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When Nursing Homes Are Not Prepared to Care for People with Dementia


While four out of 10 residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities suffer from dementia, many facilities are not prepared to provide proper care. 

Residents with Dementia are Suffering

With millions of Baby Boomers now in their 70s and 80s, nursing homes and senior living facilities across the country are filled to capacity. Facilities with dedicated memory care units are growing at a rapid pace due to an increasing number of seniors getting diagnosed with Alzheimer's or dementia. According to the Alzheimer's Association, almost 6 percent of the American population has Alzheimer's today, and that number is expected to rise to 14 million by 2050. 

While nursing homes are regulated by the federal government to care for Medicare and Medicaid patients, assisted living facilities are not. Although many assisted living facilities have memory care units, they do not provide skilled medical care or therapy like nursing homes where treatments are paid for by Medicare and Medicaid. As a result, many Alzheimer's residents in assisted living facilities are not getting proper care. 

Many assisted living homes look and feel like nursing homes, but their regulations are not as strict. Since the federal government does not license or oversee assisted living facilities, many patients suffer inadequate care, as well as neglect and abuse. Assisted living facilities fall under state regulations which are often lax or not enforced. Facility inspections are less frequent and fines for violations are much lower. Residents with Alzheimer's or dementia are often allowed to wander freely without proper supervision endangering their own safety, as well as that of other residents. 

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), there were 492 assisted living facilities in the state in 2017. IDPH states that 291 of these facilities are able to provide proper care for residents with Alzheimer's or dementia, while the other 199 facilities are not. Brookdale, one of the largest assisted living facilities in the country, is on the qualified provider list. However, in 2016, a 90-year-old South Carolina dementia resident in Brookdale Charleston was attacked and killed by an alligator when she freely wandered from the facility. Within a year of the incident, Brookdale received 11 violations for incomplete overnight resident checks and failure to maintain appropriate staffing ratios. Their fines were less than $7,000.

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