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Why many seniors prefer assisted living — and don’t say ‘old folks’ home’

Why many seniors prefer assisted living — and don’t say ‘old folks’ home’
A resident of an assisted living home in Clio, Mich., flips through a photo album in his room in January 2019. (Kaiti Sullivan / Associated Press)

To the editor: Apparently, no one has told op-ed article writer Barry Goldman that the insulting term “old folks’ home” and the disease and decline model of older adulthood went the way of the Edsel. (“I’d rather be dead than linger on in an old folks’ home,” Opinion, March 10)

While Goldman’s criticisms of typical activities in residential care are well-founded and the elder care industry is in need of a paradigm overhaul, he seems unaware of a movement in this country to infuse residential care with meaningful creative engagement that helps elder residents sustain a sense of purpose, social engagement and quality of life.

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As a licensed social worker who facilitates workshops in storytelling, poetry and improv in care communities, I routinely see elders, even in advanced stages of dementia, share imagination and humor. Goldman is quite right that no elder deserves to be infantilized or humiliated; unfortunately, his sweeping generalities do both.

Sarah Jacobus, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Goldman really read my mind with this piece.

At 72, I have seen relatives die in nursing homes. Some did enjoy the activities there until the very end, but too many others had long been consumed by dementia and needed help to do anything.

Under some circumstances, you may be able to “see the end” and take control of your fate. My plan was to drive off a cliff, but the advent of self-driving cars will probably not let me do this.

There seems to be an insistence that people must want to live, and even if they don’t, they should be forced to continue on. When and how are the main issues, and they are different for each of us. In the elderly population, we need to allow some flexibility for each to decide.

We can’t all just hope it will be sudden and whenever we want.

Laura Newman, Santa Barbara

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To the editor: It is too easy to say that you would rather die than be in an “old folks’ home.” The aging process continues no matter where you live, and no one can avoid Alzheimer’s disease by steering clear of “old folks.”

If, like the author’s mother, you at some point cannot walk or feed yourself, you will need some help even if — or especially if — you are living at home.

Unfortunately, the decision is not between moving to a long-term care facility or dying at home in your sleep. The real decisions are more difficult and nuanced and include considering the extent of your life savings, the possible assistance of family members, and best estimates of your future care needs.

Ideally, discussions and decisions should begin long before a person might need daily assistance.

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Eric Carlson, Los Angeles

The writer is an attorney with the group Justice in Aging.

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To the editor: If an aged parent is ambulatory and not incontinent, he or she might like to move to an assisted-living residence.

Drop in at mealtime. Visit regularly. They raised you. It’s the least you can do.

Or, have them move in with you and hire help. Home care agencies are in business; give them a call.

Keep track of your folks, for soon it’s all over. Remember, we’re all getting older by the hour.

Sue Flint, Cottage Grove, Ore.

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