Promoting Independence in Assisted Living

An older individual elects to move to assisted living in many cases because they need (or at least desire) assistance with some activities of daily living. There are also other individuals that are quite able to do most or all activities of daily living but move to assisted living to thwart a sense of loneliness they had been experiencing by living on their own.

The reality is that a person need not lose much in the way of independence by moving into an assisted living community. Rather, assisted living is actually in a position to promote the independence of a resident. Through this article, we discuss some important strategies through which independence of residents can be promoted in an assisted living community. These strategies include:

  • Customized approach to services
  • Assisted living helps people get out and about
  • Safety and security in assisted living enhance independence
  • Assisted living provides more discretionary time

Customized Approach to Services

One way in which an assisted living community is able to promote the independence of residents if by avoiding a one size fits all approach to providing services. Rather, an assisted living community develops a specific care plan with each resident to determine what precise types of assistance a particular person really needs. For example, a person in assisted living might be capable of taking care of activities associated with grooming, dressing, and bathing. That individual doesn’t need assistance in these areas and will be left free to tend to them on his or her own. 

In some instances, the primary needs of an assisted living resident are transportation and a desire for a sense of community. That individual doesn’t need to sacrifice personal independence by being forced to accept other services that simply are not necessary.

Even when it comes to meals, when appropriate an assisted living community permits residents to prepare their own meals (assuming the facility has resident resources that permit individual meal preparation). In other words, provided a person moves into an assisted living community with appropriate resources (apartments for residents with kitchens), a resident of an assisted living community can maintain autonomy and independence in regard to meal preparation (when and if he or she so desires).

Assisted Living Helps People Get Out and About

Another way in which an assisted living community promotes resident independence is found in the fact that this type of long-term care assists residents to get out and about. JAMA Internal Medicine provides some alarming data about older individuals:

Over 2 million women and men in the United States age 65 and older are homebound. Another 6 million people in this same age cohort are semi-homebound, meaning that they really do not get out that often all. In the end, over 8 million people in the United States who fit into these profiles lack the freedom to leave their home. By moving into assisted living, these individuals that were once lacking in regard to their independence and not able to do much, were able to expand their activities because of some basic assistance provided in assisted living.

Safety and Security in Assisted Living Enhance Independence

Millions of Americans fall in their private homes each and every year. A considerable majority of these individuals are senior citizens. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a full 33 percent of all older adults fall annually. In many instances, the injuries sustained in these falls can be severe and even debilitating. 

Falls in assisted living communities cannot be prevented altogether. However, there are heightened safety features in assisted living communities that are not necessarily found in private residents. Thus, the risk of more serious falls is reduced. 

In addition, time and time again, older people who live alone and fall may spend an inordinate amount of time on the floor and injured before assistance arrives. This heightens the severity of an injury when this type of scenario plays out. 

Beyond lowering the risk of severe falls that can permanently impede an individual’s mobility and independence, a person living in an assisted living community will be less likely to curtail their activities to prevent falls in the first instance. An older person living alone is apt to place limitations on his or her own activities as a means of attempting to reduce the risk of falls and injuries. While this might be wise on some level, it is also a process that limits an individual’s overall independence. 

Assisted Living Provides More Discretionary Time

Whether capable to make their own meals of not, most residents of assisted living are eager to take advantage of meals prepared by the communities in which they reside. Assisted living communities are committed (and legally required) to provide wholesome, healthy, and tasty meals to their residents at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

By taking advantage of eating meals in the community dining room or even having meals delivered to a resident’s apartment frees up time that otherwise would be spent shopping, meal planning, and preparing meals. In the end, taking advantage of meals prepared by the staff of an assisted living community frees up more discretionary time a resident can use doing those things that he or she enjoys. A resident of assisted living has more time and freedom to engage in preferred activities.

In a similar vein, assisted living communities usually have laundry service available for residents. Thus, this is another mundane activity that an older person can assign to someone else. This also frees up more time to permit an assisted living resident to enjoy more freedom and do more activities that the person finds enjoyable. 

In summary, there are three key takeaways when it comes to assisted living and the promotion of independence of older individuals:

  • Most older women and men erroneously assume that the move to an assisted living community means giving up independence. In the grand scheme of things, this could not be further from the truth in most instances.
  • Assisted living communities are designed to support and promote ongoing independence of their residents.
  • While seniors may feel like they have something to lose by moving out of their family homes, in the final analysis they also have a great deal to gain.