Assisted living means making decisions

Jim Surrell, MD

Let’s start today be reviewing the basic definition of assisted living.” The following is the definition of assisted living as defined by the National Institutes of Health: Assisted living is for people who need help with daily care, but not as much help as a specific nursing home may provide.

Assisted living facilities vary greatly in size from serving only a few residents to serving many dozens of people in need of assisted living. There may also be a variation in the levels of care that are offered, with some assisted living residents needing more daily assisted living care than others.

Assisted living residents usually live in their own semi-private or private room, or in their own suite, or in a small apartment, and they share common areas. They have access to many services, including up to three meals a day, assistance with personal care, help with medications, housekeeping, laundry, 24-hour supervision, security, and on-site staff. Many assisted living facilities will also offer various planned social and recreational activities.

Following is a list of the various services that are often provided by assisted living facilities.

– Assistance with daily living activities, such as bathing, dressing, eating, and toileting

– Central dining programs that include three meals a day

– Educational activities

– Emergency call systems in private and common areas

– Exercise activities

– Health services and medication administration

– Housekeeping and maintenance

– Organized recreational activities

– Laundry services

– Social services and religious activities

– Transportation arrangements

– Wellness programs

– 24-hour security

Many assisted living facilities also have contract with home health agencies that may be needed to provide additional skilled nursing care and medical care. As may be needed, assisted living facilities may also provide hospice services.

If a family is in need of an assisted living facility for a loved one, the family should arrange for a visit to receive an initial orientation of the services provided by the facility they are looking at. It may also be very helpful to use an assisted living service coordinator to make an initial evaluation to determine which services your loved one will need. Your loved one should also be reevaluated on a regular basis to assess the need for any services that may no longer be needed or for any additional services that may be beneficial. Further, the assisted living care recipient should have access to these evaluations and a review of the findings and any new recommendations.

Insurance programs may pay for the needed assisted living, but this needs to be carefully evaluated with the specific insurance carrier and the assisted living facility. If a person or the family has chosen to have private long-term care insurance, this can certainly provide financial assistance with the costs incurred while living in the assisted living facility. Of course, it is always very important to assess the need for assisted living with one’s health care provider, and specific recommendations can then be made regarding the need for a person to be living in a specific assisted living environment.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books. He has his practice at the Digestive Health Clinic at U.P. Health System-Marquette. Requests for health topics for this column are encouraged. Contact Dr. Surrell by email at