulder height. Next, raise your arms as high as you can then return them to your shoulder height again. Do this at least 12 times.
There are many ways to stay fit while at home. Come up with a workout routine that suits your needs without risking your safety. If you have questions, your doctor can provide more insight into what an ideal exercise regimen looks like for you.
Many assisted living communities offer exercise classes and fitness opportunities to residents. If you are interested in learning more about senior care, visit Vista Living.
Moving into an assisted living community can feel like a big change for older adults. Some view it as an end to living independently and a reminder of a person’s increasing age.
Many benefits come with moving into assisted living. There are around one million Americans in some type of senior community right now. That number is expected to double by 2030. As our healthcare services improve, so does our longevity. Today’s seniors live active, healthy lives. Many now believe that 80 is the new 65 thanks to innovations in medicine and senior care.
Assisted living communities can enrich a person’s life. They provide opportunities for socializing. They also reduce the burden placed on family members, who otherwise may have to care for aging relatives at home without the resources of an assisted living community.
The difficult part is knowing when it is time to make the move. You should not wait until something bad happens. It is best to begin this chapter in your life sooner when the signs of old age are starting to show but before they become a health risk.
If any of the following apply to you, then it may be time to consider assisted living.
Changes in Mobility and Increased Fall Risk
Our physical capabilities tend to change as we get older. If you notice trouble with balance and strength, this could be a sign that you need assistance. This is especially true if you have had a fall or almost fell in the recent past.
Fall injuries are particularly damaging for older people. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of five falls causes serious injury. At least 300,000 older adults are hospitalized because of hip fractures each year. Over 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls. Falls are also the most common cause of traumatic brain injury.
You should speak to your doctor about fall risk concerns. They can evaluate you and recommend ways to reduce your risk. Assisted living facilities are already equipped with devices and railings that are used to prevent seniors from falling.
Inability to Perform Activities of Daily Living
Activities of daily living include all the skills needed to do the basic things a person does every day. These include keeping up with grooming, dressing, and personal hygiene as well as using the bathroom, eating meals, and moving throughout your home.
If you have trouble in any of these areas, you should learn more about assisted living. These communities have staff available to assist to ensure that you stay clean and healthy. You can talk to the facility about your health status and physical ability to ensure that you retain as much independence as possible while receiving the support you need.
Prolonged Periods of Illness and Recovery
Older adults take longer to recover after an injury or illness. This can occur due to an underlying health issue, like diabetes. It can also happen because of reduced skin elasticity and delayed inflammatory response.
If you take longer to get back to normal after an injury or illness, it may be time to consider a senior-friendly living situation.
Difficulty Managing Household Finances
Financial troubles can also indicate that a person needs additional assistance. Age-related conditions can affect cognitive ability. This can lead to poor money management and make a person more vulnerable to scams.
If you are struggling to pay bills and manage household finances, seek assistance. Ask a trusted friend or family member to help you while you decide if it’s time to move into an assisted living community.
Home That is Not Cleaned or Maintained
Is your house beginning to look poorly maintained or dirty despite your best efforts? This is another clear sign that you need help.
This situation can occur if your physical or mental status has changed or after losing a spouse or loved one who handled the tasks that are going undone. You don’t have to try and do it all alone. Assisted living communities hire cleaning staff that handles everything so you can thrive in a hygienic environment.
Signs of Depression or Social Isolation
Depression is a concern for older people. It is considered a significant predictor of suicide in the elderly. Many things can cause a person to become depressed as they age. Seniors may face a chronic illness or mourn the loss of loved ones. Others may struggle to cope with the inability to drive, work, or do the things that they once enjoyed.
If you experience restlessness, anxiety, appetite changes, difficulty concentrating, poor decision making, changes in sleep patterns, lack of energy, feelings of emptiness, or unexplained aches and pains, you could be depressed.
Depression can also lead to thoughts of suicide and drug or alcohol abuse. If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, seek medical advice immediately.
Exhibiting Dangerous or Unusual Behaviors
If you exhibit dangerous or unusual behaviors, it may be time to consider assisted living. Worrying Behaviors include things like wandering inside or outside for no reason or letting candles burn when you leave the home.
