Do Older Adults in Assisted Living Decline Faster?


Care communities housingMany older adults move from their homes to assisted living communities because they’re experiencing challenges remaining at home either physically or cognitively. Many move because adult children have been acting in the role of caregiver and the time required to support the care of parents becomes unrealistic.

Adult children wonder if assisted living takes all of a parent’s money?  However, the tradeoffs between caring for aging parents and moving them to a place where help is easily accessible can be practical.

Some older adults are unable to manage medications, others have difficulty grocery shopping and cooking meals, and others are simply isolated, lonely and depressed. Do assisted living communities support the elderly in remaining as independent as possible or do they further advance the physical declines experienced by an older adult by helping too much because it’s quick and easy?

Do Assisted Living Communities Make Older Adults More Dependent?

This probably seems like a silly question when the goal of assisted living is to assist. However, we all know that the more we can do and continue to do for ourselves the more physically and mentally able we will remain, especially as we age into our 80’s and 90’s.

Common services in assisted living communities include bathing, dressing, laundry, housekeeping, etc. While it’s certainly nice to have assistance with these tasks, how does not doing these tasks affect an older adult physically and mentally?

Does too much help make older adults less capable of caring for themselves? Does it make them more doubtful rather than confident in their abilities? More dependent?

Is Staff Efficiency More Important Than Supporting Independence?

Is it better to hire in-home caregivers to provide support while still practical to allow older adults to remain motivated to do as much for themselves as possible while living in their own homes? Or, if an assisted living community is necessary, would it be better to make sure the staff doesn’t totally take over?

Can private caregivers be hired for assisted living residents to support greater physical independence? This probably seems like a silly suggestion when the job of assisted care staff is to provide care.

But, can rushed care staff provide too much help resulting in older adults becoming too reliant on the care staff? Can too much help be a bad thing?

Admittedly some activities like bathing take longer if an older adult does the activity only with stand-by supervision rather than having hands-on assistance. Do required staff efficiencies like a requirement to bathe ten residents by a certain time of day result in the inability of older adults to perform these activities themselves? If yes, are there other options?

Options to Support Independence in Assisted Living Communities

And what of activities? How much better would an older adult living in an assisted living community be if their physician recommended they attend exercises classes on a regular basis to maintain strength, flexibility and to reduce falls? Staff at assisted living communities will tell you that they lose residents to nursing homes because of broken hips and other fractures.

Assisted living residents can become reliant on wheelchairs rather than making an effort to walk 10 to 20 to 30 feet each day because there’s no one to motivate them to make an effort. It’s also easier and quicker for staff to push a resident to the dining room when they don’t have time for a 20-minute walk.

Older adults benefit from motivation to do as much as possible for themselves. It should be the care industry standard to support independence rather than efficiency even if the effort to do so takes just a little more time.

©2013, 2021 Pamela D. Wilson, All Rights Reserved

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