Assisted Living Facility- Ultimate Option for Elderly?

In American society, the ultimate phase of  life is often spent in an Assisted Living Facility or a senior center where in South Asia it is more common to age at home. But in Bangladesh, where I live, I’ve noticed in increasing trend towards sending elder relatives to separate senior living facilities. So is this a sign of progress or an example of my country borrowing from the worst parts of  Western culture?

I have a personal experience of sending my relatives to a senior center. My great aunt, Mariam Begum, 85, is living in a senior center for about 5 years after her husband’s death because her family didn’t take any burden of taking care of this woman. This incident has both good and bad impact on the family. Though the burden was released but the worst part showed of when this family  faced some problems related to children rearing up, getting wise advice, sharing problems and  the children also missed  her a lot.

photo via flickr

In American society, the ultimate phase of  life is often spent in an Assisted Living Facility or a senior center where in South Asia it is more common to age at home. But in Bangladesh, where I live, I’ve noticed in increasing trend towards sending elder relatives to separate senior living facilities. So is this a sign of progress or an example of my country borrowing from the worst parts of  Western culture?

I have a personal experience of sending my relatives to a senior center. My great aunt, Mariam Begum, 85, is living in a senior center for about 5 years after her husband’s death because her family didn’t take any burden of taking care of this woman. This incident has both good and bad impact on the family. Though the burden was released but the worst part showed of when this family  faced some problems related to children rearing up, getting wise advice, sharing problems and  the children also missed  her a lot.

During my visit in the USA, I thought that the situation is different.  But my idea changed when I visited senior center in seattle. Though the facilities are better in  USA than Bangladesh but  same thing I experienced here. My host Mr. Rusell shared his experience with me. His parents lived in an assisted living facility center for couple of years till their death. And both of his father-in-law and mother-in-law both lived in assisted living facility center for 4 years till death. And Mr. Russel is also planning to live in an assisted living facility center in his old age because both of his son and daughter live far away from him and they are also busy with their work. According to him though it is very much painful to live  away from family alone in an old home and seeing people dying because all are very old people and naturally passing their last days. He said that at the same time it is much more depressing to find himself  as a fish out of water and but there is nothing to do.

Assisted Living Facility is such a system that offers elderly and disable people some sort of support regarding daily life and also includes housing, medical facilities, laundry facilities. This term is not a very old one and the increasing number of ALF members shows its demand and necessity as well. And at senior center the senior citizens are given much more care. They get their own apartments, independent living facility and so on. There are always ALF staff  to look after them in the matters of medical emergency or any other incidents. In these houses they have 4 stages of lifestyle. The first stage is the stage when they can move or do anything without anyone’s help. Then the second stage starts when the physical weakness gets an upper hand and they become dependent on others. The third stage begins with the loss of control over the mind and intelligence decreases. And the final stage begins when senior citizens have very little control over their own bodies and they need assistance in almost everything they do.   It is very usual in american  social structure  to live in Assisted living facility center when people grow older and become unable to maintain  their daily life due to illness or age. They take it as a common incident of life cycle.  Americans have a common mental set up to live in  assisted living facility center. They are more individualistic and loves to enjoy freedom at every stage of their life. At old age they don’t want to live in their children’s family rather want to live separately. Even sometimes they don’t even want to go to an Assisted living facility center but ultimately as they grew older and become weaker,  they have no choice left but to live in those centers.

As the lifestyle of americans due to their job nature or various other reasons becomes much more complicated, they take the concept of ALF as a common stage for most of their elderly citizens’’ life. In an interview ,Emi Yoshida, a young american citizen, told that, ”it is necessary to shift elderly people to elderly home  for a successful career”. They described as though it is an emotional part but they need to focus in reality. And some of our interviewees described the matter as  usual in the sense that if the elderly people living with their family and family members become busier as they get job or try to progress and can’t give them time to look after them. As a result the elderly people stay at home basically alone . And if they  get a job out of the state, the situation becomes worse. Then they plan to keep their elderly people in ALF center.

Our interviewee Mr. Russel Love  told, ”I am not interested to go away from home but as I lose control over my body, it is the fate that directs all elderly to ALF by narrowing their choices”. During the interview some of the elderly people cried because they have no choice but to live  in ALF centers.  Even they might not like the system, it is a common incident which submerge all family bondage and emotional attachment. Mr. Michel, a  representative of young american citizen, said “We don’t want let our  parents or grandparents  leave home, even at elderly period.  I want to stay at home with with my children but I understand it will not be possible to be there”. This is the point of similarity with Bangladeshi growing trend influenced by rapid growth of economy and development sector which  enhances the job sector as well. It wasn’t common to keep elderly people at elderly home and they lived with their family.There is a custom to rear up children and it is the children’s duty to look after their parents at old age. It is again a part of south asian culture to live with parents and treat them as heavenly gift. Again the religious viewpoint of south asians also support this vice verse treatment in a family. It is a sacred duty of the children to treat their parents with much respect and honor throughout their life. But with  the adoption of western culture and development of self-centric economic ideas   the emotional attachment with family is decreasing and joint families becoming nuclear families. The economic reason, development of individualistic self-determination, aspiration to live a better life which is economically independent   are the reasons behind this. So, the total South Asian culture of treating elderly people is changing and it affects badly the family structure and the divine relation between parents and children.

Again the social security of elderly people in USA is  far better than South Asia. So the health service, food, nutrition, services to elderly people is much more than that of Bangladesh. That’s a reason apart from other reasons for the Bangladeshi elderly people why they don’t want to be in elderly home. Again the people in Bangladesh and South Asia as well is not so much individualistic and sense of personal freedom hasn’t gained a superior state than family bondage. Psychological set up is also  much more social and  people gives much more importance to live with family  rather than mixing up family and work together.

Whether the whole sketch drawn here is of a story of US society or South asian countries, it matters less but it is important that how the treatment of elderly people in family shows the change in social structure, customs which transforms us as alien to our existing culture. And if it continues  one day it will harm badly the total family system and the society as well. And people finding no other way for their elderly family members, as the world becoming much more busier, the ”Assisted Living  Facility” is going to be the ultimate fate of elderly people.

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1 Comment

  1. Assisted living facilities and other senior housing options have become part of our culture, at least in this area. I do think that it is a complicated issue…while some elderly would like to continue to live at home or would like to live with a family member, most realize that at some point they may need more medical care than a family member could provide. It may not be fair to expect a family member to care for a loved one that needs 24/7 care due to dementia or extreme medical needs. In an ideal world, everyone could spend their final years in their family home, but when it is financially necessary for the grown children to work, who will look after the elderly? You bring up some good points and I appreciated reading your point of view.

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