Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Give them what they deserve

 


Out there in a world best describer as “Geriatrica” exist a group of old folks one might best be described as the Geriatric class. These folks were best described by author Tom Brokaw as “The Greatest Generation.” Their “greatness” has now faded somewhat. Their offspring have left the nest. Usually one of the pair has now gone to his or her reward; and living in the old homestead just ain't what it used to be.

So, now many have found haven in an institution called “Independent Living Facility.” These are usually apartment-styled living facilties that cater to this particular group; a population that is normally still somewhat independent, but is now relatively alone in the world. They get about fairly well, but are not content with the chores that go with this independence.

To meet this need, a half century ago entrepreneurs created a haven called “Independent Living,” where these folk could find a place to live out the rest of their lives in relative comfort.

Unbeknownst to most; however, many of those who provided these facilities that catered to this special group had more than the best interests of their senior residents in mind.

For many of these entrepreneurs, the profit motive dominated. The brochures they put out describing their senior Utopias painted a rosey picture, but the realities, it turned out, were somewhat different.

At about the time that this particular group began looking for a haven in which to live out the remainder of their lives more than a half century ago a group of Congressional leaders were busy putting together the “Older Americans Act,” a document designed to set some standards for care of the nation's senior population, of which they were now members.

And quick to recognize this situation was Congress, which enacted a bill entitled the “Older Americans Act,” designed to meet this need.

In this document those charged with the task separated senior living situations into three groups: Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Nursing Homes.

Standards of care were set up for each level, commensurate with the needs of each particular group. It was assumed that there were elders who, for various reasons, had decided that maintaining the old homestead was now too much of a chore, and that they would be content to live in some sort of apartment complex designed to accommodate senior citizens who didn't need much looking after, but did want to surrender a portion of this chore to someone else; independent seniors.

The assumption was made, then, that some sort of apartment-type housing would be just the ticket, and so limited standards were set up for “independent living.”

The next level of institutional living, they assumed, would be that which provided some degree of assistance to seniors, as they went about living out their remaining years. This level called for varying degrees of assistance, since they would appeal to elders requiring such care. And “Assisted Living” facilities standards were set up to accommodate the needs of seniors falling into this category. And to make sure that they were met, specific parameters for care and service were set. And, appropriate enforcement means were established in order that these seniors wouldn't be taken advantage of.

Of course the cost of living at one of these establishments was somewhat greater than that at an independent living facility, since a greater level of care was provided,

The third level of care was nursing homes, and this should be self explanatory. Very stringent standards were set for this environment; and even then there's a goodly amount of dancing about by managers of these facilities as it relates to standards and levels of care. But that's another story.

As the years passed the attraction for these three types of facilities increased. More and more seniors found that living at the old homestead was becoming a greater chore, so why not let someone else do all these yard and housekeeping chores?

Moving into and assisted living facility was a good idea, but stringen standards existed there, and making such a move was not as easy as it appeared. Plus, it was a little more costly; since meeting the attendant standards was more expensive; and Big Brother was watching.

Government oversight was non-existent at independent living faculties, so standards were also virtually non-existent. One can be sure of that since most of these facilities were owned by for-profit investors, for whom the bottom line was gospel, service and other amenities were kept to a minimum, and before long the glossy brochure presented to eager applicants for residence at an independent

living facility, often promised more than was actually delivered. But they cost less, so residents were obliged to put up with less. But they didn't always like it.

Add to this was the fact that many seniors who should be living at an assisted living facility were spooked by the cost, and would seek accommodation at an independent living facility, even though appropriate care they might need was not provided, but the “headhunters” there were all too eager to oblige. Unfort-unately, this resulted in a facility designed to accommodate residents who were, in fact, independent, being overwhelmed by a growing population of residents dependent on motorized wheelchairs, walkers, and other forms of “assistance.”

So, what’s the answer to this paradox?

The answer is, for the appropriate government agencies to be permitted and encouraged to take a closer, and stricter, look at the services provided by independent living facilities, and to set some firmer standards for the services provided, accompanied by strict enforcement requirements.

There's no reason why the resident at the assisted living facility can't feel that he or he is getting his or her money's worth, while the resident at the independent living facility often is not; and there's nothing he or she can do about it.

These are important factors our lawmakers should consider as they work to provide us with a new Older Americans Act.

So far, the 114th Congress has directed its attention to the Act as originally written, focusing still on only a portion of the senior population. The Act still only addresses the needs of a portion of the senior population, while continuing to ignore a significant population of seniors who reside in facilities that purport to serve them, but which fall shamefully short of meeting the original goal. The Older Americans Act still only addresses the needs of some of our seniors, not all of them; which is a shameful disservice of our Congress as it relates to our senior citizens.

If the managers of these facilities are to provide adequate service to seniors assurances should be made that they do it right; not just as little as they can get by with.

Our senior citizens, who have given so much to their country, the Greatest Generation, deserve no less.

Equality

An appropriate analogy relating to Hillary Clinton's security classification problem can be found in George Orwell's Animal Farm: “All animals are equal; but some are more equal than others.”

 

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