Aging Well Partners
- Mar 17
- 4 min
Assisted Living and Memory Care – Shedding Some Light on the Subject
Assisted living as an alternative to living at home is a relatively new phenomenon. It began in the early 1980s when neighborhood residents began helping their elderly neighbors with anything from cooking and cleaning to showering and grooming as a way to help them avoid placement in the nursing home setting. Some neighbors started opening their homes to those elderly people living near them, offering to help them with all their activities of daily living, including showering, grooming, cooking, cleaning, and transportation to doctor’s visits and the grocery store, again to avoid these beloved aging neighbors being placed in nursing homes to live out their “golden years”.
Assisted living is now a heavily regulated industry in California through the Health and Human Services Agency and the Department Social Services. To operate an assisted living home or community, one must attend 80 hours of training and pass a stringent three-hour exam to gain their Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE) Administrator license. Continuing education units must be maintained yearly to keep this certification current.
People enter assisted living homes and communities for a variety of reasons, the biggest of them being that they can no longer care for themselves in a safe and healthy manner at home (or alone) any longer. A typical scenario is one where an aging adult has suffered an illness or injury and has been taken to the hospital for treatment. From the hospital, they are usually discharged to a skilled nursing facility where they continue rehabilitation until they have attained their care plan goal or they reach a plateau (additional progress is unlikely), at which point they are discharged into the care of an assisted living home or community. Assisted or supportive living comes in all shapes and sizes – from the small 6-bed residential homes to the 200+ apartment style living in the larger communities. So how do you choose an assisted living home or community for yourself, or an aging loved one?
The best way to search for assisted living homes and communities is by working with a credential placement person or agency – specifically, look for Certified Senior Advisor (CSA). Local placement specialists are far more likely to have firsthand experience with the various homes and communities they may refer to you. They will speak with you about any care needs you or your loved one may have, budgetary constraints that must be adhered to and any geographic preferences that may be voiced. Once your placement specialist has gathered this necessary information, he or she will go about narrowing down the over 600 RCFE options in San Diego County to a manageable 3-5 places. Often, a placement specialist will schedule the tours for you with these homes and communities and accompany you as you look at each of the suggested homes and/or communities selected. Your placement specialist is there to answer your questions and advocate for your best interests. If you choose to use online agencies, be advised that the person you are speaking to may not even live in the area you are interested in. They may not have firsthand knowledge nor experience with any of these homes and communities and you will be on your own when scheduling and going on tours of each place. One final note about working with an online agency when it comes to finding the right care setting for you or an aging loved one: once you or a family member has started down the path of working online, you may be hard pressed to find a local placement specialist who can then help you if you run into challenges or issues.
When searching for memory care for a loved one, you want to be especially careful about who you are going to work with to find the right place for your loved one.
The type and severity of dementia is crucial to the placement process, which is why a thorough care discovery should be done by your placement specialist before any potential home or community is discussed. Some residential care homes will take residents with dementia while others may not have adequately trained staff nor an ideal living space to care for someone with dementia. Some communities may be unwilling to care for certain kinds of dementia due to the behaviors that typically accompany that kind of dementia. Therefore, it is imperative your placement specialist know the various RCFE providers – what they can care for, what they cannot care for, who they prefer as residents and who they will likely decline as a resident. This knowledge of memory care providers can mean the difference between a less stressful situation for you, the person searching for care, or a time consuming and often times disappointing series of rejections by the providers.
Whether you are looking into the independent living/assisted living communities for yourself, or an aging loved one, this journey of finding the right place is as unique as the individual looking for it. This is a “one size fits one” type of industry and don’t let anyone tell you differently. What may have worked for your neighbor, who went looking for independent living and assisted living community because she got tired of trying to keep up a 4-bedroom/3 bath/3200 square foot house, may not work for you. Furthermore, many of the larger communities offer their current residents a cash bonus or reduction in rent for referring a friend who ends up moving into the community. Just remember that there are many options when it comes to independent living, assisted living and memory care homes and communities from which to choose here in San Diego County. Allow an experienced, credentialed, and knowledgeable placement specialist work on your behalf to find exactly what you are looking for. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, most placement specialists are free of charge to you, the client. They are paid by the RCFE providers; utilize their knowledge and expertise to help you find that needle in the haystack that is the best fit for you or a loved one.
Kie Copenhaver is a Certified Senior Advisor™ (CSA™), Gerontologist, and co-founder of Aging Well Partners. Kie has worked over 25 years in the healthcare and aging industries, advocating for patient’s rights and the ability to choose what’s best for them. She has taught at Mesa Community College in the Health Information Technology department and currently gives talks at Oasis Lifelong Learning geared towards planning ahead and aging well. When Kie isn’t working, you can find her doing yardwork and digging in her flower beds. Find Kie at www.agingwellpartners.com