Story and photo by MARISSA BODILY
If you were to walk into a care center on any afternoon, you might see several residents chatting in the hallways or walking around. Some residents know that the care center will likely be their home for the rest of their lives.
As people age, their families may no longer feel comfortable with them living at home alone where no one would know if they needed help. When a family member can’t take them in or they can’t live on their own anymore, they may move to a place where a qualified person will be able to care for them and give them everything they need.
Many different facilities in Utah accommodate people who need assistance with everyday life or simply don’t want to live alone anymore. Care centers provide around-the-clock nursing care, while assisted-living facilities simply provide meals and activities.
According to skillednursingfacilities.org, Utah has 97 certified Medicare and Medicaid nursing homes. The overall average Medicare 5 Star Quality rating for Utah skilled nursing homes is 2.9.
Many people are sitting near the entry of the center, located at 2730 E. 3300 South, talking with one another and their caretakers. Some residents are sleeping soundly in their wheelchairs.
Sarah has lived there for a year and a half. (This is a pseudonym; center staff would not allow residents’ real names to be used due to privacy concerns.) “The staff has always been really friendly and they take good care of me,” she said. “I love living here.” Most of the residents are really nice, but some of them are ornery all the time, she said.
The care center mainly houses aging aging adults. However, it occasionally takes in younger people who need constant care because of an accident. One young woman said she had good nurses and physical therapists who took care of her and helped her to recover and move back out on her own. But she also encountered problems while living there. “Many people have had things stolen by other residents, so you have to be careful. And the food is horrible,” she said of her experience. She said she made friends with many of the residents, but she was glad to be able to move out.
Some other facilities available to older adults are very nice and cost more money. The cost of assisted living in Utah ranges from $1,300 to $5,900 per month, making the monthly average $2,400. If families don’t have a lot of extra money, there isn’t as much choice and the quality of the care and especially the ratio of workers to residents goes down. Care centers can be very expensive and people just don’t have the money to give their loved one the best. Programs such as Medicaid help pay the costs.
Residents using Medicaid receive an allotted amount of spending money each month, said Peter Hebertson, head of outreach for Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services. Usually this is $45, which has to cover all of their needs such as haircuts, clothes, admission to activities and anything else they want or need. Some residents have family members who give them a little money, others are on their own. The amount of money an aging individual or their family member has greatly affects where they can live.
Many of the people at care centers know it will be their home for the rest of their lives. Some have family who come to visit. Others don’t have anyone nearby or any surviving family members. A few residents don’t have anyone outside the facility who cares about them anymore.
When people picture their future, they most likely don’t imagine living in a care center and needing constant assistance. But for some, this ends up being their reality. Sarah said she loves living at Canyon Rim Care Center with everyone because it is much better than the alternative of living at home alone.