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Assisted Living for the Disabled

June 26, 2000

There is a serious urgency for younger disabled in searching for assisted living facilities. The bottom line is that there are extremely limited facilities that will accept or are for the younger disabled. This leaves many younger disabled without housing options, unlike older individuals. Younger disabled that need assistance in everyday activities must resort to nursing homes, group homes, or personal care assistants which many disabled feel restricts their social growth and ability to interact with other younger disabled. Why is there ample assisted living available for the elderly and not for the disabled? The following is an analysis of the current dilemma of assisted living for the disabled.

Assisted living was originally created for the frail elderly and is patterned after Dutch and Scandinavian systems designed to provide housing and sheltered services. Current assisted living is said to allow greater independence than nursing homes while providing care and services not available in an independent living situation. Services at these facilities can include medication management, dressing, grooming, bathing, escorts, status checks, socialization, physical conditioning, community involvement, emergency response, meals, transportation, and housekeeping.

Approximately a million Americans live in 30,000 assisted living facilities. They were created for young and old, however the average age is 83 or older. Very few facilities accept younger disabled even though the need for assisted living in the disabled community is great. Younger disabled all over the country are searching for facilities that accept disabled individuals under 65 years of age.

One reason for the lack of assisted living for younger disabled is the licensing and regulations of such facilities. State departments of social services or public health are responsible for the licensing of these facilities, but each has different parameters and restrictions. Some of these restrictions include not allowing younger disabled into assisted living facilities for the elderly due to the interruption it may cause in the current and established environment with regard to age and lifestyle.

In addition to licensing regulations, the main reason for the lack of assisted living facilities for the disabled appears to fall on the lack of funding. In general, there is very little governmental funding available for assisted living facilities. For the elderly there are some state and local subsidies and a few subsidies through SSI and Medicaid. Ninety percent of assisted living services are paid through private funds. The other is paid by SSI, Social Security Block Grants, and other programs. Due to the lack of governmental funding, many elderly are asked to leave or are removed from assisted living facilities when their private funds are depleted and they have to resort to Medicaid. Since the majority of disabled pay for their care through governmental funds, assisted living does not appear as an option for many of them.

Wisconsin is considered a leader throughout the country in promoting assisted living due to the long term care redesign, but many believe that there will not be enough funding to guarantee every disabled and elderly the choice of home care and assisted living. If funds are not adequate, disabled and elderly will have to return to nursing homes and group homes. The lack of governmental funding leaves it to be believed that assisted living is only for the affluent.

Many believe that the nursing home of the future is assisted living. It is considered one of the four hottest growth sectors, but the reason for this appears to be that investors are lured to assisted living because of the private pay factor and the lack of regulations and limitations found in the nursing home arena. One must question the type and quality of care he or she will receive in these new facilities.

Assisted living for the younger disabled is a major dilemma that many people in our country face everyday. There are barely any facilities in the entire country that are for or accept younger disabled. As state governments, like Wisconsin, develop their new long term care programs, younger disabled and the elderly need to confirm the assurance for affordable, government funded assisted living facilities for all.

For more information on assisted living facilities, contact the American Health Care Association, 1201 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 824-4444. Or, contact your senator at the U.S. Senate or your representative at the U.S. House of Representatives for more information.

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[Updated June 26, 2000]
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