As the primary family care partner for my Mom, I was often taking her to a variety of medical appointments. While both of the communities she lived in had visiting doctor’s, they usually were unable to see her in a timely manner or did not have the type of expertise needed. For instance, after a fall sent my mom to the Emergency Room with a goose egg sized lump on her forehead, we were told we would need to schedule a visit to an Ear/Nose/Throat specialist. For that we needed to travel to a local provider.
A story in The New York Times, Where There’s Rarely a Doctor in the House: Assisted Living, dove into this topic and it is worth reading if you are in the process of looking at a community.
The current communities are having to adapt to the changing demographics and health issues. Most of the Life Care Communities planned on having their residents span a few decades and start moving in when they were in their 60s.
Today, the average resident is over 85 and 70 percent of them have some form of cognitive issue. The community did not plan for their residents being unable to manage their own medical care needs due to cognitive issues. On top of that, there is a cost to get the resident to a doctor in both terms of staff time and transportation. In the metro-DC area, a trip to the doctor for just the transportation averages $110 and this is for individuals who can walk.
When you are visiting, be sure to ask how they deal with the minor health issues like a cold or flu. Do they have regular visits by a doctor and how often? What types of doctors visit? Most communities are going to be unable to handle these issues but it’s better to know before you have an issue than learn about the advocacy and transportation needs after you have made the move. While you may still need to leave to get to a specialist, it is helpful to know they have a robust option for on-site medical care for many of the minor issues that may faced a loved one. Advised.
P.S. Ask to speak with the families of other residents and ask them to share how they have found the doctor. One reader reminded me that you may need to verify what the community sales person tells you.