Wednesday, January 2, 2013

How “Assisted Living” Plays Out in Practice

If you have aging parents, you must read Michael Wolff’s breathtaking article about his dying, but not yet dead, mother. Here’s an excerpt, on how “assisted living” plays out in practice.

A national chain of residences for the elderly, the Atria is more a real-estate business than a health-care enterprise, providing, at hefty cost—the apartments are in the $8,000-a-month range—quite a pleasant one-bedroom apartment in a prewar building, full of amenities (terraces and hairdressers) and gradations of assistance. But it is important to understand—and there is no reason why one would—that assistance in an assisted-living facility, even as you increase it and pay more for it, is really not much more than kind words and attendance, opened doors, a bit of laundry, and your medications delivered to you. If there is a need for real assistance of almost any kind that involves any sort of calibration of concern, of dealing with the real complications and existential issues of aging people, then 911 is invariably called. This is quite a brilliant business model: all responsibility and liability is posthaste shifted to public emergency services and the health-care system.