In “Budget cuts elicit fears for elderly” (Houston Chronicle, January 30, 2012, B1, B5), Renee C. Lee documented some frightening trends in Assisted living (AL) facilities throughout Texas.
As in virtually every state, the eldest Baby Boomers are turning 66 this year and the number of Texans needing long-term care will continue rising for the next two decades. On a positive note, the number of AL facilities has increased from 1,355 in 2000, to 1,440 in 2007, to 1,621 in 2011. Unfortunately, this growth is a mixed blessing because there are nearly 20% more facilities that must be periodically inspected to ensure that state regulations for the industry are being met. And Texas has been slow to revise current regulations to adjust to the growing demand for long-term care.
Second, the TX Department of Aging and Disability Services recently eliminated 60 inspectors who enforce state regulations! Consequently, the typical AL facility will be visited every 18 to 24 months. Even before the cuts in staff, horror stories of bedbugs, physical and sexual abuse by staff, and failure to report missing residents abound. The only rational conclusion is that less inspection will result in failure to detect more mistreatment of the elderly.
Third, “Texas requires as little as 16 hours of on-the-job training for attendants, allows medication to be administered without a license and doesn’t require specific staff-resident ratios,” Lee reports. Carmen Castro, an advocate for the elderly, referred to this situation as “the Wild West.”
So there you have it – a sobering combination of increasing need, less frequent inspection, and inadequate training and requirements for attendants is brewing in Texas (and very likely in many other states). These conditions can only lead to more misery for our parents and grandparents – and ourselves – in their final years.
One solution, so course, is for seniors to be very careful to choose only the most reputable, well staffed AL facilities with the best endorsements from current residents. Sadly, however, the high cost of quality AL can severely drain the life savings of many Americans needing long-term care. So many must settle for the cheapest facilities they can find.
On the other hand, Americans who own long-term care insurance (LTCi) are armed with financial resources that enable them to be much more selective about the type of facility they choose.