Severe Memory Loss and Dementia Symptoms
Severe memory loss and dementia can make living on your own a challenge. Seniors may experience difficulty using language, misplacing objects, poor judgment, rapid mood swings, and personality changes. Some patients also report lacking initiative, excessive sleeping, and loss of interest in things they used to love.
If you notice the symptoms of memory loss or dementia, you should go to your doctor first. They can evaluate you and provide more insight into your condition and how to treat it. Next, you should consider moving into an assisted living community that provides memory care.
Poor Medication Management
You should be taking your prescribed medications in the right doses at the right times to stay on top of health issues. Poor medication management is dangerous at any age. You may not get enough of what you need, or you could accidentally overdose.
If you find yourself missing doses or forgetting if you took one, it may be time to consider assisted living.
Pets That Appear Neglected
People of all ages own pets. Our animal companions make our lives happier. However, an older person may begin to have difficulty taking care of their pet. If your beloved dog or cat looks underfed, overfed, or otherwise neglected, this could be a sign that you are in need of daily assistance.
Experiences Sundown Syndrome
Sundown syndrome, or sundowning, is a term used to describe changes in dementia patients that occur in the late afternoon or early evening. Patients may experience anxiety, sadness, mood swings, restlessness, confusion, hallucinations, delusions, or even energy surges during this time.
These feelings can cause behaviors that are difficult to manage, like disorientation, crying, screaming, rocking, pacing, resistance, or aggression.
Concern from Friends, Family, or Neighbors
The people around you may pick up on changes before you do. If you have had family, friends, or neighbors express concern over your wellbeing, it may be time to listen to what they have to say.
These are people who care about you and likely know your normal routines. One comment may not mean anything, but if you have had multiple people share concerns, it is likely time to re-evaluate your living situation.
Visit Vista Living Senior Care to learn more about assisted living for older adults.
For family members looking for a home for a loved one, this is always a very tough question to ask, but an essential one, and a question that we often get asked. A full-service assisted living homes (with an excellent management team, nurse on staff, and trained caregivers) can handle most of the end-of-life care situations that arise, but not all the medical conditions that can materialize. Often loved ones want to minimize the chance that a move to another facility will be necessary before end-of-life.
What a Full-Service Residential Assisted Living Home Can Handle:
- Oxygen therapy – There are no specific best practices for the use of oxygen therapy during end-of-life care. However, if oxygen is prescribed by the person’s medical provider, assisted living homes can adequately administer and monitor its use.
- Some wound care with the help of a specialist who comes into the home. Often wound that require complex dressing changes or wound vacuum care is best suited for long-term care facilities.
- Sliding scale insulin requires close monitoring by an LPN or RN and can usually be handled.
- Antimicrobial therapy – This is commonly used to relieve symptoms associated with the end of life. Approximately half of the patients receiving end-of-life care have an infection. Assisted living care homes can work with medical practitioners to determine when antimicrobial therapy is an essential part of end-of-life care.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) – Having COPD can make end-of-life breathing difficulties more severe. Assisted living homes are equipped to handle most cases of end-stage COPD through the use of oxygen and pain medication, as prescribed by a medical professional.
- Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) – is another condition that can be monitored well in an assisted living home. It may be appropriate for hospice care to be included when the patient reaches the final stages of CHF.
- Renal failure – Renal failure usually requires dialysis to deal with decreasing kidney function. Managing chronic illnesses such as renal failure is a specialty associated with assisted living. Many can partner with nearby dialysis centers to provide in-house dialysis/ palliative dialysis with treatment goals being aimed at quality of life rather than medical parameters.
- Acute phase of strokes – Stroke patients benefit from a structure in how end-of-life care is administered. Assisted living homes are capable of providing the level of is needed, and the consistency of delivering that care.
- Dementia – Caring for anyone at the end of life is difficult, but it can be even more challenging if the person has dementia. Assisted living homes are equipped to handle these increased needs and provide the patient with the dignity and respect they deserve.
