Reading the news of a July 2 shooting was chilling, especially for anyone associated with long-term care or elder care. According to Arizona news reports, Anna Mae Blessing, age 92, explained, "You took my life, so I'm taking yours." She used a handgun, drawing it from the pocket of her robe, to shoot multiple times, killing her 72-year old son.
Ms. Blessing had been living in an apartment, along with her son and his girlfriend; she was reportedly upset about her son's plan to transfer her to an assisted-living facility. The apartment was located in Fountain Hills, east of Scottsdale, Arizona. Ms. Blessing also reportedly attempted, unsuccessfully, to shoot her son's girlfriend, who fought her off, dislodging both the first and a second handgun.
Followup stories reported the sheriff's office had responded at least six times to "domestic" calls at that location during the previous six months.
According to a sheriff office statement, Ms. Blessing is now charged with first degree murder, one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of kidnapping.
On the one hand, it could be tempting to dismiss this story as an isolated, sad, ironic tragedy.
But what I've been seeing is that senior living providers, especially those offering assisted living, are recognizing that something is deeply amiss about an individual's perception that assisted living is so horrible as to warrant this reaction.
Steve Moran who publishes the Senior Housing Forum asks "Why did she have such an aversion to assisted living?" He muses, "This is a fixable problem....." For more of Steve's thoughts read: "The Headline: Woman, 92, Killed Son Who Tried Putting Her in Assisted Living."
In an editorial titled "Assisted Living's Image Problem," Lois Bowers, Senior Editor for McKnight's Senior Living News, writes:
The Blessing case undoubtedly is a complex one, with more probably in play than a simple suggestion of a move to assisted living. But even so, it presents an opportunity for introspection for the senior living industry as well.
I mean, it seems that at least one person thought that assisted living was so terrible that a prison cell was preferable. And yes, this appears to be an extreme case, but it's not the first time that an older adult has resisted moving into a senior living community.
We know that senior living can offer physical and mental health benefits for older adults. So how can the industry improve at allaying their fears and educating them about those benefits?
And what can the industry do to educate the general public about the differences between assisted living communities and skilled nursing centers? More elucidation is needed, as was made obvious by articles in the lay press about the Blessing incident that used “assisted living” and “nursing home” interchangeably, despite a press release from the sheriff's office that specified that Thomas suggested assisted living to his mother (I know; I saw the press release).
We know that assisted living communities are different from SNFs, and we know that both types of facilities have evolved over the years, and yet I see this confusion regularly in the general media. I've seen government officials make this mistake, too.
So what's the solution? Surely, sales professionals educate individual prospects and their family members when they conduct tours and hold special events at their communities. Campaigns such as the American Seniors Housing Association's Where You Live Matters effort undoubtedly help, too, as does the advocacy work by organizations representing senior living operators.
I was in Arizona the day the story broke. I confess, I spent extra time with my arm around my own 92-year old mother that week -- at her home in assisted living.
July 12, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink
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