According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, there are about 28,900 residential care communities servicing the aging American population. These communities aid the elderly who find it challenging to perform daily activities, such as meal preparation and eating, bathing, toileting, and mobility, to name a few. This assistance is especially important for those who may have chronic health issues. In addition to supplying basic care, assisted living also contributes to improving residents’ quality of life and overall well-being.
Social isolation is something that negatively impacts people of all ages, but it’s especially more damaging to the elderly. In fact, loneliness and isolation increases the risk of premature death. It’s also associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia, 29% risk of heart disease, and 32% risk of stroke. Moreover, it causes higher chances of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and suicide.
Living in assisted living facilities, seniors get a chance to live in a community setting where they can communicate and spend time with other residents. They also have daily interactions with their care team. This gives them plenty of chances to socialize and form bonds with other people— chances that are difficult to come by if they lived alone in their homes. Being surrounded by people who are there to listen and to talk to them is important, as this gives them a sense of belonging, purpose, and a better quality of life.
Healthcare professionals have long been aware of how 1 in 5 of all baby boomers will be over the age of 65 in 2030. This means that an immense amount of elderly people will be coming into the healthcare system at the same time. What’s more, our nurses are also aging, and about a million are estimated to retire by 2030, creating a troubling shortage. Add the surge of demand for healthcare workers brought on by COVID-19 into the mix, and the problem becomes even graver. Luckily, the rise of telemedicine and remote learning is helping close the care gap.
Assisted living facilities, for one, are greatly benefiting from these remote arrangements. As telemedicine is time and cost-efficient, physicians can now serve more patients through calls or virtual visits. On the other hand, remote learning is giving opportunities to produce more nursing practitioners, and those already in the field can upskill and specialize in geriatric care through an online RN to BSN program. Such programs equip nurses with leadership skills and updated healthcare knowledge without any need to visit a campus at all, as all courses are done online. These are just as effective as those earned in face-to-face classes, and will likely continue to be prevalent even after the pandemic. Through this route, nursing practitioners don’t have to take time off work while training to become gerontology experts. More graduates of these programs mean that there will be more nurses in assisted living facilities who don’t just provide 24/7 care, but guarantee high-quality healthcare service, too.
For seniors in assisted living, several chores and responsibilities that come with home maintenance are greatly reduced — and even totally eliminated in some cases. Residents can stop worrying about trivial things like mowing the lawn or cleaning the house, as there are professionals in assisted living settings who can take care of these things for them.
This leaves them with plenty of time to participate in meaningful activities that give them fulfillment and happiness. Oftentimes, a facility will organize wellness programs and leisure activities that aren’t just enjoyable, but are healthy for the residents, such as group tai chi or crafting activities. This way, seniors can make the most of their time by continuing to follow their passion or pursuing new hobbies.
Assisted living gives more than just long-term care, it provides seniors with a community where they can belong and be valued.