Friday, September 12, 2008

Celebrating Assisted Living Week

This week ends National Assisted Living Week. You probably were completely unaware of this week of honoring assisted living, especially since we also honored and remembered events that changed our world with the 9/11 tragedies.

But while most of us missed the party, for millions of seniors and their families throughout the U.S. the celebration took place quietly and in an everyday sort of way. It is a celebration nonetheless of a kind of care that wasn't even available just a few years ago.

Less than a generation ago, seniors who needed care had fewer options. Most either went straight into a nursing home or remained at home with family caregivers.

The family caregiver pool diminished dramatically with the growth of women in the workforce, and nursing homes were clearly not the best environment for many seniors who didn't really have medical needs.

And so a new level of care developed that offered support for daily living tasks but minimal nursing care. It was developed on a model, too, that specifically and intentionally feels and looks more like home (or, in many cases, a nice hotel) than like an institution - another aspect that set it apart from nursing homes.

Today families have options for care that range from in-home care (one of the fastest growing segments of elder care today) to assisted living communities to nursing homes that now incorporate many of the values of person-centered care that assisted living has made the norm.

As a society facing an aging population and a potential crisis in care options, we have many reasons to celebrate assisted living this week. Here's my personal word of thanks for all the folks who provide this care, from the investor and developer to the care staff who give so many families a good night sleep knowing their loved one is in good, caring, compassionate hands.

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