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Living May Provide Freedom
Michael A. Piekarz
A lack of knowledge might be keeping many seniors and their families
from the freedom many have found by choosing to live in an assisted living
“I think a misconception keeps a lot of people away,” said senior
Joyce Koltun, who chose the assisted living option. “To me, it’s
like living in my own apartment complex that just requires me to follow a few
simple rules.” Fellow resident Ernie Case agreed. “I think assisted
living has a negative connotation to many people.”
The term “assisted living” refers to retirement communities designed
to provide housing and sheltered services for seniors by putting an emphasis
on the social and personal requirements of residents. The communities provide
some assistance with daily activities and health care while simultaneously allowing
residents to age with dignity.
“Loss of freedom is a big concern to new residents,” says Jacqueline
Jordan, Community Relations Director for Oakdale Heights. “So everything
we do here is focused on respecting the privacy of the residents and accommodating
their active lifestyles.”
At most assisted living communities, housing, services, activities and employee
training are customer-centered, and the ultimate goal is to provide a place satisfactory
to both residents and their families by providing a middle ground between independent
living and a nursing home.
Generally, the assisted living designation means that a retirement community
has compliance with laws allowing staff to provide a given level of service to
residents who require special treatment. Many facilities that are licensed to
provide assisted living also provide independent living services.
Residents typically enjoy their own room or apartment, three meals per day, assistance
with personal care, laundry service, transportation and medical supervision. “If
anything, this type of living allows you to be independent,” says Koltun. “It
can accommodate you if necessary, but you are free to live the way you choose.”
Most facilities that provide assisted living services follow a philosophy of
personalized care that gives as much autonomy as a resident wants or needs. The
communities, along with the assistance of residents, are able to determine a
level of care that specifically meets the needs of each individual.
The freedom from day-to-day tasks is what causes many residents to make the assisted
living choice. “My children thought I was crazy when I told them I wanted
to enter a retirement community, but I had done my research and told them that
this is what I wanted to do,” said Koltun. “It caught them by surprise
because I am such an independent person.”
Case also chose to move to a retirement community. “I was living in a motor
home and enjoyed it a great deal, but the physical requirements of maintaining
it were becoming a problem,” explained Case. “So I called my son
and told him find me a place where they will feed me.”
Most of the time, the decision to enter an assisted living community is based
on social rather than medical concerns. “Socialization is usually the biggest
concern when families contact us. They don’t want their loved ones to become
isolated from other people,” stated Jordan.
“In some cases,” said Jordan, “they have not had contact with
anybody other than their families for a period of time, so they are shy and have
forgotten how to interact with other people. We do everything possible to alleviate
Due to the emergence of managed care and integrated delivery healthcare systems,
assisted living stands as a less-costly alternative to nursing homes or home
health care. On average, the per-diem rate for assisted living in a private room
is about two-thirds that of an equivalent room in a nursing home according to
the Assisted Living Federation of America, an industry organization.
While residents or their families generally pay the cost of care from their own
financial resources, an individual’s health insurance program or long-term
care insurance policy might reimburse some of the costs. There are also residences
that have their own financial assistance programs.
While government payments for facilities with assisted living have been limited,
some state and local governments offer subsidies for rent or services for low
income elders. Others may provide subsidies in the form of an additional payment
for those who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid.
Many seniors fear living alone and being vulnerable, or as a boarder with their
children or put away in the suffocating cocoon of a traditional nursing home.
By choosing assisted communities, they exchange their fear for living in togetherness,
comfort and care while maintaining their sense of independence.
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