An Introduction To Assisted Living For People Living With Paraplegia

An Introduction To Assisted Living For People Living With Paraplegia

Sierra Care | June 15, 2023


Over 61 million Americans are currently living with a disability. Every year millions of Americans get sick, injured, or experience worsening chronic medical conditions that lead to short or long-term disability. Every person’s experience with disability is unique; almost everyone will experience some form of disability during their life. These disabilities vary in severity. Some disabilities are easily managed at home; others require full-time care in a long-term care facility. Assisted living is one strategy for managing a disability between these two extremes. This article will discuss what to expect from an assisted living facility, who these facilities are for, and how they can help people manage their disabilities while maintaining their independence and quality of life.

What is assisted living?

Assisted living is defined by assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). An ADL is a task that a person must accomplish in order to live a safe, healthy, and fulfilling life. Some of the most common ADLs are:

  • Bathing, brushing teeth, and grooming
  • Food and meal preparation
  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • Taking daily medications
  • Arranging transportation to and from appointments and events

As we age these daily tasks can become difficult, time-consuming, and even dangerous. Individuals living with disabilities are at even greater risk of being unable to complete the ADLs as they age. Assisted living provides assistance with these tasks, allowing people to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

What services are available with assisted living?

Each assisted living provider has a unique set of services. Some services are extremely common. Assistance with hygiene, food, and housekeeping are always available, as these services are essential for health and safety. Other services such as transportation, medication assistance, and social services may only be available with specific assisted living arrangements.

Some assisted living facilities offer additional services such as:

  • Transportation to social events
  • Exercise and fitness programs
  • Group social activities
  • Shopping assistance
  • Technology assistance

Some services are not usually provided with assisted living. Care for complex medical conditions, new injuries, and individuals who are unable to complete any ADLs on their own are usually cared for in nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and subacute rehabilitation facilities.

What conditions can assisted living facilities help with?

Assisted living can improve the quality of life of anyone living with a disability. Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) is critical to maintaining independence. Some people with disabilities can benefit to a greater degree than others from assisted living services. People living with paraplegia, paralysis of the legs, or quadriplegia, paralysis of the arms and legs, are excellent examples of those who benefit significantly from assisted living.

Many people with paraplegia and quadriplegia have been paralyzed since a young age, may have few other medical conditions, and can usually perform most of their ADLs without significant assistance. Paralysis can make daily tasks such as transportation, transferring between wheelchairs/furniture, and some hygiene tasks extremely difficult. Assisted living arrangements can help with these tasks allowing them to focus on more enjoyable activities.

Assisted living can have benefits far beyond assistance with daily tasks. Patients with paraplegia and quadriplegia can develop severe pressure-related injuries on the lower extremities. Staff at assisted living facilities can help with repositioning and maintenance of wheelchair padding to prevent these injuries. Nurse assistants can also help dress pressure-related wounds that are already present and note any damaged skin that may develop pressure injuries in the future.

Many disabilities can benefit from assisted living beyond paraplegia and quadriplegia. Some of the most common conditions that lead to assisted living referrals in the United States are:

  • Dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Severe heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Trauma

What do you need to look for when choosing an assisted living arrangement?

Assisted living arrangements vary greatly based on who is providing services. Who assists residents with these tasks, how often they care for patients with specific types of disabilities, and the additional services provided vary greatly.

First and foremost, you must be comfortable with the arrangement you choose. Ideally, it should feel safe and familiar with easy access to the people you spend time with and activities you enjoy. One of the main goals of assisted living is to prevent your life from being defined by your medical and care needs. Ensuring your assisted living provider can meet these goals is critical to your happiness and health.

Ensure that the provider you choose has experience with your specific disability. While most disabilities are due to common medical conditions, rare conditions such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and complex conditions present since birth (congenital conditions) all require specialized care. Your care may be compromised if an assisted living provider does not have experience assisting with your specific disability.

Disability Rights in California

Ensure that the facility or agency you choose understands and follows the list of patent rights. The state of California places specific requirements on facilities and agencies that offer assisted living services. A detailed list of these rights can be accessed at DisabilityRightsCA.org. Some of the most critical of these rights are:

  • Treatment with dignity and respect
  • Access to advocates
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom of self-expression
  • Right to money and personal property
  • Right to privacy
  • Access to visitors
  • Rights to enter and leave your home as you please
  • Right to physical safety from harm

How do you pay for assisted living?

Assisted living can be costly. According to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the average cost of assisted living in California is between $3,500 and $5,500. These costs are far beyond what many individuals can afford to pay. Thankfully, many grants, state programs, and insurers cover some or all of the cost of care.

  • Medi-Cal is the state of California’s version of Medicaid, which pays for medically necessary care that Medicare does not cover. There are income and asset limits for Medi-cal, making this program most useful for those who cannot work due to their disability or are retired.
  • Long-term care insurance is a part of disability and health insurance in some instances. Those who are injured or develop a medical condition that requires assisted living may have long-term care insurance to cover some or all of the costs of assisted living facilities or care.
  • Veterans of the US armed forces may have benefits dedicated to long-term care for those who are disabled. Precisely what these benefits include and when they are available varies based on the veteran and the nature of the disability.
  • Social security, pension funds, and retirement savings can all be used to pay for assisted living. The amount available depends on how long you have worked and your earnings during the years you worked. These benefits are most often available to the elderly but may be available at a younger age in some instances.

Ultimately how you pay for assisted living services will vary significantly based on your personal financial situation, the nature of your disability, your age, and your work history. Due to this complexity, many assisted living facilities and programs have staff dedicated to determining which programs you qualify for and which is best for your specific situation.

Sierra Care and assisted living

Assisted living is intended to assist individuals with their activities of daily living. Many of the disabilities that make these activities difficult can benefit from the care of specialized physicians and therapists. Sierra Care has experience caring for people living with spinal cord injuries, paraplegia, quadriplegia, traumatic brain injury, chronic pain, mobility issues, stroke, and those recovering from severe illness or traumatic injury. We take responsibility for the full spectrum of care with our patients. We ensure access to physical and occupational therapists, medical specialists, primary care doctors, and all the assistance with activities of daily living that people need to thrive. If you or a loved one are currently looking for assisted living services, contact Sierra Care to learn more about our rehabilitation services and how they can improve your comfort in assisted living.