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The ugly side to retirement community living

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Printer Friendly VersionMultilevel housing, senior housing that takes an independent person or an individual with some assistant living needs and moves with them through a progression of greater and greater physical and/or mental needs, boasts the benefits of never having to move again.  What many of those places don’t say is that while you can remain within the community, your actual address may change. A new study published in The Gerontologist found that those transitions—from independent to assisted, assisted to memory care, can be disruptive and stressful. The result is that those seniors who need more and more help may isolate themselves or hide health conditions out of fear of relocation.

The study interviewed 367 residents, family, staff and administrators at seven facilities including Continuing Care Retirement Communities and dementia care units with multiple levels of care. In all seven facilities, the unit with the highest level of care was stigmatized. Many interviewees admitted that those requiring lower levels of care didn’t like to mingle with others in higher levels of care. The shunning of higher levels of care included riding buses that indicated that the people inside might be memory impaired. Staff members also commented that people touring communities often declined touring the nursing care center.

Whether it’s because people don’t like to think about what happens as they age or because of the stigma, it creates an adversarial relationship between residents and staff that causes residents to believe that staff members are looking for signs that they need to move to a higher level of care.

Here’s the original article.

A lot of folks seem willing to point out that people see higher levels of care as evidence they are dying and they are the ones in denial but this stigma isn’t new. In 2012, an article showed that communities also play a role when they choose to restrict access to dining areas and other areas based on level of care.

Here’s how to protect yourself. Before moving into any new community, do your homework.  Ask questions, spend time in the actual community, be aware of your rights as a resident and talk to current residents. While housing choices remain somewhat limited, your options expand with each day from community villages to increased levels of home care to changes in how for profit and non-profit organizations view the future of housing seniors. For a list of housing options in your area, check out our AgingOptions Resource Guide.

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