Mention the words “assisted living,” and some people will get upset. There are several myths that have existed for a while regarding assisted living homes, and the things they do or don’t do for their residents. It’s not really a surprise that such misinformation abounds, as the topic of eldercare is always going to be emotionally fraught. Children don’t like to think about their parents dying, especially if there’s a possibility that it will be a long and drawn-out process. American culture in general has trouble talking about death in an honest way. So if there’s any chance of moving forward in a constructive way, society at large has to start being more candid.


Myth #1: Assisted living homes are a prison for the elderly.


From the way some people discuss assisted living, you’d think they were talking about a Charles Dickens novel, not a place for senior citizens to receive they care they need. There have been some high-profile cases where assisted living or nursing home workers abused their power, but that shouldn’t act as indictment of the entire industry. Some facilities have minor problems, and some have major issues, but there are plenty of very good facilities that treat their residents with dignity and compassion. No one should drop an elderly relative off at an assisted living facility without doing some research first, of course. Take a tour of each facility. Ask questions. If the staff gets annoyed by your questions, consider that a warning sign. If a facility considers you an inconvenience now, that’s not a great sign for how they’ll behave once you’ve sent an aging relative to live there. A reputable facility will be happy to answer your questions and assuage any concerns. They’ll be upfront about things like costs and insurance, not dismissive and condescending. You can also research each facility by looking up any complaints that have been made against it with your state’s Department of Health. Knowledge is power. Don’t assume the best or worse about any place before you do some digging.


Myth #2: Only bad children send their parents to an assisted living facility.


This one can be really tough to deal with. Most children grow up wanting nothing more than to please their parents and make them proud. It can be agonizing to think that you’re abandoning them somehow by sending them to live at an assisted living facility. Luckily, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s common to hear something like “My parents cared for me, so now I’m going to care for them.” That ignores the fact that no child asks to be born. Their parents are the ones who decided they should exist. They made an active choice to bring children into the world, so it’s not at all the same to require children to care for their parents no matter what. If that’s not convincing, imagine telling yourself that you can’t go to the doctor for a broken leg, because you should “keep it in the family.” That’s ridiculous, right? Many elderly people suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia, which is a heartbreaking disease in every respect. It’s also not something that children should be expected to handle on their own. There are facilities that cater specifically to certain populations, including those with memory loss. And if your parent has medical issues, they need trained medical professionals who know how to deal with things like cpap machines and catheters.

Finally, remember that people who work at assisted living facilities get breaks, breaks that are often mandated by law. It’s not realistic to expect one person to act as a caregiver twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It takes courage to know when a situation has become too big for you to handle. In many cases, an assisted living facility is the kindest option for both the parent and their adult child.





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