For family members across Kansas and Missouri, struggling to choose the right service to take care of an aging beloved with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, an important aspect of the decision is understanding the differences between nursing homes and assisted living. It is a dilemma Mitzi McFatrich deals with every day as the executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care, a non-profit advocacy organization assisting elderly care service residents and or their family members. “There are so many of us that are aging and a large number of those individuals are going to have Alzheimer’s disease and dementia,” she said. “How are we going to fulfill their care needs?”
People often mix up nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but the two are not exactly the same. A nursing home provides health care to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients, with RNs on-site eight hours a day. In Missouri and Kansas, assisted living facilities employ RNs on a limited basis. Because assisted living facilities receive health insurance funding, there are strict state and government regulations on staff training, the number of employees required per shift and the level of cleanliness. There is zero government oversight for assisted living centers; very few state rules. Medicare often pays most of a patient’s elderly care service bill. In assisted living facilities, a resident’s family must shoulder the whole cost.
While a nursing home service agrees to become a permanent residence for individuals no matter their disease, a person who’s Alzheimer’s disease or dementia worsens can be discharged from an assisted living service. The director of education, programs and public policy for the Alzheimer’s Association, Heart of America chapter, Michelle Niedens says these care facilities can evict a resident in as little as 30 days. “There’s often an over promising; ‘We can handle your mom and dad, through the whole disease course,’ that is, until some major bump occurs and then the game gets changed,” Niedens said. According to McFatrich, facilities will say, “We can no longer fulfill this person’s needs. And that’s what they use in order to release someone.” That release or eviction can affect a family’s ability to find their loved one a new house.