Assisted Living unfortunately all too often plays out like a soap opera. I do news alerts for assisted living - which is a service that many news organizations and search engines offer that allow you to receive daily alerts to your e-mail box on the subjects you are interested in. I do mine through the New York Times, and Google, and my subject, of course, is assisted living.
Almost daily, I am surprised at the types of articles that surface in the news sphere and blogsphere. They often times play out like something out of a bad daytime soap. Some of the more common stories are about assisted living residents (most often with dementia or Alzheimer's) wandering away from the facilities. Sometimes they are found safe hours or even days later - confused, hungry and dehydrated. However, other times, the story is not so happy, as these residents have at times been found frozen in the snow, dead, or injured in some other way.
I have seen many stories pertaining to food poisoning, or where an entire facility came down with a food-borne illness. Another story I remember was of a woman who got a hold of some cleaning chemicals that were left out, and unfortunately ingested them. She had dementia, and thought the chemicals were juice.
In my opinion, assisted living is growing too fast for states to keep up with regulation, and quality standards are not consistent. Regulations and standards can vary from state to state, as the federal government has very little to do with how assisted living facilities are operated.
Pennsylvania, I am happy to report, has a new group (relatively) who is pushing for quality standards in Pennsylvania state regulations covering assisted living facilities. This group, called the The Pennsylvania Assisted Living Consumer Alliance (PALCA) formed in 2008, is a new organization of consumers, family members and advocates for the elderly and persons with disabilities.
I learned about this group in the same, unconventional way that I often times learn about new news or things happening in the assisted living industry - a member of this group posted a comment on my blog. Actually, it was just the website address and nothing else - but I did go to the website to find out more.
I learned that there are over 50,000 people in Pennsylvania who live in what we might call assisted living facilities. Unfortunately, in most states, the term assisted living is very loosely used, and at times doesn't really mean what it says. I have seen facilities list themselves as "assisted living type care" or "assisted home care" - and sometimes these "facilities" are simply someone's residential home trying to pass themselves off as an assisted living facility, when they offer sub-standard care, and would fail most safety and food inspections. Many of them might be operating without a license of any kind, or without adequately trained staff.
This is why there are so many unfortunate accidents, and thus, regular, disturbing news stories coming out of the assisted living industry. Most elderly folks who choose to live in an assisted living environment are not able to care for themselves, or make rational decisions regarding their care and safety.
This is exactly why we need more regulations and watchdogs in this industry - just as this group in Pennsylvania is helping to achieve. The Pennsylvania General Assembly last year passed a bill to license the fast-growing assisted living industry - a good step - however, there is some concern that the passage of Act 56 may be just "window dressing."
We hope more states follow suit. The goal in the assisted living industry should be zero accidents, zero deaths, and maximum happiness. Pennsylvania is most certainly heading in the right direction.
By the staff at Assisted Living Directory
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