Aging Options

Study finds that not all AL facilities are created equal

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One alternative to nursing home living is an assisted living facility. These come in all sizes. That statement might seem to be a comment worthy of a “duh” response but the reason that the size of a facility has any bearing is that a new study found that the size of a community determined the demographics of a community. The study analyzed information from the 2010 National Survey of Residential Care Facilities by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Researchers compared the data and found some surprising data. They rated facilities as either small (four to 10 beds), medium (11-26 beds) or large to extra large (26 or more beds). The survey excluded facilities that exclusively housed the severely mentally ill or developmentally disabled.

Researchers came up with the following community demographics.

Demographics of small communities

  • Three times more likely to house non-seniors (21 percent vs. 7 percent)
  • More likely to house more Alzheimer’s or other memory care patients (53 percent vs. 41 percent) than larger communities
  • Less likely to have dementia special care units
  • House nearly twice as many residents with severe mental illness (13 percent vs. 6 percent) and five times as many with developmental disabilities (10 percent vs. 2 percent). In theory, this means that people with Alzheimer’s are being co-housed with people with severe mental illness or developmental disabilities.
  • Thirty-two percent of residents use Medicaid
  • Adverse resident behaviors such as verbal, sexual or physical assertiveness are statistically higher in smaller communities

Demographics of large communities

  • Over 85 percent of residents over the age of 75
  • Over 56 percent over the age of 85
  • Sixteen percent of residents use Medicaid

Medium sized communities fell between the two sizes in terms of characteristics.

Seventeen percent of residential care communities had dementia special care units. Those communities that had dementia care units were more likely than not to have more beds (seven out of 10 were large communities vs. four out of 10 beds in the small communities) , be chain-affiliated, less likely to be certified or registered for Medicaid and more likely to have been built as a residential care community.

Researchers believe that their findings will likely affect public policy. For families looking for appropriate residences for either themselves or a loved one, the research can help determine what sorts of things to look for and what kinds of questions to consider asking prior to making a decision. If you’re still confused, understand that you are not alone.

A geriatric care manager can help you make an informed decision about senior housing and ease the burden of worry in choosing an appropriate facility. Contact a geriatric care manager by calling 1-877-76-Aging.



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