It important not to let gossip and rumor influence your decision on senior housing options…

Often when people begin searching for senior housing, they begin hearing stories from well-intentioned friends.  A common type of story is along the lines of “My neighbor’s mom had a horrible experience at the assisted living in my neighborhood so I would NEVER have my mom move there”. There are so many variations to this statement. Accusations regarding senior living facilities may be a result of unrealistic expectations, miscommunication and sometimes emergencies that occur unexpectedly.   There are of course situations in which errors, sometimes tragic errors, are made. But the idea that senior care facilities are staffed by people who don’t care or are purposefully neglectful is just not true.  Many times, these stories take on a life of their own and are still being told years after the “incident”.   At worst the stories are just not true and at best the error was unintentional and has been learned from and corrected by the community.  Without further investigation and knowledge, these unsubstantiated rumors can paralyze a senior housing search due to fear and people that may have otherwise greatly benefited from living in a senior community, remain at home alone.

Here are some examples, and the “other” side of the story:

They let my dad fall and he was on the floor all night waiting for help!  The first question is whether dad is in an assisted living that has 24 hour awake staff.  These sorts of incidents are more likely to occur at independent living communities where the care must be scheduled.  If care has not been scheduled at night then no one will know that someone has fallen until breakfast, when they didn’t show up.

 My mom hasn’t been given a shower all week.  Resident’s in senior living communities retain all the rights they enjoyed before moving.  One of these is the right to decline a bath.  Unfortunately, either due to dementia, fatigue or modesty, many seniors are very resistant to bathing.  If they refuse, the community cannot force them.  So, in many cases, a person refusing a bath is not the fault of the community, although it would be important to see whether the caregivers are trying different approaches and to communicate concerns with loved ones.

 My wife needed help going to the bathroom and had to wait an hour after using the call button.  This is one those situations that can happen when there is another emergency happening in the building.  Unfortunately, there are times when the staff members that are present need to prioritize who they help based on whether a situation is life-threatening or the person is in pain.  There are times when everyone needs something at once, and sometimes people have to wait longer than promised.  As long as this is not a pattern, it does not mean the community is understaffed or the caregivers are lazy.

They took all my parent’s money and then kicked them to the curb when they ran out.  There is usually much more to these stories.  All senior living communities have some form of a contract that clearly spell out the financial obligations of the resident, and under what conditions the resident might have to move, whether it be level of care, financial, dementia etc.  These parameters are not often clearly communicated or heard, but should be in writing.  A closely read contract can usually help avoid these issues.  As far as being kicked out to the curb, the family member of a resident is almost always consulted with at length about strategies to stay or ideas about other options for new housing. A minimum of a 30-day written notice is required to force someone to move.  Communication both before and during the residents stay can alleviate many of these issues.

In summary, it is best to keep an open mind when searching for a senior care community, don’t believe everything you hear, ask questions, and don’t cross a potential community off your list until you get the facts.