Those who do not live in South Florida may be unaware of a recent and rather lengthy series of articles that have exposed and highlighted cases of abuse and neglect in Assisted Living Facilities (ALF). This has understandably triggered investigations into many aspects of elder care. There are multiple ALFs in and around Homestead and after I published Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid, I took it over to one of the newer residences that is active in the Chamber of Commerce. I spoke with one of the senior staff members who has been with the facility as it moved through different owners until its current group. I have no reason to believe that the former operations of the ALF were inappropriate, but in the present state, it appears to be a genuine model for what an ALF should be. The decor is sunny and open, there are grounds to enjoy, activites for residents, nicely prepared food, and so forth.
The director also initiated a monthly luncheon that brings together people within various aspects of elder care for networking and to showcase how this ALF functions at a high level. I attended the luncehon yesterday and naturally one of the discussions was about the recent revelations and what investigations might take place. The lady to whom I am referring agreed that the focus is on the negative, yet her take was that those in elderly care very much need to constantly be aware of the potential for neglect and abuse. “We have to face and solve these problems,” she said at one point in a conversation. She, like a number of the attendees, came up through the nursing professsion and while I am not certain when she made the decision to specialize in elder care, she serves as a strong role model for exactly the kind of individual who should be in the field. She recognizes the physical and emotional issues of the elderly and does not fall into the habit of infantalizing the residents.
Different living arrangements is a topic of Your Room at the End, and even though I discuss various options, Assisted Living is likely to be a reality for many Baby Boomers and our parents. There is significant cost associated with ALFs, and while less expensive ones may offer fewer services and amenities, the way in which an ALF is staffed and operated is the real key. Paying more for a place does not automatically ensure that it is a better place. It is the attitude of the staff that makes the real difference. As I urge throughout Your Room at the End, researching available residences before you need them can make a world of difference. By doing so, you can have a list of resources (particularly if those in your area have a waiting list) that you have “pre-approved” before you are required to make a decision during what could well be a time of emotional crisis. Yes, you are correct, this isn’t a “fun” topic; that is precisely what the book is sub-titled, Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid.