UmeWorks Blog

Balancing Safety and Independence in an Assisted Living Facility

Many residents of assisted living facilities need help with mobility and other physical aspects of their lives, but they retain their mental faculties. However, many assisted living facilities tend to focus more on schedules, efficiency, safety concerns and State compliance instead of ways to promote resident independence. You want to provide the best care possible for your elderly residents, and studies show that balancing safety and independence in an assisted living facility increases the happiness of residents and improves the overall quality of life. But how can you implement programs and strategies that foster independence?

The Path to Autonomy

The ability to make decisions for oneself is a cornerstone of medical ethics and is perhaps even more important for elderly residents. As the body and mind decline, it is all too easy for a resident to feel like they are losing control of their life. That is why it is important to give your residents as many choices as possible in their daily lives. They may not have control over the medications they take, but they can choose what they want for dinner or whether they'd like to play Bingo, for example. Multiple chances to make choices for themselves throughout the day makes it easier for a resident to accept and even enjoy the parts of life they no longer have control over, such as their living arrangement.

The Role of Staff Members

It is likely that your staff are already balancing safety and independence in an assisted living facility without realizing it, but extra training can be beneficial. It's important for staff to understand that independence starts with respect, so they should be instructed to treat each resident as an equal individual. Additionally, autonomy is centered on choice, so clear, concise and jargon-free information should be given so a resident can have a complete picture of what their choices are. Each resident should be as involved as possible involved in any decision that affects their care.

Open Lines of Communication

There are many key players on a resident's care team. From the resident and their family members to the CNAs, nurses and doctor, everyone has a duty to help improve the quality of care wherever possible. This is best accomplished through open lines of communication. For example, if your resident tells a family member that they no longer want chicken for dinner, the family member can pass that information on to the dietary staff. The family member feels like an important part of their loved one's care team, and the resident feels validated because their needs are better met.

Balancing safety and independence in an assisted living facility is relatively easy for residents without any cognitive disabilities, but can take some finesse for others. So long as your staff is fully committed to providing clear information and as many choices as possible, your residents will be cared for safely while retaining as much autonomy as possible.


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Dr. Gawande proposes that that "quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Medicine has triumphed in modern times, but in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. He offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and demonstrates that an aging person's life may be rich and dignified."

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