Assisted Living Healthcare: Where To Start
Assisted living is a supportive living option, usually for mature adults, with a few variations in type or level of healthcare included. In this article, we’ll dive into what assisted living is and explain the healthcare options it provides.
What is Assisted Living?
Assisted living is often a bridge between living independently in a personal home or independent living community and living in a community with higher levels of personal support. In most cases, the residents of assisted living communities are largely independent and don’t generally need the skilled nursing care provided in hospitals and nursing homes.
There’s more support than in independent living environments, but less than in skilled nursing communities and hospitals. Let’s break down assisted living healthcare even further to learn what services are and are not provided in most communities to determine the level of care you can expect in assisted living.
Assisted Living Healthcare Services
The primary purpose of assisted living is to provide a secure environment where largely independent adults can receive assistance with the activities of daily living (ADLs). ADLs include personal hygiene, dressing, eating, maintaining continence and mobility. While essential daily tasks, most ADLs don’t require high levels of healthcare. That means most assisted living communities don’t follow a medical model. Instead, they help healthy adults live fuller, less stressful lives.
However, some healthcare services, which are specifically tailored to meet the needs of each resident, are often provided. The most common assisted living healthcare services include:
Many people living in AL communities want or need assistance with medication management, which is a common service in assisted living that helps reduce the risk of health problems. In fact, medication management is often cited as the main reason for moving into an assisted living community. The number of medications an assisted living resident takes averages between 12-14 each day. Free to administer their own over-the-counter medications, many residents take a high number of medications than are prescribed. Most over-the-counter medications are never charted and some can lead to serious interactions with their prescription medications.
However, medication management in assisted living can be complicated. Regulations vary concerning who can administer and dispense medications and how much assistance can legally be provided. Some states prohibit assisted living staff from dispensing medications, so depending on where you live, medication management may revolve around staff keeping detailed records and reminding residents to take their medication.
In Oklahoma, assisted living communities are required to provide some form of medication management assistance. In most cases, the staff member responsible will prepare the dose, ensure the medication is taken and create a record about the medication administration.
Basic or Minor Emergency First Aid
Most assisted living communities do provide minor emergency first aid care. Each community will have a certain amount of care they are permitted to provide that is dictated by law. Beyond that, emergency first aid care is provided in an emergency room. Most assisted living communities are situated close to a hospital so their residents can receive the care they require in a timely manner.
Instead of providing pharmacy services directly, most assisted living communities turn to external experts for pharmaceuticals. Some communities (or their corporate owners) stipulate a preferred pharmacy. Other communities choose to use mail order or work with multiple local area pharmacies.
Because residents have the freedom to source their medications from their choice of pharmacy, it’s possible for residents to use multiple pharmacies when needed. However, the use of multiple pharmacies isn’t typically recommended, as it can lead to duplications, redundancies and overlap of prescriptions, or more serious health consequences.
Medical Records Maintenance
In most cases, medical records maintenance is the responsibility of assisted living residents and their families, though assisted living communities will maintain the records they need to support residents. Due to the importance of those medical records, more and more communities are moving towards Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). EMRs allow communities, hospitals and healthcare providers to easily keep and share a resident’s latest health information for more efficient and complete healthcare.
Chronic Disease Management
An assisted living community can help a resident manage chronic diseases. With diabetes, for example, they can assist with blood glucose testing and the administration of insulin. With heart disease and high blood pressure, they can monitor their conditions and take blood pressure readings.
Obesity, chronic conditions and many other diseases are also addressed “in the kitchen.” Meals are planned for each resident, taking their conditions and dietary needs into consideration.
Chronic diseases that require higher levels of healthcare management are not typically handled by assisted living communities, although they may provide transportation services to a local doctor’s office or hospital.
Many assisted living communities regularly schedule a podiatrist to work with their residents to ensure they receive the foot care they need. Some communities also have personal hygiene helpers to assist residents cut and file toenails, buff calluses and provide any needed foot-related care. Regulations often require that the foot care needs of individuals with diabetes be addressed by a podiatrist instead of an assisted living staff member.
Additional Information Concerning Assisted Living Healthcare Services
While not designed to accommodate advanced healthcare needs, most assisted living communities have a nurse or physician on staff to provide medical checkups. If the nurse or physician determines that a resident needs more in-depth healthcare, they may recommend a visit to a hospital or transitioning the resident into a community with a higher level of support.
Most state regulations indicate that an individual can remain in assisted living until such time they require round-the-clock medical or nursing care. Once medical care is required beyond that which the assisted living community can provide, placement in a skilled nursing community may be required. This is often a simple, easy transition, especially if the assisted living neighborhood is part of a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), which includes higher levels of care (such as skilled nursing) in different areas of the same community.
For those not in a CCRC, it may be possible to remain in assisted living for longer with outside assistance. Some healthcare needs can be addressed through the use of third-party providers, such as home healthcare agencies, which may allow the resident to continue to live in an assisted living community despite their need for medical care. These services may require additional out-of-pocket expenses (paid to the third-party provider).
Assisted Living Healthcare Regulations
Assisted living healthcare regulations vary from one community to the next because the laws governing assisted living communities are determined by individual states. Either the department of health, the department of social services or a combination of these two entities oversee assisted living communities to ensure regulations are being met.
Oklahoma Assisted Living
Oklahoma’s long-term care facility requirements are different, allowing communities to provide more services that improve residents’ wellness and enhance their lives. At Concordia, we use regulations as a framework to design healthcare and wellness services that maximize residents’ abilities. Our assisted living community eases stress and makes daily life more enjoyable for residents, while our CCRC model simplifies the transition to higher levels of care.
If you’re looking for an Oklahoma assisted living community, contact us. Your well-being is our priority. We’ll work with you to develop a personalized plan that meets your specific needs while respecting your preferences and desired lifestyle.
Health & Aging, Retirement & Planning