Since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in Spring 2020, we’ve all added a few words to our vocabularies. You would think we were trained epidemiologists the way we banter around terms like “viral load” and “herd immunity.” But if the general population sounds like epidemiologists-in-training, children of elderly parents considering assisted living care options sound like the head of the CDC. 

We have to sound that way; the lives of our parents likely depend on our ability to understand the risk factors that come into play when we place our 70-years-plus parents into senior living communities.

Fortunately, there is a solution that may offer you and your parents the best of both worlds. Residential Assisted Living (RAL for short), is a relatively new type of senior-living community that operates in a traditional single-family structure (or one reminiscent of such a home) and has a relatively small population of between 8 and 18 residents. There are many, many benefits to placing your parent in a RAL community, but here are three of the biggest reasons to consider RAL living for your elderly parent today:

  1.     Much lower risk of exposure to COVID and other illnesses.

Caregiver-resident ratios tend to be very close (usually around 1:5 or 1:10), offering external social interaction, close supervision, and limited exposure to outside individuals who may have been exposed to COVID or other illnesses. Furthermore, because RAL communities are small and self-contained, residents usually can continue to socialize internally with some basic social-distancing guidelines in place. Best of all, because of the relatively low square footage of the building, most residents have no trouble getting outside and, as a result, can usually enjoy some sort of face-to-face interaction with family members as long as social distancing and masking guidelines are strictly enforced.

  1.     Personalized, affectionate relationships and care.

Because RAL communities are small and the number of caretakers in the facility’s employ tends to be low, residents and caretakers see each other regularly and develop caring relationships as well as increased trust in each other. This provides peace of mind for children of residents because they know that their parents are much more to their caretakers than a number on a door and gives residents another opportunity for meaningful social interaction. Best of all, because residents and caretakers are familiar with each other, it is easier for caretakers (right down to the maintenance staff!) to spot potential mental and physical issues with residents, thereby creating opportunities for effective preventative care that larger facilities simply cannot offer.

  1.     Affordable, private, and personal space.

Residential assisted living offers just what it sounds like it should: a place to call home with some significant assistance that keeps residents living independently while receiving assistance remembering medication and performing daily tasks. Unlike many larger communities, however, RAL comes with more private space (and more privacy options outside the room since there is more living space and fewer residents to share it) and, frequently, a more affordable price tag. Children with elderly parents struggling to figure out how to afford specialized senior care may be pleasantly surprised at how competitive RAL rates can be.

Don’t Leave RAL Off Your List of Options

You may think you don’t have any RAL options in your area because you haven’t seen any of these boutique senior-living homes. However, that’s just one more perk to the RAL lifestyle: It’s not obvious that a RAL home is a group home for seniors because it looks like home. And it doesn’t just look like home; it is home for many residents. So don’t leave RAL off your list of options because it could well be the very best fit for you and your elderly parents.