Assisted Living Services

Assisted Living Healthcare Services

Almost 900,000 Americans are currently residing in assisted living communities, and with good reason. Assisted living is a community-based living option for adults that need some help with daily tasks, but don’t need consistent medical care.

In most cases, assisted living provides help with the activities of daily living (ADLs), such as dressing, bathing, eating and medication management. However, additional healthcare services, which are specifically tailored to meet the needs of each resident, can be provided.

In this article, we discuss the various levels of care assisted living residents receive to help you determine if this is the right choice for you or your family member.

What Healthcare Services Are Provided in Assisted Living?

Unlike nursing home staff, whose job is to provide skilled nursing services, assisted living professionals help residents engage, connect and grow by providing personal care.

Assisted living communities will typically have a registered nurse on-site throughout the week, as well as a nurse on-call 24/7. Additional aides, medical attendants and personal care assistants help with day-to-day personal needs of residents.

Regulation of what each community provides happens at the state level, so you’ll see slightly different residence requirements and healthcare service capacities. In general, though, when you look at what different assisted living communities provide, you’ll find a lot of similarities. Major differences are typically in staffing, wellness philosophies and the type of lifestyle the community promotes.

The most common assisted living healthcare services include:

Help with ADLs

It’s common for adults to need some help with daily tasks. In fact, more than 21% of people aged 85 and above need help with activities of daily living (ADLs). Almost nine percent of 75- to 84-year-olds need the same kind of assistance. In assisted living, people can rely on having this kind of support to maintain their health. In the typical assisted living community:

  • 64% of people get help with bathing
  • 57% get help with walking and mobility
  • 48% receive help dressing
  • 40% receive support in toileting

Those percentages will rise when you consider the instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). The instrumental activities of daily living include common needs such as:

Medication Management
Medication management is often cited as the main reason individuals move to an assisted living community. Since most older people take between 12 and 14 medications each day, it can be challenging to take the right medication at the right dosage at the right time. Staff help by preparing the dose, ensuring the medication is taken and creating a record of the medication administration. In states where medication management laws are more strict, medication management may revolve around staff keeping detailed records and reminding residents to take their medication.

Basic or Minor Emergency First Aid
Most assisted living communities do provide minor emergency first aid care. Nevertheless, how much care can be provided is dictated by law. If the emergency exceeds these limits, the resident will be transported to an emergency room.

Pharmacy Services
Instead of providing pharmacy services directly, most assisted living communities turn to external experts for pharmaceuticals. Some communities stipulate a preferred pharmacy. Other communities work with multiple local area pharmacies.

Because residents have the freedom to source their medications, it is 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.

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 these medical records, 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 effective 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 addressed through dietary changes.

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.

Foot Care
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 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.

Medical Checkups 
While assisted living communities are not designed to accommodate advanced healthcare needs, many have a nurse or physician on staff to provide medical checkups. If the nurse or physician determines a resident needs higher-level care, they may recommend an assessment. They may also recommend transitioning the resident to a community that can offer more support.

In Summary

The goal of assisted living is to provide residents with personal care support and help with ADLs so they can enjoy their lives more fully. Help with ADLs is always customized for each resident to maximize their abilities. The best assisted living communities provide the assistance you need while empowering you to live as independently as possible. If you are considering a senior living community, please take our five minute quiz to learn more about care levels and available options.