By: Brian Prouty
How does the average consumer tell one assisted living apart from another? And for that matter, how does one separate the hundreds of options that are out there. Per DSHS King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties host 246 different Assisted Living Communities (King 152, Pierce 50, and Snohomish 44).
This doesn’t include Independent communities (senior apartments, income-based senior housing, or non-board and care settings) that do not require licensing and oversight from the State of Washington. These are communities that do not offer assisted living services through their own staff but rather rely on outside agencies to provide and monitor the well being of a resident.
Keep in mind that the primary definition of what Assisted Living is: “An institution that is maintained for the express or implied purpose of providing housing, basic services, and assuming general responsibility for the safety and well-being of the residents, and may also provide domiciliary care”. First, let’s dump the word “institution” and replace it with “community” … sounds a little more friendly, right? Second, what does that definition even mean? In general terms, it means that a community will provide care around “activities of daily living” (ADLs) including, but not limited to, dressing, grooming, bathing, using the restroom, eating, ambulation, and medications.
But here is the big piece to keep in mind, not all Assisted Livings provide the same level of care. There are varying levels of care among the different assisted living communities. Sure, every community helps with ambulation but there is a big difference between walking with a resident because they are concerned with falling and helping someone who cannot get up out of a chair without physical assistance. I like to describe the various levels of Assisted Livings on a 1-10 scale; 1 is independent with care and 10 means the community is able to do everything that DSHS allows within a community. Some communities want to provide minimal to moderate help and cap out at a 6 or a 7 while others provide help with transfers, incontinence, dementia (and more), thereby making them a 9 or 10 on that scale.
So why are there varying degrees of care among different assisted living communities?
It comes down to costs, expenses and how a community wants to position their community (or company) as a brand. Some want to feel like their residents just walked off the golf course and that community probably doesn’t provide too much assisted living care or has a smaller care management staff and might have one nurse in their repertoire.
Different assisted living communities focus their efforts on elevated care needs and embrace those with ample assisted living needs. These communities will have more care staff, more nurses on site, and extended nursing hours.
So why else are there different assisted living communities and a separation in services?
Image plays a big role. It is human nature to avoid facing facts that we need some help…or that we are getting older…or to face our own mortality. I cannot count the number of times I have heard a 90-something say to me “I don’t want to live in one of these places; they are all filled with old people!” Communities know that the image of youthful seniors is good for marketing and keep the traffic coming in the door.
It is important to understand what the right fit is in the short and long term. Allow a professional advisor with industry experience guide you. We know the separation in services and understand the depth of care that is available at every one of those 246 assisted livings.