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Common Health Problems for Residents
Health Concerns of Residents in Assisted Living

Senior Health Problems that Instigate a Move to Assisted Living

Let's first take a look at who persuades a person to make the move into assisted living:

  • It's the family members who persuade older relatives to move from their home to an assisted living facility (91%).
  • The second largest group of seniors to decide to move to a facility makes the choice on their own (52%).
  • One-quarter (25%) said they had little or no control over the decision or choice of ALF.
  • Adults convinced by a physician to move, was the smallest group (18%).

Source U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study.

The idea of older adults receiving the type of care needed in assisted living appeals to family members, physicians and to adults. Everyone involved would like to believe that living in a facility, one will receive the necessary care and services in a home-like environment, while retaining dignity and independence.

Older Adults Receive Needed Care
Older Adults Receive Needed Care

Yet most facilities see the client-provider contract between the facility and the resident. This model offers little protection to residents because they are not negotiated and offered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. What this means, the resident is left to the mercy of the facility on how long the resident can stay, depending on health concerns.

Assisted living is not regulated by federal law. They're defined state by state and allow variation from facility to facility within a state. The variation in question are: who's admitted, who's denied, who's discharged or transferred against will, and what qualifications and training the staff at the facility needs to embrace.

The movement towards assisted living and "aging in place," should not lead a decision maker into thinking that assisted living is the right choice, or that any and all health care conditions be met in one place.

Common Health Issues Among Assisted Living Residents

Below, we take a look at what are some of the most common reported issues that resident's of assisted living facilities have. Obviously, the older we get, the more health complications we can encounter, but by showing statistics of health problems experienced by residents, it can help paint a picture of what residents are living with while residing in assisted living.

One of the major causes of an individual's need for assistance or supervision is cognitive status.

Short-term Memory Problems

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 40% of the residents had short-term memory problems or disoriented all or most of the time during the last 7 days.

Percent of residents with short-term memory problems or are disoriented all or most of the time during the last 7 days
Responses of don't know (< 1%), and not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Alzheimer's Disease or Dementia

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 42% of the residents had Alzheimer's disease or a form of dementia. To better respond to resident's needs living with Alzheimer's, better care practices like comprehensive assessment and care planning and strategies for person-centered care that's delivered by effective and a well-trained staff. (Alzheimer's Association)

Alzheimer's Disease or Other Dementia
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Sleep Issues and Depression

The Journal of the American Geriatric Society completed a study in a facility in the Los Angeles area. The study found seniors have significant sleeping disturbances, and these sleep problems led to a greater need for assistance, as well as depression.

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 28% of the residents battled depression.

Depression
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Incontinence

Incontinence is an important care issue in assisted living. What's needed is comprehensive care management of incontinence as it grows.

Incontinence Needs
Incontinence Needs

Residents with the inability to manage one's own incontinence care are at a higher risk of long-term care admission. Assisted living can help residents maintain their continence by addressing it openly with the resident during the assessment process.

This begins the crucial communication between the resident and caregivers, which effectively manages incontinence.

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found:

  • 30% of facilities reported 70% of residents had urinary incontinence during the last 7 days,
  • 20% of facilities reported 10% had urinary incontinence during the last 7 days,
  • 19% of facilities reported 25-49% of residents had urinary incontinence during the last 7 days,
  • 18% of facilities reported 50-74% of residents had urinary incontinence during the last 7 days,
  • 13% of facilities reported 11-24% of residents had urinary incontinence during the last 7 days.
Percent of residents who have had an episode of urinary incontinence during the last 7 days
Responses of refusal (< 1%), don't know (< 1%), and not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Strokes

According to research (CDC), stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. A stroke is a vascular mishap to the brain, commonly caused by a blood clot which deprives it of oxygen and blood flow. Depending on which area affected, a stroke can have serious effects on speech, cognitive abilities, and basic motor skills.

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 11% of residents had a stroke.

