I had an e-mail conversation
with someone recently - a truly nice and helpful person who
works for a large, national Cancer Organization, and I suggested
our Assisted Living Directory to provide housing information
on their site. She, at first, really didn't put the connection
between assisted living and cancer together. She wrote:
"We have looked at
the site and we are not sure that the site applies specifically
to breast cancer patients or their families. Unless I am mistaken,
it seems like an older woman who needs help during treatment
for breast cancer would need a different level of care than
is offered at a typical assisted living facility. If someone
with breast cancer needed nursing care for medications, I do
not believe that level of service is provided at an assisted-living
facility. And, if you are looking for more of a hospice situation
than that would not be found at an assisted living facility
either. The site seems very useful in general to people looking
for an assisted living situation for himself or herself or a
family member, but again I'm not sure that it is the right fit
for breast cancer patients or their families."
I think this was an
honest, and well-intended answer, but I didn't quite agree.
Assisted Living seems to have developed somewhat of a stereotype
in that they only care for seniors or people with dementia
or Alzheimer's. I think, though,
that this stereotype is outdated, and I do believe that more
and more assisted living facilities are equipped to care for
people with many different illnesses, including cancer of all
stages and types. I've been working on our site, Assisted Living
Directory for many years now, so I have seen thousands of listings
posted on our site. I have also communicated with a great number
of people, many of whom have cancer and are wishing to be placed
into assisted living - or they are looking for help to place
a loved one into assisted living who is undergoing, or recovering
from cancer or treatment...or declining treatment altogether.
Here are some
of the messages we have received over the years, relevant to
cancer and assisted living:
"Hello..I am checking
facilities for two dear friends who are 88 and 89. The woman
was just diagnosed with lung cancer..the husband is in great
health. I need to know the cost of your facility (monthly) and
availability." - Thanks, Tanya
"I am looking for an assisted living facility for my mother.
She is 71 and a cancer survivor she is no longer able to stay
home" - Karen
"I am interested
in more information about your facility. My father-in-law has
cancer and at 81 does not wish to go through chemotherapy, so
I am looking for a local assisted living community where we
can help care for him. He is alone so would need only a studio
to 1 room apt, so please provide information on your facility
including cost and availability" - Thank you, Lloyd
"Dear Sirs: I am writing because I have my brother in need
of a residence place, but he is handicap. He is a retired Medical
Doctor, and needs a place with health care, and companionship.
He refuses to go into a regular home for the old. He is 75 years
old, and he wants something like a small residential apartment
where other people like him, are living, with available doctors
and emergency service.
His mind is Ok so far,
although sometimes is slow; he had an aneurysm; at the present
he has an Emphysema and Prostate Cancer both under control.
He can walk slowly with his cane. At the present time he is
living by himself in the outskirts of Seebring Fla, doing his
own home chores. As relatives, he has myself and my other brother,
both of us living in the Dominican Republic, having no other
family. He must stay in Florida in order to be able to get the
proper medical care he needs for his illness as an American
citizen, of course. He is a Surgeon Doctor and Psychiatrist,
who served in the US, and it is too bad he is in this shape.
He is only source of income is a Social Security monthly check,
and also he has the benefits of Medicare and Medicaid.
The purpose of this
letter, if possible is to obtain the following information:
1. The different type of facilities that your institution provides
2. The financial cost of my brother living with you
3. If you accept Medicaid, and if so, what percentage of your
cost would cover the Medicaid, as well as his Social Security.
Our intentions are if
possible to move him to the new residence by the month of July
Thank you so much in
advance for your cooperation" - Donald
" I want to find
a facility for people 60-75 years old. I am 62 with stage 4
breast cancer./my mother is in Harbor Branch in Port St Lucie
but there are 80-100 year olds there. She is 83 and said she
is too young for the "joint". Do all the rooms have
porches? Can I have an overnight guest for a few days...like
my brother or friends? I may be able to work part time so is
this ok?" - Gail
"Hello I was wondering
if there where any rooms available there in Benton? I am asking
on behalf of my Mom. she has cancer and she is getting to where
she cant take care of some things and starting to forget a lot"
"I am searching
for living facilities for a friend in Jacksonville. My friend
receives bi-weekly therapy treatments for lung cancer and has
a colonoscopy. Other than that, he is an able man. He drives
everywhere in his own automobile. Unfortunately, he doesn't
own his own home and is limited to SS income of $1200/month.
He has been living with his son, but his son feels he needs
an assisted living facility for help with meals and daily hygiene.
Can you provide information about fees and vacancies? Also describe
the living arrangements."Thank you!!!" - Lois
"I was diagnosed
with terminal lung cancer, and have less than six months to
live. Would I be eligible to be a resident, and what would it
cost?" - Jean
Balancing Cancer Caregiving, Family Household, and Work [Video]
there's a need, or a need that can be filled, assisted living
and cancer are related
Cancer is a serious
disease, to be sure, but assisted living can be very helpful
to many people with cancer - especially seniors, and their families.
