Assisted living has been the fastest growing component of long-term care since the mid-1990s. Today in the United States, about 31,000 assisted living communities are home to nearly one million residents. While this growth reflects a desire by many to age “in place,” another factor is a rapid increase in profit-motivated corporate chains acquiring or developing assisted living communities.
Advocates for the aging believe that too many of these facilities are trying – and sometimes failing – to care for residents, many of whom have the same acute medical conditions that were provided within nursing homes just years ago. Even when residents need help with three or more activities of daily living, take multiple and sometimes complex medications, or deal with chronic diseases, assisted living facilities are often not required to have medical personnel on staff. Issues such as staffing qualifications and staff-to-resident ratios are left to personal judgment, placing quality care at risk.
Assuredly, assisted living has its place, but the true needs of each elderly person – now and in the future – must be fully considered in making care decisions with such lasting consequences.