19853488_thbThis past couple of years, I’ve noticed many new assisted living facilities being built in the area in which I live.  These are gorgeous properties with beautiful amenities throughout that have been placed there by designers hired to make them look like “home”.

It wasn’t until I began looking at them as a means of respite care placement for my father that I learned of their costs.  In my father’s case, the daily respite cost was $220 but the monthly cost would have been over $5000.00 for a semi-private room.  This rate did not include medications or transportation to medical appointments. (Rates seem to vary between $4000.00 and $7500.00 per month depending upon the residence.)   None of these facilities accepted Medi-Care and private insurances don’t cover such things.  A couple of them stated that if a person were 2 guarantee private payment for 3 years, then they would not “evict” the resident once their money was gone.  At that time, they would then accept Medicaid reimbursement.

Recently I have read several articles about assisted living facilities being available mostly in areas of higher income.  In areas of lower income, rural areas and in areas where minorities live (and all 3 of these are equivalent to areas of lower mean income), there are less available assisted living facilities.

In a study at Brown University, a conclusion was made that hispanics would be more likely to use nursing homes than assisted living facilities because they at more likely to be at the lower end of the socio economic scale and did not have the money.  Because of lack of money, they were more likely to be placed in nursing homes with less than desirable facilities, receiving less than adequate care which sent them back to the hospital and began a downward spiral.

I think that another reason that there are fewer assisted living facilities in areas where hispanics live is that their culture has the tradition of elder care being handled by the adult children of the family in a home setting.  My best friend’s mother took care of both her mother and aunt in her home until she was physically unable to do so anymore.

Assisted living facilities vary tremendously; they can contain a myriad of amenities and consist of private apartments with a nurse on duty 24 hours a day or at the other end of the spectrum, they can be closer to a nursing home environment with semi-private areas that consist of 2 beds in a room with a television set.

Assisted living homes are not the right choice for everyone.  Unless a facility has a special unit  (and many are opting to include these), dementia patients should not be placed there.  Sometimes patients have medical conditions that are too complicated for this type of living arrangement, as well.

Nursing homes don’t have much variation.  In MY words, they are simply sad places where lonely people live out their final days.

In between, there are skilled nursing facilities, but in most instances, these are temporary placements until the “patient” can either be returned home or to a more permanent placement in a different facility.

I’m concerned about what will happen when the aging population runs out of money to pay for these expensive assisted living homes.  At between $ 50,000 and $90,000 per year, who will be able to live there long?  Our elders were a little more prepared but I don’t believe that the baby boomer generation has prepared themselves well enough to be able to cover even a year of living there.  And now that many boomers are upside down on their mortgages, selling their home won’t help to pay for that care.  Not many of us have long term care insurance either. (And in reality, how can long term care insurance continue to exist when almost ALL of us will need it at some point?)

I also think that with health reform, more families are going to be responsible for the care of their elders.  Hospitals will discharge elder patients sooner and before they are able to care for themselves.  This is happening even now !  I literally had to beg that my father be admitted to help remove the 12 pounds of fluid that had accumulated in his legs due to congestive heart failure.  Sure…..they’ll put a defibrillator in an 86 year old man with dementia (because insurance will pay for THAT)  but when it comes to managing the care of that man post procedure, they’ll leave it to the family.   (And they won’t discuss end-of-life care…but that’s a whole other issue.)

Already, a big portion (17% of employees in south Florida, according to a recent study)* are having to leave the work force in order to care for their aging loved ones and another 15% have cut their hours.

During the past year, as we have experienced a financial crisis, more family members are gathering together under one roof in order to make ends meet.  Do you think that we will return to the days of Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best where Moms become the caregivers for the family while Dads return to providing the financial contribution?


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