Looking at the Options
Being the product of a divorced home, I’ve had the inevitable opportunity, to see two sets of parents, go through the Assisted Living experience. I want to share with you my Dad’s experience.
My Dad developed Parkinson Disease probably in his early to mid sixties. The disease progressed steadily for the next ten years to where he could no longer live independently. Not being in a position emotionally to care for him myself, we started looking to find Assisted Living Facilities for him.
Price the Same No Matter Where You Live?
Like everything, you have your Good, Better and Best options. Obviously wanting the best for Dad we started looking at the Best Facilities. We toured a number of facilities,both in Indiana where Dad had his home and in Nevada, where I lived. I was surprised right at the start to find that the facilities in rural Indiana charged the same as facilities in urban Las Vegas, Nevada. This has never made sense to me since the median price of a home in Indiana was around 150,000 and in Vegas it was around 350,000. It was obvious that the cost of living of a particular geographical area had no impact on the cost of Assisted Living. The Assisted Living Industry has standardized the price throughout the U.S. This Industry is dominated by a few major Corporations. We are talking BIG money and these corporations call the shots.
While it’s true that these facilities follow the good, better, and best formula, these are totally based on socioeconomic guidelines. The best facilities are for the wealthy, better is for the middle class, and good is for the poor. While Dad would be considered wealthy by most, in touring the best facilities, he felt uncomfortable. The idea of wearing a sports coat to dinner under chandeliers, with classical music playing in the background just left him cold. And while he could afford the basic cost (no assistance) of $4000.00/month for a studio was affordable, it just didn’t suit him.
So we started to look at the next tier of facilities, the better, designed for middle class sensibilities. We found these to be more to his taste, very nice without being ostentatious, comfortable well appointed living rooms, large and airy dinning rooms, theaters and libraries and even bistros for midnight snacks, some even had swimming pools and spas. With the basic cost (no assistance) of $3000.00/month for a studio, this seemed to fit Dad’s needs. He upgraded to a one bedroom for only an additional $200.00/month. After his initial evaluation, it was determined that he didn’t need any special assistance dressing, bathing or feeding himself so his cost would only be $3200.00/month for a one bedroom. These rooms had a sink, a mini refrigerator and a microwave.
After six months the nurse practitioner decided that Dad needed too much assistance dressing, so they tacked on $500.00 a month. Dad was often frustrated that it took forever to get anyone to help him dress. It would take him 45 minutes to get his shirt on by himself. This became a constant irritation to him. After a year of being frustrated, over little things, Like Staff never answering repeated requests for help. Dad wanted to look at different Families, to see if he could get better service cheaper. It’s at this point that my education about the Assisted Living Industry really began.
We had seen the best and the better so now we were going to check out the good. The facilities designed for the poor. The larger facilities in most cases had the feel of hospitals. The studios could only be described as better appointed hospital rooms, with the lobby, dinning rooms and recreation areas all with the feel of a nursing home. With a basic cost (no assistance) of $2000.00/month for a studio, appealed to Dad’s frugality, it obviously wasn’t what he was looking for. It’s at this point that we started to look at Group Homes.
Free Referral Service?
The Assisted Living industry has all types of services, available at no cost, to help families, find suitable arrangements. These services, I’m sure, are paid on a commission basis, by the group homes, for finding and directing qualified prospects to them. But I have not really investigated that side of the business. Most referral services have a number of homes they work with though, they know the price structures of each home, and the applicants’ ability to pay. While the whole industry needs to be scrutinized, special attention needs to be placed on Group Homes, this area is ripe for abuses to occur.
Group Homes follow the same socioeconomic breakdown of good for the poor, better for the middle class, and best for the wealthy. Always looking for a deal Dad insisted on looking at a Group Home that cost $2000.00/month. Our referral assistant knew of a home that had an opening for one male. She took us to an average looking house, in an average neighborhood, from the outside it looked like a normal three or four bedroom house. Upon entering, we were meet by the operators of the home, a husband and wife team who had satisfied the State requirements to manage a Group Home. We came to find out that an individual can have one or many Group Homes and because it’s very lucrative the more the better. It’s an Industry that gets very little attention.
Upon entering, we found nine people, sitting or milling about the living room, watching TV. They showed us the bed they had available for Dad, he only shared the bedroom with one other man, two of the bedrooms had three beds in them. This turned out to be a five bedroom house with the master being used by the operators. They could handle ten people, which at $2000.00 each comes out to $20,000.00 a month. Very lucrative indeed.
Kitchen enclosed with a Chain Link Fence
We noticed that the kitchen had been enclosed with a chain link fence with a lock on the door, when we inquired about it we were told that residents weren’t allowed in the kitchen in order to prevent possible fires due to residents putting styrofoam containers on the stove or cans in the microwave. That meals were provided three times a day. After walking the house for a few more minutes, wondering how twelve people could live there comfortably we left. The referral agent told us we could move in immediately and that the rent would be prorated, we asked her if this was standard for $2000.00 a month, she said that there were homes that didn’t have as many residents, but that it was pretty standard. We asked her if she knew of anyplace for maybe $3000.00/month. She knew of a number of homes at that price and after visiting a few, Dad found a nice Home, where he could have the master bedroom and garage access, and that only had one other resident. All for only $3500.00 a month. Dad ended up living there for almost a year until a slip and fall in the shower sent him to the hospital from which he never recovered.
The Next Big Scandal
It’s my belief that the Assisted Living Industry is the next big scandal waiting to hit the headlines. I inquired about the average time a person lived in Assisted Living and was told it’s between two to three years. At those prices I wondered if it was because the resident died or just ran out of money. All one needs to do is Google Assisted Living Scandal to see that it’s an issue that is calling for investigation and possible over site. It’s time we look at these national organizations who have obviously colluded to set prices across the country but to especially look at these Group Home entrepreneurs who are making huge amounts of money with very little if any oversight.
As always, thanks for visiting. Dave