I don’t know about you, but I have no intention whatsoever of going to live at an “assisted living” facility, no less a nursing home. If it gets to the point that I need to reside in either, I am doing myself in. Clean and simple. Alzheimer’s scares me more than cancer, and more than death, so once I see I’m fading, I am not going to wait until I have completely lost my mind.
As if I needed anything to cement my convictions, I still watched a Frontline documentary on PBS last night, called Life and Death in Assisted Living. Focused on Emeritus, the leader in the behemoth $18.6 billion unregulated industry, this was one of the most disturbing hours I’ve spent in a long time. In a nutshell, Emeritus has been responsible for the deaths of a number of its residents due, in large part, to insufficient or untrained staffs. Often accepting people who need far more supervision and medical care than it could provide, Emeritus let finances trump patient care. “We were constantly told we had to make our numbers,” said a former saleswoman, so they admitted people who should have gone to live in skilled nursing home facilities, not in assisted living environments.
The documentary tells the story of Joan Boice, who, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, went to live at Emerald City, one of the Emeritus communities in California. Her grown children bought the company’s sales pitch, and because Emerald City was close to their homes, it seemed the best choice for mom. Left alone, and with the ability to move about freely, Joan fell days after moving in, although no one seemed to know what caused the accident. After a hospital stay, she went back to Emerald City, where she was again neglected.
Severe bed sores developed, which the staff literally covered up with blankets, and because Joan’s children didn’t think to ask their mom to look at her body, the sores festered. Joan died. The family sued. Emeritus tried to make the case go away by offering $3 million and asking the family for all of its files. The family refused. The case went to trial. The family was recently awarded $22 million in punitive damages.
Another resident fell out a window. A renowned college football coach, Darrell Royal, died because he wandered into a kitchen at an assisted living facility and accidentally drank industrial strength cleaning liquid. “He looked like a monster,” his daughter recalled, and she prayed his Alzheimer’s would prevent him from knowing what had happened.
If any of my FOFriends is considering moving a parent into an assisted living environment, please, please do your homework. At least you know which one you can cross off your list.
*photo credit: www.propublica.org