- Cirrhosis/liver failure – Pain control and the relief of symptoms associated with liver failure during end-of-life care are easily managed by assisted living homes.
- Progressive weight loss – Also called a “failure to thrive,” it is a hallmark of the end of life. It is especially concerning for patients with dementia. Assisted living homes can monitor weight loss and administer appropriate care as directed by medical providers.
- Medication administered by oral route – Assisted living homes are trained to administer oral medications to help manage end of life conditions and symptoms.
When Can An Assisted Living Not Handle End-of-Life Care
As previously mentioned, it is not always appropriate for assisted living homes to care for a patient at the end of life. There are times when a person will require care elsewhere:
- Significant wound care that involves complex wound dressing changes is best suited for long-term care facilities.
- Continuous or intermittent IV is better suited for rehabilitation facilities and long-term care facilities.
- Usually, tubes and jejunostomy tubes are better suited for long-term care facilities due to the requirement for cleaning and monitoring the tubes to prevent infection.
- CPAP, BiPAP, and ventilators require a level of care that is not appropriate for assisted living homes. End-of-life patients with these devices are better suited for long-term care.
- Total parenteral nutrition infusions are common for patients dying of cancer and other terminal illnesses. A long-term care facility best manages it.
What is End-of-Life Care?
End-of-life care, sometimes referred to as late-stage care, is the clinical term to describe the ongoing emotional support and medical care an individual receives during the time leading up to their death. The person may be in the final stages of a terminal illness, succumbing to a lifelong disease, or in the natural stages of the dying process. The length of care is dependent on the reason the person requires it and can last a few days, weeks, or even months.
Regardless of why a person needs end-of-life care, the goal is to help them live as comfortably as possible in the time they have left. Quality end-of-life care also includes:
- Management of physical symptoms to ensure comfort
- Emotional support for the person receiving the care and their family members
- Expectations for the person receiving the care and their family and friends about the process of late-stage care and the dying process
- Financial support, as needed
- Assistance in drafting a will
Knowing when it is time to consider late-stage care is an integral part of the process.
Individuals dealing with terminal illnesses or diseases with a high mortality rate are candidates for this type of care. If the person already resides at an assisted living care facility, the staff may approach family and caregivers when it is time to transition to end-of-life care and support.
Other signs it is time to consider late-stage care include:
- Multiple trips to the emergency room for the treatment and stabilization of an ongoing condition. The condition rapidly worsens between ER trips, and the person’s quality of life is not improving.
- Multiple admissions to the hospital in the same year for the same condition with worsening symptoms
- The decision to discontinue treatment for a terminal illness
What to Expect When End of Life is Near
No two people are the same, but there are some common physical symptoms experienced when the end of life is near. Breathing difficulty, digestive issues, fatigue, and pain are all normal parts of the dying process. Watching a loved one experience these symptoms can be difficult, but it is essential to stay calm so that the patient will feel at peace.
While each person is different, there are some commonalities associated with the body as it begins to break down during the end-of-life stage. What to expect:
- 1 to 3 months before death – The dying person may take more frequent naps and sleep for more extended periods; have a diminished hunger and thirst; begin to withdraw from friends and family; communicate less; stop engaging in previously-enjoyed activities.
- 1 to 2 weeks before death – Changes in sleep patterns and decreased appetite and thirst are the most noticeable signs of this stage. The dying person will also have less urine output and fewer bowel movements, increased pain; congested breathing; and changes in their blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. It is not uncommon for the dying person to appear confused.
What Questions to Ask an Assisted Living Facility About End-of-Life Care
Create a list of questions to have on hand when touring an assisted living facility to ensure it matches your loved one’s needs. Some of the things to ask are:
- What is your patient to staff ratio?
- What type of training does your care staff receive?
- Is your staff trained in Alzheimer’s disease and other memory-care needs?
- Are staff members on-site 24/7?
- Are staff members trained to administer medication?
- Do you have in-house nurses and doctors on staff?
- What are your security measures?
- Are there additional services available if care needs change?
- Do you offer end-of-life care?
- Can you provide references?
