As more residents take up space in assisted living homes, more administrators are bringing medical care as close to in house as possible.
It makes sense too, given that ambulance rides and house-calls can start to equate with a high price tag. Instances where residents in assisted living communities need medical assistance are common, but not common enough to match the frequency of visits that many communities have.
It makes sense from an administrative perspective to apply caution when it comes to potential accidents, injuries, and illnesses. That’s why, instead of racking up costly charges for outsourced medical assistance, more assisted living communities are on boarding full-time clinicians to help out whenever it’s needed.
Surprisingly, only about half of assisted living facilities have nurses on staff or on call 24/7. As a result, most medical emergencies, or even just symptoms, trigger a doctor visit, ambulance ride, and sometimes a hospital stay.
Today, most residents in senior living homes are over age 85, according to government data, and about two-thirds need help with bathing, half with dressing, 20 percent with eating. Many suffer from Alzheimer’s related diseases such as dementia. Anywhere from 50 - 70% struggle with cognitive impairment of some kind, according to research from Health Affairs magazine.
Lindsay Schwartz, executive director at the National Center for Assisted Living, says that more senior living facilities have moved towards taking professional clinical care in-house. However, the transition has not always been easy. Many senior living facilities wish to refrain from portraying themselves as “medical” nursing homes that remind residents of being in a hospital. They are also averse to taking on the added liability of being responsible for medical care.
One organization, Doctors Making House calls, provides an example of how assisted living can offer medical care in a practical fashion. The organization dispatches over 120 clinicians to roughly 400 assisted living facilities in North Carolina. These clinicians are responsible for helping to reduce emergency room transfers by more than two thirds.
Mount Sinai in Manhattan has seen similar improvements after bringing in a full time doctor to provide emergency services when needed, reducing hospitalization by over one third. Spending time in the hospital can actually take a serious toll on residents. They may get exposed to an infection or experience stress and anxiety.
One interesting statistic, stays in assisted living homes are often only a middle point between retirement and moving on to a nursing home. Residents stay just 27 months on average before entering into a more intensive medical setting.
One downside of integrating full time clinicians into these settings is that the price could go up considerably. However, the payoff could be worth it. Adding doctors to assisted living could help reduce the frightening hand-off risks associated with outsourcing medical assistance. For example, one case in which a resident with dementia was take to the E.R. by ambulance and later sent home in a taxi, where she mistakenly returned to her old home address.
Providing this kind of medical care would go a long way towards accommodating residents who need the help. Recently, one of America’s largest providers of senior living resources recently came under fire for failing to provide adequate services for a wheelchair bound resident.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendant, Brookdale San Ramon, did not provide the plaintiff with a room that has any physical access features, including insufficient space in the bathroom, which makes it impossible for her to enter in her wheelchair; lack of a roll-in shower and insufficient grab bars; and storage space in her closet that is out of reach for her.
The lawsuit will seek class-action status for the estimated 5,000 residents in Brookdale’s 89 assisted living facilities in California, as well as unspecified damages. No date has been set when the plaintiffs’ attorneys will seek the class-action status.
Some of the most common illnesses, diseases, and injuries that can befall seniors are relatively common and difficult to avoid. Here are the most dangerous things that seniors could be exposed to.
The Common Cold/Flu
In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, between 70 and 90 percent of season flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older. Similarly, between 50 to 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in that age group as well. Influenza is a serious condition for people 65 and older.
The best way for people 65 and older to protect themselves against the flu is to receive a vaccination every six months. The reason that influenza posses a more serious risk for older individuals is because older people can have weaker immune systems that have a lower response after flu vaccinations compared to younger, healthier people. Flu vaccines have been proven to be an effective way to reduce flu illnesses deaths and hospital admissions.
GERD is a common upper gastrointestinal disorder that many elderly patients encounter. According to one research journal, it is highly prevalent worldwide, affecting up to 20 percent of the western world. It is estimated that GERD affects over 18 million people in the United States.
This gastrointestinal problem can have major effects on the esophagus and can even lead to an significantly higher chance of being affected by esophageal cancer. In general, elderly patients with GERD are at a greater risk than younger patients of developing serious complications from the condition.
It is important to remember that problems like depression are not a normal part of aging and many triggers can lead to this debilitating problem, including the death of a loved one, increased stress, or even retirement from work. While depression may be harder to recognize in older adults as they generally show different symptoms than younger people, there are still noticeable signs. For instance, many older people who are depressed will appear tired, have trouble sleeping, and can seem grumpy and irritable.
Trips and Falls
Each year, millions of older adults in the United States fall. About one in four older people fall each year, but less than half tell their doctors despite the fact that falling once doubles your chances of falling again.
According to the CDC, one in five falls causes a serious injury such as a broken bone or head injury. Specifically, over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury and at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures, 95 percent of which are caused by falling usually by falling sideways. However, these falls can prove to be deadly, something that is not particularly uncommon unfortunately. In 2016, there were almost 30,000 Americans aged 65 and older that died as a result of a fall.
Landmark Senior Living offers all of our residents access to the medical attention that they need and deserve later in life. Also, we will set up social events and activities for residents to attend to keep them happy and outgoing during their time at Landmark. If you would like more information about our assisted living programs, please reach out to our admission team today.