Opinion: Assisted living is too expensive

Adisyn Graham, Staff Writer & Photographer

Can you afford it? The distress of aging adults across the country has increased as prices of assisted living facilities have escalated.
According to Genworth Financial, the national median cost of assisted living facilities in 2021 was $4,500 per month, or $54,000 annually, in the United States.
A major disadvantage of older adults being placed in assisted living facilities is that the costs are not easily covered by Medicare, and in most cases, are only covered for qualifying individuals with Medicaid.
That being said, Medicaid only covers 18.9% of the American population. Additionally, those statistics are narrowed down to 10.8% when only those 65 and older are accounted for in the Medicaid coverage.
Many of these facilities are nicely built, have good amenities and advertise that residents “get what they pay for.” However, many of the price increases are due to staffing ratios.
As a caregiver myself, averaging almost 40 residents by myself for an eight-hour shift is nearly impossible, especially to make sure each and every resident’s medical needs are met. Therefore, residents are paying more for their care due to lack of employees and the staff’s ability to instantaneously get to everyone at the time of their needs.
It is well known that unemployment rates skyrocketed in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, nursing home workers have been quitting years before the start of the pandemic and have lost 15% of the workforce since February of 2020.
That being said, 98% of nursing homes reported that they have trouble hiring new employees. This ultimately leads to facilities cutting down on their patient capacity.
Starting as early as over a decade ago, nursing homes have begun to hire undertrained and non-certified individuals due to the struggle to find employees. Official and certified caregivers in nursing homes are recommended to have a STNA (2-year nursing program certification) or be a graduate from a certified nursing school.
Without thorough research and background checks on potential employees, many lousy and abusive personnel are unknowingly hired.
Families of assisted living residents have become more furious with the staff and caregivers due to residents not receiving immediate care/attention. Yet, many are not aware that the caregiver of their loved one is not certified or licensed in the medical field.
Going along with under-trained staff, many staff members work long, 12-hour shifts with too many patients under their care. This results in poor supervision of patients.
As a result, many residents are paying a fortune to live in a space for the remainder of their lives, yet are disrespected and not cared for in the ways they should be.
Unfortunately, most retirement benefits do not cover the average $4,500 a month for room, board and care in assisted living. So why charge innocent older adults that simply want to live the rest of their lives, while getting the help they need?
Ultimately, the cost of assisted living does not go in line with the care, respect and amenities that most assisted living residents are receiving. This is on top of the social isolation and lack of family visitation most residents already deal with.
As a result, caregivers should be interviewed thoroughly and given frequent work quality checks to make sure residents are a number one priority. Additionally, residents should not have to pay high fees when they are not in control of the daily tasks they are incapable of doing on their own, and especially when they are not given respect.