It is estimated that today more than 31,000 people live in assisted living communities in California. The first assisted living communities opened in the late 1970’s in Oregon. They were seen as a more affordable alternative to nursing or convalescent homes as well as a less institutional environment for seniors who could no longer live in their homes.
My first day of work at “Palm Terrace” Assisted Living in Laguna Hills was June 11, 1999. We did have nurses and med techs by that time. In the absence of a caregiver or a med tech, the nurse would cover the shifts so as not to create overtime. While some Assisted Living Communities had a string to pull on the wall if you needed help, at least my community had a pendant system. Many communities had what you would call “universal caregivers”, which meant you not only assisted residents, but you served meals and occasionally did housekeeping duties, as well. For the larger communities, I think that is next to impossible now.
Needless to say, assisted living has changed considerably since the 1990’s. Much of this is due to a large number of facilities being built in the 1990’s and early 2000’s and the need to be more competitive and offer more choices for residents. Also, the State of California began passing lots of legislation regulating the industry which they continue to do every year. Our Residency Agreement was six pages long in 1999. It is now 20 pages long, not including all the addendums. I have to say that the evolution of the industry has made assisted living communities much nicer places to live as well as places where residents have many more choices. I embrace the changes, but can’t help smiling at the memories of the earlier days of assisted living!