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Assisted living facilities present serious risks for some people

Written by Diane Archer

In a New York Times op-ed, Geeta Ananad warns against expecting assisted living facilities to meet the needs of aging parents once they lose their independence. Rather, she explains that assisted living facilities can present serious risks to older adults who are not able to function independently.

To be sure, most people have no desire to end up in a nursing home, even if they offer 24-hour care. Ananad argues that an assisted living facility is not a substitute. Most of us will not be self-reliant until the day we die. And, if we cannot care for ourselves, we likely should not be in an assisted living facility.

Don’t believe the marketing hype about assisted living facilities. They appear to be a good financial investment–with close to 15 percent annual returns, of late. But, assisted living facilities likely are not where you want your parents, or for that matter yourself and the people you love, to live out their lives.

Assisted living facilities have the advantage of offering older adults companionship, activities and social interactions that they often cannot get at home. As you need more care, however, it becomes harder to rely on an assisted living facility, as much as you might like to. Once you need help walking or toiletting, or become mentally impaired, assisted living facilities are generally ill-equipped to meet your individual needs.

Half of assisted living facility residents are over 85 and more than four in ten have dementia; they need fulltime attention, which is generally not available to them. For most people who are not independent, the “24-hour” monitoring an assisted living facility offers is not enough to provide needed assistance and to ensure people are safe. According to Eric Carlson, the directing attorney for Justice in Aging, the assisted living facility system is broken.

Unlike with nursing homes, the federal government neither licenses nor oversees assisted living facilities. And, states do a poor job of regulating them. Assisted living facilities often do not have adequate staffing or properly trained staff and generally are not even required to have medical directors to review care for patients. (NB: Nursing homes must be licensed and meet strict regulatory standards and still they too often do not deliver the care people need.)

The average cost of staying in an assisted living facility is nearly $6,000 a month. The cost will only increase if regulations require more staffing and more trained staff.

Ananad proposes a Japanese model for paying for long-term care–a mandatory national long-term care insurance system, which the government helps pay for and is also supported by payroll taxes and premiums. Better still, Medicare for All, a single-payer cost-effective universal health care system, would spread the cost of long-term care across the entire population.

Here’s more from Just Care:

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