An article in the New York Times reported the tragic and avoidable death of a 90-year-old resident, suffering from dementia. A resident of Brookdale Charleston Senior Living, she wandered outside — and not for the first time.
Nobody noticed her absence for seven hours. She was found in the pond behind the facility, dead from puncture marks to her ear, temple, jaw and cheeks. Her pacemaker was discovered inside one of the alligators that lived in the pond.
The assisted living facility has already settled the family’s claim for wrongful death and is now facing an additional suit for emotional distress.
Sharing the Blame
I believe that the residents, their families and the facilities can share in the blame.
Assisted living is not federally regulated. Nursing homes are. State enforcement and sanctions are often lax and not very stringent.
Many experts agree that much of the problem stems from inadequate staffing which I’ve blogged about in the past. Adequate funding will easily resolve these shortcomings. An simple recommendation, but more difficult to implement.
Assisted living started as a service for people who were more independent. Residents who need help with activities of daily living (ADLs). Some residents were experiencing early cognitive challenges. Just a generation later, assisted living often accepts people with far greater needs. Needs they may not be prepared to fully accommodate. I often see this, and it disturbs me.
The Facility’s Profit Motive
Many assisted living facilities are for-profit entities, earning handsome returns to their investors. I have some friends who manage the marketing at some of these organizations. They often tell me that they are pressured by management to fill as many apartments as they can.
Facilities cannot offer this needed care at an affordable price point that fills apartments and attain financial returns that please their investors. As the saying goes, “No one can serve two masters.”
The Resident’s Budget
The residents (or their families) pay for assisted living out of their own pockets, unlike nursing homes. Medicare or Medicaid do not contribute. They have a high appeal, as they emphasize independent living instead of intensive medical care.
Many residents are unable to afford the higher cost of fully trained and properly staffed facilities, so they let their budget determine the quality of care they receive.
People want to deny the almost certain fact that they might ever need long term care (LTC). When they inevitably do need LTC, it is common for them and their family to downplay the true extent of their needs.
So they choose the posh, upscale environment so many assisted living facilities have, instead of one that may be better-equipped to actually care for the resident.
What happens when the residents and their family realize that they’re not getting the care they need? They might experience the tragic consequences like the resident in the NYT article. They might move to another facility more appropriate for their escalating needs.
Decide to Plan
When planning for your future needs, wouldn’t it be nice to make your decisions based on quality of life and not settle for a sub-standard solution just because of your financial limitations?
Choose quality! Click here to receive your free, no-obligation quote for your own Long Term Care insurance policy.