Why you should Age in Place
On the heels of PBS’ documentary ‘Life and Death in Assisted Living’, certified aging-in-place specialist and architect Aaron D. Murphy gives his take on the industry at large, and how aging-in-place could be the solution.
Written by Aaron D. Murphy, Architect / CAPS
Owner – ADM Architecture www.ADM-architecture.com
Managing Editor – Empowering The Mature Mind www.EmpoweringTheMatureMind.com
My thoughts and reflections on the recent PBS Frontline Expose’ of the CCRC care experience
On July 30th the assisted living communities across the U.S. braced for an hour long story about their industry, with a huge focus on the pitfalls and horrific outcomes of seniors that have moved in. Stories that focused on avoidable deaths and disgusting levels of client neglect and resulting lawsuits abound.
First of all, I would absolutely suggest that you watch the episode in its entirety. Here is the link to that video story.
So, as a licensed Architect and CAPS “Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist” who advocates that we do what 89% of those polled by AARP would LIKE to do, which is exactly the opposite of the CCRC facility options, to stay in their OWN HOME as long as possible – what are my take-away feelings and action items from this explosive exposure story that recently hit the airwaves?
First of all, let me say that I honestly felt for BOTH SIDES of this story. I too have heard first-hand from my own clients and people I speak to when presenting on stage or co-hosting our radio show, about horrible outcomes and fallouts from placing a loved one into the continuum of facility and campus style care. People who were previously outgoing and social that became recluse and mentally absent. People that used to host holiday parties, who out of fear and disorientation in a facility, quit taking care of their hygiene and ended up shunning visitors and getting infections that led to unnecessary surgeries. People who were completely capable and independent, who were placed with much less mentally stable occupants after a fall, during rehab, that eventually due their surroundings became themselves unstable and even committed suicide.
And I see the flip side as well. In an industry that lacks regulation and oversight, I see staff in these facilities and industry who are exactly the types of people you would want to be caring for your parents or spouse. People that choose a career in this field at the employee level are typically of the “social worker” mentality, which I refer to (along with teachers) as “Big Heart, no Paycheck”. They do what they LOVE and are PASSIONATE about, which in this case is caring for seniors, and they are not at the employee level, in it for the money. Yes they want and need to make a decent wage and a living for their own family, but they chose this avenue of service because they CARE. It appears from this expose that just aired, it isn’t their HEART that’s the issue, it’s their HANDS – they are TIED by a broken system.
A system in assisted living and the CCRC infrastructure which puts PROFITS above PEOPLE, OVERHEAD cutting above ETHICS, MARGINS that lead to MARGINAL behavior due to understaffed facilities and undertrained employees. It sounds like the changes need to come from the TOP DOWN, with a focus on LEADING by example, LONG TERM relationships as a goal with families and clients, MORALS over short term MONEY in their pocket, ETHICS over ECONOMY of scale from a “put heads in beds” just fill the building mentality. Until those things happen, I think I’m safe to continue with my opinion and take-away thoughts.
I believe that the preaching, teaching, public speaking –basically the “hollering from the mountaintops” about Aging-in-Place is truly my calling, and is still the right thing to do as a passion I have to educate a nation. It’s what the vast majority of us want, especially the massive demographic sector of Baby Boomers, or that “Silver Tsunami” as it’s being called, those 10,000 people now turning 65 years old EVERY DAY. It makes sense for our HAPPINESS, our SAFETY (with good design and in-home care), and it makes sense FINANCIALLY when you see the cost of the alternative options in the CCRC facility.
Aging in Place MAKES SENSE for your HAPPINESS
- For as long as it is safe and it makes sense for all family members, “Aging-in-Place” should be your primary goal for you, your spouse, or your family member. Our parents don’t want change for change’s sake, they want what’s familiar – that’s their HOME. They want their own spaces, their own things (all of them), their memories, their pet, and their garden. This is HOME, let’s keep them there as long as it makes sense. Aging-in-Place home design and modifications can lengthen this stay by years and even decades. The expose PBS aired spoke of clients who immediately after moving in were witnessed by family members as changing and deteriorating very quickly emotionally under the “oversight” (Hhhhmm, that vocab word really has TWO significant meanings in that context, doesn’t it?) of the facility care staff and management. Stay home, stay happier.
