Recently, a news story originating in Texas caught the attention of many and lit up social media. ABC News spotlighted a 64-year-old gentleman who “planned to live out his golden years” at a Holiday Inn, thus, by his reasoning, finding a better, more affordable alternative to assisted living.
Facebook users quickly shared the post with comments such as, “Sounds like a good plan!” and “Not a bad idea!” and “It’s cheaper and a lot nicer than most nursing homes.”
The needs of older adults who require licensed care communities are many and varied. Sufficient and appropriately trained staff are at the core of most communities for older adults.
The last time I stayed at a Holiday Inn (in February, actually) the front desk clerk was all of 20 or 21 years old. And while pleasant and efficient checking me in, she surely had no training regarding what to do with me if I either became agitated due to my progressing dementia or fell to the floor. I wonder if she been subjected to a criminal background check or a drug screening upon being hired. Working part-time, she’s probably paid a wage similar to those working in care communities, but she’s most likely not carrying a Registered Nurse license around, which means she can’t administer medications or carry out a treatment plan prescribed by a physician. She’s probably trained on who to call when the fire alarm sounds, but she has no training on how to properly move frail older adults without injuring them.
In short, she’s there to do a job totally removed from that of a professional caregiver in a licensed care community. But did I mention there is only one of her? I think the hotel had at least 90 rooms. Some care communities might average 10 times that many staff.
I hope it becomes clear that life in a licensed care community is not about the walls of the room, the bathroom, the television or heating and air conditioning. Yes, these things can be replicated at a Holiday Inn. But it’s really about the caregivers – the staff, the committed individuals who perform work that goes underappreciated and oftentimes unnoticed.
And either as a society or as individuals receiving care, we’ll have to pay to have those caregivers at our side in our time of need.
There really is no comparing life in assisted living to residing instead in a hotel. The necessary deliverables that ensure a safe, viable existence for older adults are simply not present in a hotel setting. In a licensed care community, it’s the people – along with their caring nature and expert training – that really makes the difference here, the people who commit to serve in a time that many of us can’t adequately help ourselves.
Collectively, we are unprepared for the cost of long-term care, but comparing the move to a Holiday Inn as an alternative is an unfortunate farce. It’s time we prepare ourselves for the true cost of growing older in America and demand that our elected officials begin developing programs to meet the unprecedented need soon to come.
If only it were as easy as checking into a Holiday Inn.