Health Secondary Story

When Considering Assisted Living, Shop Wisely

In the United States, there are over one million people living in Assisted Living Communities.   As the baby-boomers age that number will increase.

While there are many options for those who need some assistance with their day-to-day activities, these options can also create confusion. Assisted Living is just one of many choices.

Prairie Ridge Assisted Living offers two choices in assisted living in two locations.  In Beaver Dam they offer assistance in a Community Based Residential Facility, and in Waupun they offer assistance in both a Residential Care Apartment Complex and in a Community Based Residential Facility. Many spacious units include a living room, with designated kitchen area which includes a refrigerator and microwave oven, a private patio and spacious bedroom. All units have bathrooms large enough for wheelchairs to turn in.

Between the two locations Prairie Ridge has over 80 residents and 5 pets. Some are couples but most are single men or women.

Trained staff provides a wide range of services based on the needs of the residents. All meals are served in a community dining area giving residents opportunities to socialize and plan extra leisure activities.

As the Community Relations Coordinator, Heidi Stewart is the first contact for families and residents who have questions about assisted living.  She schedules assessments to determine residents’ needs and can direct families who are concerned about finances to the County Aging and Disability Resource Center.

Heidi says it is never too early to shop for assisted living.

“At some time someone you know will need assistance either short term or long term,” she says.   “When people wait until there is a need they are usually in a hurry and they are making decisions based on emotions.  I encourage people to shop around and look at amenities that will make a difference to them.”

Anyone stopping in at either Prairie Ridge location, will be able to tour the buildings but when you call to make an appointment Heidi will be able to meet with you personally to answer specific questions.

When shopping for an assisted living community, observe the interactions between residents and staff and how the staff acknowledges you during the tour. Everyone should feel comfortable in their home and be able to create last minute activities with out having to wait for the activity coordinator.

Some assisted living communities welcome pets and others do not. Heidi says, “At prairie Ridge we accept pets and understand how important that pet is to the person’s health and happiness. Many elderly people have come to depend on their pets that are part of their family. They do not want to leave their pets behind.”

When touring be sure to ask questions about costs and how rates are based on the level of care each resident requires.   Ask if the community accepts medical assistance or if you need to be able to private pay for a specified length of time.

Some communities are privately operated and do not accept financial assistance from government programs.  Prairie Ridge does accept medical assistance as a payor source.   To do so it must be certified with the state and inspected through a survey process every two years. The state survey process assures families of a quality of care provided at the community.

Some families will choose to stay overnight to remain with their loved one at end-of-life.  Heidi says, “We welcome families to join us during activities, celebrations and meal time. We celebrate resident’s birthdays and anniversaries and we encourage families to reserve our private dining room for their special celebrations and family gatherings.”

She adds, “Our philosophy at Prairie Ridge is ‘Life, Celebrated Daily.’  It is a mind set to have life begin anew each and every day. For many residents it’s a whole new chapter in their life and they are not living alone any longer.”

Residents are always free to come and go as they want and many still have their cars.  Heidi says, “We ask them to sign in and out however.  If we have a fire drill we need to know the resident signed out of the building.”

Prairie ridge has a robust calendar of scheduled activities seven days per week and residents are encouraged to structure their own leisure pursuits also.

Volunteer opportunities to make greeting cards for service men, or knit or crochet for service groups, or volunteer for hospice are all available on site in each building.  Many intergenerational activities are scheduled with scout groups, 4-H clubs, and school groups.

Heidi concludes, “Living here provides peace of mind to both the resident and their family.  Families may be concerned about parents falling or forgetting to take medications or living alone. Living in Assisted Living ensures staff is available 24 hours a day to assist residents or check on them during the night. The managers are communicating with primary care physicians and families to monitor the resident’s changes and provide the appropriate care.”

Most residents stay through end of life with extra care through home health or hospice.

Heidi says, “We are proud of our “Progressive Care Program” in Waupun, designed to meet your future and unexpected needs, allowing maximum independence, attentive care and supervision when you need it. Families and residents are familiar with the staff, the building and the services so it easier for all involved, rather than moving to a new location.”

Occasionally someone may need to move on to a skilled nursing facility for a higher level of nursing care or if the resident exhibits behaviors that would be harmful to themselves or others , such as striking  someone due to dementia.

Heidi has worked in the health care industry for the past 38 years, working in Watertown, Wisconsin before coming to Prairie Ridge.

She says, “Many positive changes in our delivery of health care have taken place in the industry. When I started we had skilled nursing facilities and small group homes that were privately owned and operated. Many elderly are surprised to see what assisted living means.   They only remember visiting friends and family members in nursing homes where most accommodations were in semi-private rooms and shared baths. Now we have theater rooms, computers, private dining rooms and many other amenities to make life a celebration.”

Most assisted living residents are seniors, but any adult who needs assistance with activities of daily life can be admitted for the level of care they require. Sometimes an accident or chronic illness makes it necessary for someone to have assistance on a daily basis at a younger age.

A few of the residents at Prairie Ridge are in their sixties or seventies; most are in their eighties and nineties.  In the U.S. the average age of residents living in assisted living is 87. On average residents reside in assisted living for 3 or 4 years, many of the Prairie Ridge residents have been there for 8 or more years.

Prairie Ridge and some other assisted living communities offer short term respite stays for 28 days or less. This is a perfect setting after hospitalization for regaining strength or having therapy until you are strong enough to return to your home. Many families take advantage of respite stays so they can attend a wedding or graduation or take a vacation from care giving.

Anxiety about moving into a new residence is natural. This fear is normal for everyone but especially for a senior as they move from living on their own to assisted living.

Heidi says, “We are here to answer questions and invite everyone to become familiar with the residence. Join us for lunch or activities before you move in so you have a chance to meet staff and residents. We want to help you adapt to your new carefree lifestyle. The adjustment will be easier if you know what to expect.”

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