Friday, July 26, 2013

Life and Death in Assisted Living

The suggestive title of this new film about the assisted living industry has compelled us to do something we rarely do on this blog; express an opinion.  For those who are not aware, this film or "expose" on assisted living was created by ProPublica and airs on PBS FRONTLINE.  In summary, the film shows assisted living in a dark light.

Our organization has the utmost respect for both ProPublica and FRONTLINE.  However in this case, we feel sensationalism is rearing its less than pretty head.  While of course it is true that not every assisted living community does everything perfectly and one can always find examples of negligence and poor treatment in any service industry.  The vast majority of assisted living communities and their employees are hard working, dedicated individuals.  And yes, many assisted living communities are for-profit institutions, as are many hospitals and media outlets.  Being a for-profit does not necessarily make an organization bad, often times it just makes them more efficient.

For many individuals, assisted living offers a vastly improved quality of life for both the resident and their families.  No it is not perfect, nor is it the perfect solution for every family.  Certainly home care and nursing homes are imperfect solutions as well. 

Perhaps what we object to most is the promotional copy.   To paraphrase "months after checking into an assisted living facility, she was dead".  Really?  Is that surprising when the average age of an assisted living resident is in 80s and the average length of stay is only 22 months.

While what ProPublica has uncovered is important and there are problems within the assisted living industry, does that justify giving the entire industry a bad name?  It is like saying the Olympics are bad because some athletes use performance enhancing drugs.  Or perhaps more relevantly it is like saying documentaries are bad because certain films utilize sensationalistic, Hollywood practices in their promotion.   Why not just call the film "To Live and Die in AL"?