By now most of you have heard about the PBS program Frontline and its look at Emeritus, the nation’s largest assisted living company. The piece focused on several deaths that have occurred at Emeritus. These deaths are tragic and without question should be explored, but the problem I have is with the broad brush approach that this story gave to the industry as a whole.

I have never been in an Emeritus facility but I have spent a good amount of time in other assisted living communities and from my experience the vast majority of these places are full of caring staff and happy, well cared for residents. My own mother, who at ninety-three years of age lives in an AL community, has numerous activities that are available to her on a daily basis. The staff that I have encountered interacting with her express genuine concern and skill.

I am in Nashville, TN this week attending the Leading Age Tennessee conference. I have seen hundreds of people who are there to try to make caring for, what one speaker referred to as,” our nation’s greatest generation,” something we as their family members can rest assured is being done in the best possible manner.

The key to finding the best place for your family member is to do your homework on the front end. Go tour the facility, ask questions, check the qualifications of the staff and look at the records of the state agencies qualifying them. Most assisted living communities welcome this type of interaction. After all, it is in the AL’s best interest for you to know all that you can about them before making this very important decision.

After you place your loved one there you need to visit regularly and just observe what is going on, and by all means, continue to ask questions.

The truth is there are some places that will not meet your expectations but it is up to you to find that out before you move someone there. All assisted living communities are not the same, but in my experience, most are not like the picture painted by Frontline.