"Frontline" Life and Death in Assisted Living (TV Episode 2013) Poster

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evening13 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
A troubling look at the trend toward placing demented people who probably belong in closely monitored nursing homes into more lightly regulated "assisted-living" facilities instead.

This episode of the excellent PBS series looks at the things that can go wrong when a person with diminished cognitive ability wanders off and gets into trouble.

We learn about a man who drank cleaning fluid and a woman who took a suitcase and walked out of a window. And we hear from aggrieved and perhaps guilt-ridden family members, facility whistle blowers, defense attorneys, and a CEO.

There indeed seems to be a problem with the facilities' wish to "fill beds" at a time of rapid expansion in the industry. One might also speculate that family members may be asking for problems when they (understandably) seek a homier albeit more advanced living environment for their diminished loved ones.

This episode doesn't really delve into such issues and says nothing about the good things that assisted living can provide for people who are doing pretty well as they get older -- like providing them a chance to enjoy meals with other people and access to trips and activities.

The expansion of assisted living is unprecedented in our society, and it's likely going through some arduous growing pains. Let's hope they're ironed out, and fast!
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