By Dick Weinman, AARP Oregon volunteer and Assisted Living Guru
I have free choice of mind to do what I want. I don’t have the body to do it. I depend on others to do it for me.
The “others” may own, manage, or staff the facilities of a new and growing Long Term Care (LTC) industry, now bulging because the “Baby Boomers” have boomed, increasing the need to care for the weak, ill, or damaged, who languish in their midst.
One entity in this landscape of dependency is the Assisted Living Facility, or ALF. That’s where my body resides.
An ALF is a community, peopled with those whose needs swing widely. I am cognitive and aware, but I’m disabled. I can’t perform most simple tasks of a day’s living - in LTC jargon, ADLs (Activities of Daily Living.) If you can’t perform two ADLs, you may join us in an ALF.
Some in my congregate residence (Why is it called Assisted Living Facility and not called an Assisted Living Residence? That’s what it is. [A prison is a Facility.] But try saying ALR. The soft voiceless labiodental fricative (f) is easier and far less formidable than the liquid consonant – rrrrrrr!
Some of the congregation in my residence are disabled like me, but, unlike me, the result of illness or a stroke; some are in the fog of dementia. Other residents are frail, pushed in wheelchairs, or shadowed by a caregiver as they shakily or painfully push their walkers.
There are those in my residency who are relatively independent; they do things for themselves, take care of themselves. They might only need their meds ordered, organized, and distributed to them. Some just want to avoid the tasks of housewifery: shopping, cooking, making beds, cleaning house, doing laundry. Some just don’t want to live alone, and seek the company of others. Some have simply given up, and long for a quick and painless death; they no longer want to endure the pain – or boredom.
There is an African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child. In the non-Western world, it also takes a village – literally to assist an elder into the final years of life with care, dignity, and respect. Cultures that honor a life lived.
In Europe, governments will assist in the care of elders.
But, here in the United States, private corporations have built and operated facilities of congregate which has established a Long Term Care industry. Chances are they will grow and enlarge their profits as the elder population grows, family size decreases, families disperse geographically, and women play a larger role in the work force.
We are a modern society, without adult children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews all living in a single abode or the same community or the same region or even the same country. It once took a village. Today, it’s an ALF.