By the year 2050, over 30% of US citizens will be older than 65. Ours is an aging population, and assisted living facilities are expected to proliferate. The people managing assisted living facilities today might be living in them 30 years down the road. Therefore, it’s especially important for facility managers to establish and improve best practices starting today. Here are a few pointers.
Emphasize Both Privacy and Community
For some assisted living residents, their nursing home experience might also be their first communal living experience since college. Residing in an assisted living facility means living with other people, which can be strange and frightening.
Some organizations have mitigated these tendencies by ensuring the privacy of their residents. In so-called “Green Houses,” for example, each unit consists of up to 12 private bedrooms and bathrooms. Although there are communal living and eating areas, live-in nursing assistants prepare food and help keep the place clean. Studies show that this model of living – which mostly eliminates institutional patterns found in other facilities – quantitatively improves both health and happiness.
Invest in the Fundamentals of Care
Not every facility will be able to remake itself into a “Green House” style of assisted living, but every facility should have a few of these fundamentals:
- Grab Bars: To prevent slippage during activities such as getting out of the tub or out of bed, every housing unit needs to have grab bars in convenient areas.
- Sharps Disposal: While it’s important to make residents’ rooms look home-like, they may have to contain some elements that would be out-of-place in a traditional home. An increasing number of elderly patients are prescribed injections, which means that their living areas should contain bins for safe disposal of used needles.
- Wheelchair Accessories: Some residents may have mobility issues that prevent them from walking. Stock up on tools such as transfer boards, which help nurses transfer patients between their bed, wheelchair, and commode.
Make Your Facility Clean, Healthy, and Inviting
Your facility needs to look nice and smell good, especially because some of your residents may have allergies or mobility issues that prevent them from going outside. Open windows may also be contraindicated, especially during winter months. You can keep the air from getting stuffy by investing in air purifiers, air cleaners, and air fresheners. Quality air purifiers that use HEPA filters have been shown to reduce dust and particles in the air, thereby lessening allergy symptoms.
Similarly, you need to keep your living and common areas looking visually fresh. Consider painting these areas with interesting colors as opposed to plain white and decorating with items such as potted plants, framed prints, and reading lamps. Your residents will appreciate a stimulating environment.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun!
Assisted living facilities can be places where both residents and staff enjoy themselves. Cooking classes can be therapeutic, gardening can help bring residents back in touch with nature, and art therapy can help residents engage with their creative side. Mental and physical exercise is important to health and well-being, so don’t neglect them as you improve the physical aspects of your facility.
Making your assisted living facility into a comfortable home doesn’t have to break your budget – and every dollar you invest helps improve the lives and outcomes of the people under your care.