There are red flags to watch for when asking your questions and touring assisted living facilities. The biggest red flag is a lack of respect. Pay attention to how staff members interact with residents and with one another. Are they spending more time socializing with each other than caring for the residents?
Other red flags include:
- Managers are unavailable to answer questions on request. If they are missing in action during your visit, it may be a sign they are overworked or inattentive.
- The facility lacks choices for everyday living needs, such as your loved one’s choice of food, clothing, and sleeping time. While some routine needs to occur, you don’t want your loved one to feel like they are in prison.
- The facility is located in an unsafe neighborhood.
- The staff is rude to you or uncaring toward residents.
- The residents do not look well cared for, and the facility is cluttered or dirty.
- There are violations or complaints against the facility.
- The administration avoids discussing fees for services.
With Which End-of-Life Conditions Can Assisted Living Provide Comfort?
Some assisted living communities do not provide end-of-life care. For those that do, there are conditions with which they can provide comfort and support.
1. Pain and discomfort
Pain and discomfort are common at the end of life, especially during the final weeks leading to a person’s death. It can be difficult for loved ones to watch, but there are things assisted living providers can do to help.
Because there is no need to worry about the long-term effects of pain medication – including addiction – pain medication will be administered to ensure the patient is comfortable and with pain management in mind. Morphine is commonly prescribed during the end of life, but other pain medications can be used. Assisted living providers can work with palliative medical specialists to find the right fit.
2. Breathing problems/shortness of breath
Just as it can be challenging to see a loved one in pain, it also is painful to watch them struggle to breathe. Shortness of breath and the ability to take a deep breath is common during the end of life. Sometimes it may even sound like rattling in the chest. This is caused by fluid collecting in the dying person’s throat. Assisted living providers can ease breathing difficulty by elevating the patient, using a humidifier, and using a fan to circulate the air in the room.
3. Skin irritation/skin breakdown
As we age, our skin naturally becomes drier. Once a dying person begins to experience a diminished desire to eat and drink, dry skin can worsen. Sitting or lying in one position for too long also can cause bed sores. Assisted living care teams can use lotions to help keep the dying person’s skin moisturized. Shifting their position throughout the day will help to prevent bedsores.
4. Digestive problems
It is not uncommon for people near the end of life to lose their appetite. The natural result can be nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Pain medication can make constipation and nausea worse. Assisted living care staff can work with the patient’s medical providers to find a balance of pain medication and other intervention measures to ease these symptoms. Assisted living centers may suggest offering smaller meals to the patient to help encourage eating, prevent dehydration, and help the person to eat if they feel too weak to feed themselves.
5. Temperature sensitivity
Shifting from being too hot to too cold is common at the end of life. If the patient is constantly kicking off a blanket, they may be trying to tell you they are too warm. Shivering can be a sign the person is too cold. Assisted living facilities capable of handling end-of-life patients are trained to watch for these signs and ensure they are comfortable.
When we do not eat or drink as frequently as we once did, fatigue is natural. Assisted living care staff can help ease fatigue by keeping activities simple for the person. This may mean switching to sponge baths instead of showers and placing a portable toilet next to the person’s bed to reduce the number of trips to the bathroom.
How to Evaluate if an Assisted Living Home is Equipped to Handle End-of-Life Care
When it comes to evaluating whether an assisted living home is equipped to handle end of life care, safety is the bottom line. You can ask questions to determine if an assisted living home is the right choice for you:
What can I expect from end-of-life care in your home?
- Who will be administering the care? What are their qualifications?
- Do you have a plan for the administration of my care?
- How will my pain be managed?
- How will you communicate with my family about my care and ongoing needs?
Assisted living homes that fail to answer questions of this nature, or offer only vague answers are incapable of providing the quality care you deserve during the end of life.
Comparing End-of-Life Options
Assisted living homes are not your only end-of-life option. It is best to compare all of your choices before making a decision.
Both hospice and palliative care provide comfort. Palliative care can begin at diagnosis and occur in conjunction with treatment. It focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. Hospice care begins after treatment of the disease is stopped and when it becomes clear the person will not survive the illness. Hospice care is generally recommended for persons with six months or less to live and can be provided at home or at an assisted living home under the guidance of a hospice physician and nurse.