Aging in Place MAKES SENSE for your SAFETY
- Good design can increase your longevity at home, with Universal Design elements and smart fixtures and appliances, better lighting, flooring, materials and contrasts between them, smart appliances – the list goes on. A CAPS professional can make your home work better for EVERYONE. This includes your loved one with changing abilities, as well as a caregiver, family member, and even the guests and the kids too! Universal Design is about making homes better and more intuitively user-friendly for anyone and everyone, regardless of ability, height, weight, posture, age, or any other factor. There are great products out there to help facilitate this extension of safe living at home, and there are great contractors (also CAPS certified ones) that can make it come to fruition in the built form. The DESIGNER (in my case a licensed architect as well) is the KEY and the BRIDGE to SUCCESS. They play “quarterback” on the team, making your vision a reality on paper and working through the client’s wants, needs, and even addressing their fears and concerns, to work through a solution that makes the most sense for each individual client. When you compare this idea to the PBS show information about understaffed wings in facilities in “off-hours” (when a man with dementia wandered the halls and drank a cleaning solution that KILLED HIM) and under-trained staff overseeing occupants with very severe needs and elevated risks to themselves and others, you can see why we believe and preach what we do about staying in your own home longer.
Aging in Place MAKES SENSE for your FINANCES
- We wrote a paper recently titled “There’s $500,000 Hiding In Your Home” (go to our website and sign up for our newsletter at www.EmpoweringTheMatureMind.comand you’ll get a copy as your FREE GIFT). This paper spells out for financial planners and their clients how financing a remodel for Aging-in-Place, even when coupled with 20 hours per week of professional in-home care assistance, would SAVE YOU over $30,000 per YEAR compare to the costs of the alternative living situations in the CCRC continuum of care facilities like assisted living or a nursing home. This PBS show confirms the research and findings I’d done about those costs, stating that they charge anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000+ per MONTH for a single bed unit on their campuses. It was clear in that PBS show that at the executive levels, the only finances the facility is worried about is THEIR OWN. “Fill the house” and “heads in beds” seemed to be the mantra, at the “EXPENSE” of client care (pun intended). Making your home work better in preparation for your changing needs can easily keep you home for many years longer, and with those numbers for costs savings when you are moving into a fixed income phase of your life in retirement, it’s easy to see why Aging-in-Place makes sense for your financial future as well.
Aging in Place MAKES SENSE for your INDEPENDENCE
- Regardless of what you call our second half or last third of life, be it the “golden years” or “retirement” or “the silver age” or any other title for the timeline segment, we’ve added another 30 years to our lives in the last 100 years due to technological and medical advances since the industrial revolution. 2/3 of all people that lived to 65 years old are still here and alive today! This is a new venture, a new time in our lives, and we all feel by the time we reach this segment in life we deserve to be IN CHARGE. We want to be FREE, INDEPENDENT, able to do what we want and when we want to. This is critical to our happiness in life. Not planning for Aging-in-Place can take all of those wants away, in an instant. Being in denial and not planning to make your home work better for you in that stage of your life, if avoided long enough, will eventually result in an acute occurrence like a fall or illness. BOOM! That instant, your life is changed forever potentially, and the future you had envisioned is gone. If you break your hip, or fall and hit your head, suddenly YOU are NOT making your own decisions anymore. Your children and choosing your next housing solution from another state or city, people are flying in and changing your life FOR YOU. Your independence, your freedom, your control over your situation has been compromised in a moment’s notice. This is the potential outcome of procrastination and denial about how your future may look different for your abilities. This can be avoided, and you CAN stay IN CONTROL, by PLANNING AHEAD. This is what we wish for you, for our nation, and for all of the clients we get to work with every day that get in touch with us to start this process toward successful “Aging-in-Place”.
So, here at ADM Architecture and EmpoweringTheMatureMind.com, we’ll keep on “hollering from the mountaintops”, and believing in our passion and our purpose of educating a nation about their options and the many potential advantages of “Aging-in-Place”. I hope that the CCRC facility industry can survive the fallout of this PBS expose, and they can also come away with a clear need of where things need to change. There IS a place and a time for the continuing phases of “live-in” facility care for most of us at some point in the future. I hope when we get there it’s been revised and regulated in a way that makes us willing and accepting of that time and phase in our lives. But until then, we’ll keep helping the nation stay at home, where they say they want to be – longer, happier, safer, and financially better off.