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Washington Post Article Reflects Bias About Assisted Living Communities

A recent article published in the Washington Post portrays a very biased picture of assisted living communities. The writer is a former Zen monk and journalist. I encourage you to read the article and take note of the facts that were left out of his side of the story.

The author writes the he, “decided,” to move out of his home at age 53 to an assisted living community because he had Parkinson’s disease. He neglects to mention the reason as to why he made the decision to move. Did he move because he wanted the socialization of being with other people? Was his condition becoming too complex to be handled at home? Were his funds being depleted? Could his caregiver have been experiencing “burn out?”

The article states that he knew his future fellow residents were going to be much older. Yet, he complained about watching his table mates, “waste away,” and die.

The author mentions he had a meeting with three administrators at the community to, “make sure they understood each other and communicated well.” My question is, “About what?” He neglected to mention the real reason that precipitated the meeting. Instead, the administration was painted as representing, “the whims of those who own the facility.”

The only statement in the article that I agree with is that the direct caregivers are the ,”heroes,” for the residents.

After living at the facility for eight years, the author decided to move to another community. He complained the sink wasn’t low enough for him to shave, lacked an exercise room, chapel , and doors that were fully wheel chair accessible. As a senior living advisor, it behooves me that this individual would not have checked out the desired amenities before making a second move to a new community. Since he was concerned about having a “voice” at the old community, I hope he checked to see whether the new place had a residents’ council.

Bear in mind that people use the term, “assisted living,” very loosely. Assisted living normally means an individual needs assistance with their activities of daily living: bathing, dressing, eating, walking, transferring, and toileting. Most of the assistance is “stand by”
with some “hands on” care available. These communities aren’t equipped to handle complex medical issues. Those cases are handled more appropriately in a nursing home. He mentions disability, depression, dementia, and death being prevalent. No sooner would a resident die then another would begin to waste away. As a former Admissions Director of a Continuing Care Retirement Community, I know the incidents included in his description were more characteristic of a nursing home, not assisted living.

The loneliness factor he speaks of is something no one can cure. But this article serves as a wonderful example for some of the things you should check before moving a loved one to a long term care community. If you ask the appropriate questions during a tour, scrutinize the activity schedule, examine the facility’s equipment, note the attitude of the person giving the tour, watch the demeanor of the direct care staff when dealing with the residents, and don’t construe the aesthetics as being a reflection of the care your loved one will receive, you’ve completed SOME of the homework required to make a good decision. A good decision, a busy activity schedule, and a compassionate activity staff should help alleviate some of the loneliness. And if your loved one is vocal, be certain their new home has a residents’ council.

Do you want to see how people reacted toward this article? Here is the link to a follow up article.