In the Washington Post, recently, Martin Bayne wrote a lengthy article the newspaper titled “A man depicts the often grim atmosphere in assisted living facilities.” Mr. Bayne is only 62, but he has had Parkinson’s for about eighteen (18) years. As a result of that, eight years ago, Mr. Bayne writes,
in a wheelchair and after nearly a decade of living at home with young-onset Parkinson’s disease, I decided to move into an assisted living facility. I knew what my decision meant. I’d be moving into a place where the average resident was 32 years older than I was, and the average levels of disability, depression, dementia and death were dramatically higher than in the general population.
In other words, he did not have any illusions that he was moving into a setting that he would love. He did not expect the emotional pain of losing “neighbors” in the facility: “I can say with certainty that the prospect of watching dozens (at my young age, perhaps hundreds) of my friends and neighbors in assisted living die is a sadness beyond words.”
A few weeks after moving into one facility, Mr. Bayne met with three executives / administrators to discuss some concerns. He was shocked at one exchange, in which Mr. Bayne felt an issue was being ignored:
“That’s not fair,” I told him. “You get to go home every day at 5 p.m., but this is my home.” He stood up, pointed his finger at me, and roared: “This is NOT your home. You just lease an apartment here like everybody else.”
That was a very unsettling event, without question.
One thing Mr. Bayne tries to make clear, and we agree, is that the folks who actually provide services in many assisted living facilities are great people. His argument is that they are constrained by the real owners of the facility — not the residents:
Administrators represent the whims of those who own the facility. The staff members — the personal care assistants, the certified nursing assistants and so on — are the heroes for those of us living in a facility. Underpaid, overworked and highly susceptible to work-related injuries, they are the glue that holds together most of this country’s facilities for the aging. And just as we residents live in “their” facility, these staff members work in “their” facility.
That is the saddest part of the story, from his perspective. There is more to the story, and you really should read it all. There are success stories in assisted living, of course. Even a home care company like Support For Home can tell a few. :-) Nevertheless, anyone in elder care or with loved ones who are in or exploring assisted living should read this story and probe a little deeper than they might otherwise.
Best wishes. Bert