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Assisted Living Centers on the Rise in Oklahoma

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This is National Assisted Living Week, which focuses on a rapidly growing trend in care for the elderly. Assisted living is for those who need help with activities of daily life, and it comes in a variety of packages and pricing. The News on Six looked at some of the options in Tulsa County.

Bessie Barnett is proud of her new home in The Arbors, one of Tulsa's new assisted living centers. It's all the space she needs, she says, and she feels safe. What's better is being with people her own age. Barnett wishes this type of care had been available earlier. "I think it's time I should make the move because I was at the age where I need a little assistance once in awhile, " said Barnett. "It keeps you perked up and ready to go. I like my life."

More and more elders are adopting this life due to societal changes, including longer life span. Oklahoma adopted regulations for assisted living last July, and now there are more than 70 assisted living centers statewide. Most provide all meals, help with medication and daily care, and social activities. Costs range from $1100 to more than $4,000 a month, depending on size and amenities.

Medicare, Medicaid, and long term insurance doesn't cover assisted living services. There are some veterans' benefits, but it's primarily privately paid. This is the reason that it may out of the financial range for most elderly people. One option is adult day care programs such as those offered through Tulsa's Senior Services.

The agency also coordinates other lower-cost options. "All of those services really help a family continue to provide the supports so that person can remain in their home," said Tulsa Senior Services spokesperson Susie Sharp.

Proponents say assisted living is often better than home after a certain age.
It brings the elderly out of isolation, creating a new sense of family. "Suddenly they have a whole new group of people to interact with," said Diane Hambrick, director of Heatheridge Heights. "There's nothing that stimulates people mentally and physically more than socialization."

Hambrick says the industry is examining new ideas for the growing trend, including more options for middle and lower income people. Advocates say the most important thing, however, is preventing isolation among the elderly.
Assisted living doesn't replace family, but it may enlarge them. If you need more information about assisted living programs, call Tulsa Senior Service's senior line at 664-9000.

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