Researcher shines light on assisted living facilities with appearance on national news documentary

Catherine Hawes, Ph.D.

Catherine Hawes, Ph.D.

Texas A&M Health Science Center Professor Catherine Hawes, Ph.D., recently appeared on the PBS FRONTLINE documentary, “Life and Death in Assisted Living,” to discuss her groundbreaking research on assisted living facilities across the nation. Once thought to be safe places where individuals with mild impairments could live out the remainder of their lives, Hawes’ research highlights a variety of issues with assisted living facilities due to lack of federal standards.

Hawes, who directs the Program in Aging and Long-Term Care Policy at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, and fellow researcher Charles Phillips, Ph.D., M.P.H., led the first nationally representative survey of assisted living in the mid 1990s.  She discussed the results of that study and other recent research involving staff and consumers in assisted living facilities in her extended interview with A.C. Thompson of Pro Publica and FRONTLINE.

Hawes explained that the concept of “aging in place” in assisted living is an unfulfilled dream now abandoned by the industry, except as a marketing slogan.  Most assisted living facilities lack the staff and training to care for persons with significant impairments or conditions that demand regular monitoring and treatment.

One of the most prevalent areas of her findings involved the lack of regulation in assisted living since there are no federally mandated industry standards.

“When it’s nursing homes, we have federal support for a huge amount of the surveys, inspections, complaint investigations and for the training that the surveyors get,” Hawes said. “None of that exists for inspection and regulation of assisted living, none of it.”

Watch the PBS broadcast (in its entirety) online or follow this link to read a full transcript of Dr. Hawes’ interview.

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