Other options for care include:
- Home-based care is possible but depending on the level of care the person requires, it may not be ideal. Caregivers involved with an in-home care situation will need to be well organized and consistent. The benefit is the person will feel more comfortable in their home environment. A significant drawback is the lack of access to the kind of medical equipment that can make end-of-life care easier for all involved.
- Long-term residential facilities are ideal for end-of-life care that requires access to a variety of medical and personal care services.
- Hospital-based care should be reserved for only those who require intensive levels that frequently require the supervision of medical professionals.
Choosing Vista Living as the Right Assisted Living Facility for You
Vista Living’s caring and compassionate staff understand the stress and anxiety involved with end-of-life care. We ensure the dying person and their loved ones are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve through every step of the process. Contact us today to learn more about how Vista Living can help your loved transition.
With so many senior living options available in today’s market, it’s easy to become overloaded with choices. As you look for long term care, you will see both assisted living facilities and assisted living homes. But do you know the difference between the two? It’s important to understand the level of care and the quality of life that each offers to your loved one.
Assisted Living Facilities
Assisted living facilities are a senior care option for older people who are unable to live on their own. A facility offers 24/7 personal care support services, such as:
- Medication management
Most assisted living facilities have varied service levels, such as independent living, skilled nursing care or memory care units for Alzheimer’s or dementia residents.
Typically facilities house anywhere from 40 to 300 beds in either private or semi-private apartments that may be fully furnished and possibly include a small kitchen area although three healthy meals and snacks are usually provided by the facility. Seniors can socialize and eat with other residents in a central dining room. Transportation services, social activities, and other events are scheduled to keep residents socially active.
The prices for many assisted living facilities usually are 30% higher than residential assisted living. For memory care it typically increases monthly costs by 20-30%.
Assisted Living Homes
An assisted living home is for seniors who would rather live in a more cozy, home-like environment, generally at a slightly reduced price generally. Similar to a senior care facility, assisted living homes offer basic personal care, food services and activities with social engagement. Many homes offer dementia or other forms of memory care. Also, many of these homes provide medical care through their own registered nurse or a mobile medical service. These homes generally resemble residential houses that are tailored to deliver assisted living services.
Assisted living homes are generally much smaller facilities providing care for up to 10 to 15 seniors. In this way, they’re able to offer a more personal and intimate environment for your elderly loved ones. Assisted living homes may also be referred to as:
- Residential Care Homes
- Board and Care Homes
- Personal Care Homes
- Group Homes
- Adult Family Homes
- Adult Foster Care
Assisted living homes are perfect for seniors who prefer to live in a warm community environment and do not need constant medical and personal attention. Here are some of the services provided by most residential care homes:
- Meal preparation
- Medication management and medication administration
- A semi-private or private room
- Some facilities offer financial and healthcare management
Which Solution is Right for You?
As a provider of assisted living services, Vista Living has a great deal of experience helping families make the right choices for care for their loved ones.
Firstly, ensure that the home or facility has the level of care that your senior needs. If your loved one needs 24/7 attention, only home health agencies, hospitals, and skilled nursing facilities offer this kind of service. Generally, facilities might have more specialized care options but, being larger, they might lack more of the community feel of a home.
The licensing of senior living communities varies by state and therefore there are varying degrees of quality of care and qualifications of healthcare providers, so make sure you do your homework on the facilities you are considering. Ask for any to see recent surveys of the facilities, review references thoroughly and read reviews online. Also, visit and compare different types of homes.
The majority of families make decisions based on the ease of visiting family members. Assisted living homes generally are more widespread and there are more local options available. Most, if not all, families think that location is a major factor in selecting an assisted living facility for your loved one.
Pricing for Assisted Living Homes
For this smaller residential assisted living setting it generally costs 30% less than the larger facilities. Remember that the prices depend on the services offered, the quality of the caregivers and the location of each facility!
For any additional questions on assisted living care, please contact us, we would be happy to help.