Medical team at supported living facility

What is Supported Living?

Sierra Care | February 18, 2022


What is supportive living?

“Supportive living” is a form of assisted living. Facilities and organizations that provide supportive living services do so to give people an alternative to nursing homes if they require assistance with daily tasks due to age, injury, or medical conditions. These facilities also provide basic medical care such as assistance with medications, wound care, and mobility.

Supportive living facilities help people to maintain independent and fulfilling lives. They have skilled staff to assist with medical needs, housekeeping, laundry, and cooking. There are various types of supportive living facilities that can provide support regardless of what is leading you or your loved ones to seek out a supported living facility. This article will go into detail about these facilities to help you pick the one that best fits your needs.

How does a supportive living facility differ from an assisted living facility?

A supportive living facility and assisted living facility are very similar. The main differences are financial, being based around the income of those living within them.

Supportive living facilities are regulated by the government, which helps to lower the cost of living for those on federal or state financial assistance programs. In most cases these supported living facilities use the same facilities, staff, and caregivers as traditional assisted living services.

Who works at a supportive living facility?

Supportive living facilities are equipped to provide support with both medical needs and daily tasks around the house. These facilities have several different types of staff members, both medical and non-medical.

  • Registered nurse (RN): RNs provide medical assessments, updates to doctors, and help to determine when follow-up appointments are needed with therapists, medical specialists, and hospitals.
  • Licensed vocational nurses (LVN): LVNs provide day-to-day assistance with personal hygiene/needs, medications, and monitoring areas such as weight, blood pressure, and diet. These nurses are supervised by an RN.
  • Certified nursing assistants (CNA): CNAs assist LVNs with all of the above tasks except for the dispensing of medication. In some cases they may also assist with outings in the community, tasks around the facility, and social events.
  • Facility staff: Many facilities have staff on hand to help plan events, coordinate medical appointments, and perform maintenance around the facility.

Why choose a supportive living facility?

There are many reasons to consider a supportive living facility. Everyone needs assistance as they age and those with serious medical conditions may require assistance throughout their entire lives. Supportive living facilities allow you to retain a sense of independence, individuality, and stability in a more traditional home-based environment when compared to nursing homes.

Increased independence

Supportive living facilities focus on providing residents with easier ways to participate in the activities that they enjoy. They offer pre-planned social outings, shopping trips, transportation to religious events, and often can assist with transportation to personal family functions. Many residents in supportive living facilities state that these services are crucial to their physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.

The transportation provided to these events is often via a comfortable charter bus with room for 10 – 15 residents. Unlike taxi cabs and ride-sharing services these drivers are trained to assist passengers with canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. Many residents enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing safe and reliable transportation is always available when they need it.

Day to day care

One of the most important services that supportive living communities provide is assistance with daily tasks. In some cases residents have difficulty with tasks such as cooking, cleaning, grooming, dressing, and hygiene and these services are invaluable. However, even those who are able to accomplish these tasks can benefit from these services.

Maintaining a home takes a large amount of time and energy. Even if you are able to accomplish all these tasks on your own they may be limiting the time that you have to enjoy activities with loved ones. Getting assistance with small tasks such as preparing meals, cleaning, and laundry significantly increase the time and energy you have for other activities.

Finally, supportive living services include routine medical care. This most commonly takes the form of picking up medication, placing it in daily pill containers, sending reminders if needed, and assisting with the care of small wounds, injuries, or other medical conditions. These services can both save you time and potentially prevent medical conditions from worsening.

Access to coordination of care with specialists

Supportive living facilities also have access to a large network of medical providers in many specialties. Many communities have experience with a large number of hospitals and local doctors. This allows them to get you appointments more rapidly, coordinate multiple appointments, and arrange for easy transport between these appointments. The community’s staff and other residents will also have experiences with these specialists, helping you to select the most kind, helpful, and empathetic providers.

Who commonly chooses to live in a supportive living facility?

Supportive living facilities are primarily filled with senior citizens. The majority of those that choose to live in these communities do so because normal aging has made the daily tasks of maintaining a home on their own less desirable or more difficult. Younger individuals with serious illnesses or injuries may also choose to live in these facilities, but this is less common.

There are some supportive living facilities that are specialized in the care of a specific community or group. Some of the most common specialized facilities are:

What types of supportive living facilities are there?

Apartment community

Apartment communities are the most common type of supportive living arrangement. These apartment units are typically separate buildings with several single bedroom units. They will have a common building in the center of the units that acts as an office, community center, and area for on-site nursing visits. These communities typically have those with reduced mobility in mind. Few if any of the units will have stairs and easy to navigate footpaths will connect the apartments and living areas.

Housing community

Housing communities for supported living are less common than apartment communities. These communities are very similar to apartment communities with the exception that the living units are all individual houses, often with two or more bedrooms. Housing communities are more commonly retirement communities focused on those above the age of 55 and offer few if any supported living services. For the few communities that do offer supported living these communities may be larger and harder for residents to navigate, leading many to prefer more compact apartment communities. 

Single building

A newer style of supportive living facility takes the form of a single large building. These communities are essentially a single very large apartment building. They can be seen in the center of large cities and in areas with poor weather. These communities allow residents to get most of the care they need in a safe, secure, and comfortable environment. To avoid looking like a large hospital many of these buildings focus on bringing plants into common areas providing a more home-like atmosphere, and having a large amount of sunlight enter the building. They typically offer all of the services that smaller apartment communities offer. 

Can supportive living facilities only care for healthy seniors?

Supportive living facilities are not only for the healthy. Illness often comes with age and since many of the residents are beyond retirement age there are many common health conditions that can be easily managed in the supportive living setting. Some of the most common are:

  • Anemia
  • Heart failure
  • Liver failure
  • Kidney failure
  • COPD
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attacks
  • Parkinson’s disease

Specialized conditions

There are also many complex medical conditions that can be cared for in a specialized assisted living facility with caregivers that are knowledgeable about a specific set of medical conditions. Many of these facilities are focused around one particular type of medical condition. They will offer specialized caregivers, transportation, and transfer arrangements to nearby hospitals. Some of the most common specialized supportive living facilities are those focused on:

Supportive living is an option for almost anyone

The large variety of supportive living services means that nearly anyone can benefit from these services. Only the most severe medical conditions or injuries make someone inappropriate for a supportive living community. If you or a loved one is deemed too sick for supportive living a short stay in a subacute rehabilitation facility can often help. These facilities focus on providing care of patients that are leaving the hospital and work as a bridge to more traditional living arrangements.

If you feel that supportive living could be an option for you or your loved one but need that bridge of extra help, get in touch with SierraCare. We provide industry leading subacute treatments throughout California focused on the care of any injury in a patient. Our skilled team of nurses, therapists, and doctors will ensure that you or your loved one experiences the most comfortable and complete recovery possible as you transition to your supportive living environment!