Study Highlights Differences Among Residents in the Nation’s Largest and Smallest Assisted Living CommunitiesThere are many features to consider when selecting a senior living community for yourself or a loved one. The location, the level of care, the cost are but a few. It’s also important to consider the size of the assisted living community, as differences exist between the largest and smallest communities. As ALFA.org reports: in the first study of its kind, researchers at George Mason University have documented distinct differences among residents of the largest and smallest assisted living communities in the United States. Using information gathered from the 2010 National Survey of Residential Care Facilities conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Mason researchers’ analyzed data on 8,064 residents from 2,302 assisted living communities. The data were then compared for residents in communities that the CDC had categorized as “small” (4-10 beds), “medium” (11-26 beds), or “large/extra-large” (26+ beds). Among the findings:
- Small assisted living communities were nearly three times more likely to house “non-senior” residents (under the age of 65). More than 21% of residents fall within this age group, compared to just more than 7% in larger communities. Likely a reflection of this younger population, the smallest communities housed nearly twice as many residents suffering from severe mental illness (13% vs. 6%), and nearly five times as many with a developmental disability (10% vs. 2%).
- In a unique twist, the smallest communities were also more likely to house residents afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia (53% vs. 41%) Alzheimer's and dementia are conditions typically associated with the “oldest” seniors (those 85 and older). While the CDC survey specifically excluded communities serving only those with severe mental illness or developmental disability, is unclear from the data whether individuals with Alzheimer’s/dementia are being housed in settings exclusively designed for such residents, co-housed with younger residents, or a combination of both.
- Small communities reported higher number of behavioral issues then large communities did. Consistent with having a greater proportion of residents with severe mental illness, developmental disabilities, and Alzheimer’s/dementia, small communities reported a higher prevalence of resident behavioral issues than in larger communities, including rummaging (10% vs. 7%), being verbally threatening (14% vs. 10%), physical aggressiveness (13% vs. 7%), and creating disturbances (26% vs. 14%). Residents in small communities were also more likely to be prescribed medications to help control behavior (35% vs. 19%).
- Larger assisted living communities were more likely to house older residents. Nearly 85% of residents are over the age of 75, and more than half (56%) are over the age of 85. Likely a reflection of this older population, residents of larger communities were reported as having more chronic conditions than those in small communities, including congestive heart failure (36% vs. 25%), hypertension (58% vs. 50%), and osteoporosis (21% vs. 15%). Such residents were also more likely than those in small communities to have experienced a fall (16% vs. 9%), or emergency room visit (36% vs. 28%), during the past year.
- Small communities have more residents using Medicaid to pay for services. Among all residents, those using Medicaid to pay for services were twice as likely to live in small, versus larger, assisted living communities (32% vs. 16%).
- In nearly all areas, medium size communities fell between the small and larger in terms of resident characteristics.
- Overall, the study found that the majority of all assisted living residents were: 54% = Age 85+ 70% = Female 91% = Caucasian 62% = Widowed 74% = Moved into Community from Private Home/Apartment
About ALFAThe Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) is the largest national association exclusively dedicated to professionally-managed, resident-centered senior living communities and the seniors and families they serve. Since 1990, ALFA has advocated for choice, accessibility, independence, dignity, and quality of life for all seniors. ALFA’s programs promote business and operational excellence through education, research, publications, professional networking and online tools designed to foster innovation and entrepreneurism in the field of senior living. Visit ALFA’s Web site at www.alfa.org.
About Alternatives for SeniorsIf you or a senior loved one is searching for a senior living residence, visit AlternativesforSeniors.com. There, you can use a number of tools to help you find the senior apartment, independent-living, assisted-living, Alzheimer’s Specialty or other continuing-care community that’s the right fit for you or your senior loved one.