Often times, cancer treatment is a relatively quick process
(not in terms of duration of overall treatment, but in terms
of the actual administration of therapy) - some radiation treatments
take only 10 minutes or so per treatment, and then you are on
your way home. The ill effects are often what happens after
the treatment is over. Some types of chemotherapy, as we understand
it, may be a relatively quick process in terms of the actual
administration, but it is what happens after the treatment that
may cause a person to need extra help and assistance - which
may be more difficult to get if the patient is living at home.
For seniors undergoing
treatment, or who are recovering or perhaps in remission, assisted
living can provide a number of extremely beneficial services
to help in the day-to-day management of the disease, and it's
effects. For starters, many assisted living facilities offer
transportation to and from medical appointments, which would
include visits to the Oncologist, or treatment appointments.
Many facilities also offer medication management - helping the
resident to take scheduled medications, and helping to manage
side effects that may occur as a result of taking these medications.
Many cancer patients - and many seniors in general - have a
number of medications that need to be taken - often at very
specific times (day or night, with or without meals, etc.).
Facilities often times have very talented chefs, who can accommodate
very special diets as required by specific diseases or conditions.
Many seniors may be
widows or widowers, with their children living in different
cities or states, leaving them alone and socially unplugged.
Assisted living facilities can provide a readily available environment
of human contact and support, which has been convincingly argued
to be beneficial to anyone fighting cancer or any other debilitating
to go through Chemotherapy
There are those people
- including seniors - who decide not to undergo chemotherapy
or radiation treatments. This may be due to pre-existing health
issues, or because it is simply too harsh on their bodies to
continue living an enjoyable life free of the sometimes extreme
side effects that the treatment itself can cause. Assisted Living
can be helpful in that it can provide a supportive environment
- that may eventually lead into hospice or palliative care stages.
Hospice and Palliative Care and Assisted living
In my e-mail conversation
I include at the top of this article, the person commented that
"...And, if you are looking for more of a hospice situation
than that would not be found at an assisted living facility
I have to wholeheartedly
disagree with this one - if you do a simple search of our website
and include the word "hospice" or "palliative"
- numerous pages of results come up with facilities who offer
either, or both palliative and hospice care. I believe that
these services will continue to be more and more common with
assisted living facilities as time goes on.
from facility to facility, state to state
One of the more confusing
aspects of assisted living is that there really isn't a set
national standard of what is to be provided, especially when
you look at facility requirements from one state to another.
Often times, the range of what is offered by facilities, even
within the same city or state - can vary dramatically.
A facility may be a
small, residential home that sees an occasional visiting nurse,
and that may only house a handful of residents. Such a facility
may also be very rural, far from advanced medical facilities
and hospitals - and not appropriate for someone in the advanced
stages of cancer or any disease.
On the other hand, a
facility may house hundreds of residents, with a full-time nursing
and medical staff on hand or readily available, who are expertly
trained to care for the many various conditions that seniors
may be facing - even cancer. These modern facilities are more
resort-like in feel, and will most certainly offer services,
care, and amenities that aren't available to a smaller mom-and-pop
Furthermore, what may
be considered a licensed "assisted living facility"
in one state may be completely different in another state. Some
states, like Michigan, for example, don't even officially recognize
the term "assisted living." Instead, an assisted living
facility is really an "Adult Foster Care" home.
Whether a facility can
care for you and your diagnosis really depends on the facility,
and what they offer. This is where it is up to you, and your
family to research all of the different options available.
Important Sites that Discuss Cancer and Assisted Living:
I did do a basic search using the term "assisted
living cancer" and a number of important and helpful sites
came up. Here are just a few:
- A forum-type discussion about assisted living and nursing
homes - the question asked was "My mom will begin chemo
treatments when she is released from her rehabilitation facility."
- This one from Livestrong (Lance Armstrong's site) talks about
survivors not being able to remain at home, in relation to assisted
Here is a specific article
about Breast Cancer and Senior women, talking about how senior
women may undergo less intensive treatment due to advanced age:
- Fighting Chance is a Counseling and Resource Center for Cancer
Patients. Their site talks about the need for assisted living
when the care needed exceeds the resources and capabilities
of our homes, families and friends.
We do not wish to claim
or suggest that assisted living is the best, or only alternative
for seniors facing any stage of cancer or treatment - as there
are many options and paths that might be taken. Our main intention
with this article and video is to try to debunk the stereotype
that assisted living can only help seniors, and/or those who
have a memory disorder. Assisted Living, with the services and
amenities that many facilities provide, can often times help
with a wide range of diseases, ages, and conditions - including,
but not limited to cancer.
- Article and Video
produced by the staff at Assisted Living Directory