Survey: 84% of Americans Over 50 Expect a Family Member to Move into Assisted Living

I ran across a a survey statistic from April 2008 that floored me.  It’s a must read:

Eighty-four percent of Americans over the age of 50 expect an immediate family member to move into a senior living community within the next 10 years, while 24 percent over the age of 65 expect the same for themselves, according to a new national survey of American attitudes on assisted living released today by the Coalition to Protect Choice in Senior Living (CPCSL). The poll found just more than half (51 percent) expect their parents to live in a senior living community within 10 years, with 15 percent expecting the same for their spouse and 10 percent for a sibling.

While I was shocked these numbers were so high, I completely agree.  In an informal study of about 40 people, I sensed an almost inevitability about needing assisted living. I also found that financial issues and quality of care topped the list of concerns for both Baby Boomers and their children.  Not surprisingly, the younger the respondent to my inquiry, the less they were concerned about total cost.

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Why You Need to Understand Medication Management

Early in my mom’s tenure in assisted living, I noticed her monthly bill had a significant expense labeled as “medication management.” As someone who rarely takes any medication, I realized I needed to understand the process better.  I’ll be dedicating several posts in near future to this topic, as I believe family involvement in medication management is critical.

Medication is a Major Issue

According to a 2006 study by the three leading non-profits — ACHA, NCAL and the MEFC, medication is often a major component of an older person’s life, making it a major issue for assisted living facilities. The role of medication and medication assistance (called “medication management” by assisted living administrators) is surprising:

  • 77.5% of residents needed assistance with medications
  • Residents were taking an average of 13 medications

In an assisted living setting, residents rely heavily on staff to assist with the timely and correct delivery of medication.  But in the United States alone, nearly two million Americans experience adverse drug reactions from prescription medication each year.

What can you do to protect your loved one? A better understanding of medication management can help.

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People Rise to the Occasion….If You Let Them

I am excited to share some thoughts today, because they are driven by a question I received from a colleague of mine. She asked, “I remember when we worked together, your mom was in that skilled nursing place in San Diego. What made you move her to assisted living?”

My answer: People rise to the challenge.

To be fair, this isn’t my quote. I heard these words for the first time after visiting many, many facilities. The source of the quote was a woman by the name of Andrea, and she was the admissions director where my mom currently lives. It is to Andrea that I owe an enormous debt of gratitude for making my mom and my life all the better. (If you’re reading this, Andrea, thank you!)

Rewind back to December 2005. My mom had been in skilled nursing for more than five months. For those that don’t know, skilled nursing is a mix between a hospital and an apartment. Patients usually share a room, and nearly all require treatments from a registered nurse. While my mom was there, one of her roommates passed away and several others were taken to the hospital. They did not return.

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Caregivers Do More Than Give Care

At lunch this week, a co-worker overheard me talking to my mom’s caregiver. When I hung up, he asked me, “What exactly does a caregiver do?” While at first I thought the answer to be pretty obvious, I realized it is more complex.

I learned over the last few years that the right caregiver can do far more than provide care.

My mom’s caregiver plays a number of different roles, including:

  • A friend. Just like having a roommate, the caregiver and your loved one will spend a lot of time together. And just like a roommate, a caregiver and your loved one can become great friends (or not, but that’s a different discussion). My mom and her caregiver have become very good friends, going to events together, watching movies together and chatting like good friends do. At many times, the “caregiver” side of their relationship is minimized, and they are friends. This is a good thing!
  • A listener. The transition to assisted living can be difficult for many people. You’ve probably read my mom’s story. It was especially difficult for her to move from being so independent to becoming so dependent. Caregivers can be great listeners and counselors. In many cases, their experience gives them a far greater understanding of these challenges than you, and they can be a great resource for your loved one to talk through the issues.
  • A cheerleader. It can be tough to get motivated for the activities of the day, physical or occupational therapy or just to get out of pajamas in the morning. It’s often tough for all of us. Caregivers can serve as a great cheerleader, giving pep talks when necessary to get out and enjoy the activities of the day.
  • A big brother or sister. Often in assisted living, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. A caregiver can be the first line of defense to ensure your loved one gets what they need, when they need it.

For families, caregivers can play a whole different set of important roles, including:

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I was 33. The journey begins.

It was the summer of 2005. My wife and I had just returned from celebrating our engagement in Greece, and we were sharing stories over bowling with some good friends.

I was the product of a second marriage, and my mom and I had become quite close since my father’s passing in high school. We spoke often, so I wasn’t surprised when my cell phone rang and the called ID showed it was her.

I was surprised when I answered and it was the paramedics.

My mother had a stroke. I was 33.

Apparently, my mother called 411 asking for her son’s name and phone number as she could not remember it. The operator called 911, and in a matter of minutes, they had arrived, kicked down the door and called me.

And so began my journey.

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