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Position::Assisted-living and independent-living centers are increasingly popular - Brief Article

Assisted-living and independent-living centers are increasingly popular among seniors.

The residents at Westminster Village Muncie don't like the term assisted living, says president Betty DeVoe; they prefer "supported care." And don't call them elderly or old or even seniors. They don't like the labels. Their sensitivity led to DeVoe's unusual request to leave the first word of Old National Bank from its exterior signage in Westminster's mall area, which also includes a beauty salon and gift shop. The bank obliged.

The building boom in assisted-living facilities throughout Indiana is testament to a population that is staying healthier longer and desiring to live as independently as possible for as long as possible. Most residents in these private-pay facilities need only minimal help with the activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing, but because of this need cannot live alone. Others need help with dispensing medication, which is available in licensed facilities with nursing staff.

Some facilities, such as Westminster, offer a continuum of living possibilities, from fully independent apartments to full nursing care, with assisted living in the middle. This allows residents to "age in place" and move to a more intensive level of care within the same community, maintaining friendships and activities.

Other facilities, those that have seen the most growth in the last few years, are stand-alone assisted-living buildings, such as Bell Oaks Terrace in Newburgh, Fort Wayne and Washington. The 4-year-old Newburgh facility has 50 studio and one-bedroom apartments. "Our average age is 85," says manager Terrye Stoltz. "A few don't require much, but it eases the burden on family, knowing that they'll eat and will get help if they should fall."

Bell Oaks provides a bus for resident transportation, although some still drive, plus three meals a day and assistance to and from the dining room. It also helps with activities of daily living, medicines, and has an activities director and 24-hour staffing. A resident council meets once a month.

Potential residents are assessed before entering, and at three-month intervals thereafter. At a minimum, they must be able to stand and pivot to move from bed and the toilet with assistance. If residents become more disabled and need more care, Stoltz says the family must hire a sitter, 24-hours a day, or move the resident to a long-term-care facility.

Respite care is another service available at Bell Oaks, and many...

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