Institutional care has come a long way since its heyday during the 19th century. At that time, institutionalized individuals often lived in substandard conditions, with no thought given to their social or emotional well-being. In modern times, however, institutions have proved beneficial to those who find living on their own difficult. Not only are physical and medical needs better met than in past times, but residents are helped to achieve their maximum level of independence. Unfortunately, no institution is perfect, and many still have disadvantages.
Foster facilities for abused or abandoned children have several advantages, the most important being that they remove the child from a dangerous and harmful environment. They also allow the child to recover and thrive in a supportive, safe living situation. However, several disadvantages exist as well. Many children develop new behavior problems due to being institutionalized, as they are not used to the daily structure provided. Foster institutions also cannot provide the traditional family model of upbringing that many children expect and desire.
Housing for the developmentally disabled has turned more to group homes in recent years, but strict institutional settings for these individuals do still exist. Advantages include the fact that they are provided care that they could not attain living independently, and can spend additional time with their peers. One disadvantage is the fact that many residents are unhappy with the lack of freedom and flexibility, even though they would not be able to function outside the institution's rigid structuring.
The elderly are often placed in institutional care settings such as long-term care facilities and nursing homes, as well as assisted living facilities. Advantages include the fact that it is easier on their family members, at times, than having the individuals live at home. By law, most states require recreational activities to be provided as well, which is not the case in many other settings. Disadvantages include the fact that many elderly people miss being part of a family environment, and can become depressed watching their peers age and pass away.
Whether or not to enter, or place a loved one, in an institutional care setting is a highly personal and emotional decision. Before choosing a course of action, you should discuss your options with a social worker, case manager, physician or other individuals who may have experience with institutional placement. You should also visit various facilities before placing a person there to get a feel of what daily life will be like.