Stroke
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Anemia

Anemia is a fairly common problem for seniors, and it's recommended that physicians test for and treat anemia, especially in older adults. Though many types of anemia cannot be avoided, eating a diet rich in iron and vitamins helps prevent iron deficiency anemia and vitamin deficiency anemia.

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 10% of residents had anemia.

Anemia
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease developed when the body's immune system, attacks the lining of the joints. It causes joint pain and produces inflammation in the body.

Assisted living offers residents exercise, nutrition and other wellness programs specifically designed to maximize overall health and alleviate joint and muscle pain in arthritis sufferers.

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 27% of residents had arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Arthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Asthma

Over 20 million people have asthma in the United States. It's a lung disease triggered by irritants like smoke, dust and pet dander which tighten the airways.

If asthma is a problem, a nursing staff can assist in monitoring the use of medications, like inhalers. They assess the resident when medications are no longer effective and encourage a doctor's visit before problems arise.

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 4% of residents had asthma.

Asthma
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Cancer

As people get older, the risk for getting cancer rises. Some cancers are hereditary and others caused by long-term exposure to cancer-causing substances, like tobacco smoke.

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 11% of residents suffered from cancer or malignant neoplasm of any kind.

Cancer or Malignant Neoplasm Of Any Kind
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is a condition caused by the hearts inability to maintain adequate circulation of blood due to weakness. Living in an assisted living facility can help the person living with congestive heart failure by preparing the right kind of foods to eat, to take medications, to keep active, and offer programs to help reduce stress.

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 13% of residents suffered from heart failure.

Congestive Heart Failure
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) - is a lung disease which is known for its difficulty in blowing air out. The elderly are especially prone to this disease, often the result of misdiagnosis.

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 11% of residents suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

COPD
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary Artery Disease is a form of heart disease characterized by narrowing of the arteries that carry blood to the heart muscle. It prevents adequate flow of blood, oxygen and other nutrients the heart needs.

Assisted living helps by monitoring the health of a resident, making sure one eats the right kind of foods, takes proper medications, keeps active, and offers stress reducing programs like yoga and meditation.

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 13% of residents suffered from Coronary Heart Disease.

Coronary Heart Disease
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Kidney Disease

Kidney Disease causes malfunctioning of kidneys. They can no longer eliminate waste from the body. It occurs gradually, as the kidneys slowly lose function, or it can occur suddenly, as the result of an acute onset.

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 6% of residents suffered from Kidney Disease.

Kidney Disease
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Vision Loss

Vision loss affects safety and independence in seniors. Loss is due to age-related conditions like diabetic retinopathy, cataracts or macular degeneration. As older adults lose vision, they become isolated. But living in a facility, residents can maintain an active and independent lifestyle.

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 6% of residents suffered from Macular Degeneration.

Macular Degeneration
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Nervous System Disorders

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 8% of residents suffered from a form of Nervous System Disorders, Including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, and Epilepsy.

Nervous System Disorders, Including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, And Epilepsy
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, or thinning bones, results in painful fractures. Risk factors for osteoporosis include aging, being female, low body weight, low sex hormones or menopause, smoking, and some medications. Prevention and treatment include calcium and vitamin D, exercise, and osteoporosis medications.

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 21% of residents suffered from Osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Schizophrenia

People with schizophrenia are unable to understand that they have the disorder, because the part of the brain that's damaged by schizophrenia is responsible for self-analysis.

An elderly living with a serious mental problem, living in a facility is a positive experience for them.

In a survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2010) found 8% of residents suffered from serious mental problems like Schizophrenia or Psychosis.

Serious Mental Problems Such As Schizophrenia or Psychosis
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Why Residents Leave a Facility

Research shows that a significant proportion of assisted living residents leave a facility for a variety of reasons. Many residents:

  • Need more care than was available (40%);
  • Some preferred a location closer to family and friends (22%);
  • Others became acutely ill and required hospitalization and did not return to their previous setting after the hospitalization (11%);
  • Slightly more than one in four of these residents (27%) reported dissatisfaction with quality of care or some other aspect of facility operations as part of the reason for their departure.
Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.