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Assisted Living: A Devastating Truth (Part 2 of 2)

15In part one of this article, we responded to the September 8th San Diego Union Tribune article, “Deadly Neglect”, which documented neglect in local assisted living facilities. What many people found out for the first time as they read the Union Tribune article was that these assisted living and residential care facilities for the elderly are regulated by the Department of Social Services, and not the Department of Health.

These are “non-medical models” for elder living.

There are some definite advantages to living in a more home like environment; however, the real problem comes with the elders who need more medical supervision and assistance than these places can possibly offer.

Take away the fountains, the marbled entry ways, the five star ambiance as you enter the lobby and stroll the walk ways and hallways of the bigger more corporate places, and what you have are elders on the verge of a life changing event without an adequate support system to manage the rollercoaster ride of complex chronic illness.  What you’re left with are medically fragile elders living in assisted livings without assistance in the things that really matter to staying healthy and independent as long as possible.

It would be one thing if prospective residents were made aware of the limitations of these facilities, but inevitably it is not disclosed that they are unable to meet residents with need for an increasing level of care.

It is not hard to imagine that with frail elders living in residential care facilities, or assisted livings ill-equipped to handle the complex medical needs of their residents, tragedies are bound to happen.

What I have learned from being a Geriatric Care Manager in San Diego, for going on sixteen years, is that the elder neglect is everywhere. It is in our best nursing homes and our five-star assisted living facilities. It is in the best of home care companies and in the best of memory care facilities. It is in the most exclusive parts of our fine city and in the poorer neighborhoods equally.

What I also learned is that the state is not coming to save anyone. As this Union Tribune article makes clear, state budgets are being cut and then cut some more. The Department of Social Services are not required to do cite inspections more than every 30 months, and this is an improvement from the every five years that it used to be! No, for all intents and purposes, the state is AWOL.

The solution to the shameful situation of our neglected elderly is not a state agency.

There is a solution. If family cannot be there to be eyes and ears to make sure their loved one is properly for, they should hire professional care managers or advocates who can. Without someone watching over them, our elderly are in danger of being neglected and falling between the cracks of a very imperfect care system.

There simply is no other answer. Care management by a professional nurse or social worker is available in San Diego. There are many private care management agencies and professional advocate organizations to choose from. Though care management is not inexpensive, it is critical to ensuring a good outcome for your loved ones especially in these supposed “non-medical” models of care.

We need more non-profit organizations who can provide care management and lay advocacy well to all those who need it.
Even small amounts of intervention can save your loved one’s life.

To read the referenced article “Deadly Neglect” from the Union Tribune, follow this link: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/sep/09/deadly-neglect-assisted-living-homes-san-diego/

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