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A BILLION DOLLARS WILL FIX NURSING HOMES?  NOT!
by Dorothy Seese
[email protected]


I heard President Clinton's Saturday morning speech where he stated he was readying a proposal to send to Congress to obtain a billion dollars to "fix" nursing home care in America.  The intent was that our parents or we should have adequate care when we are elderly, feeble and can't take care of ourselves.

It takes a lot more than money to provide adequate eldercare and to make nursing homes even reasonably safe, sane and comfortable for those who are no longer able to take care of themselves.

My mother had two series of stays in homes. The first was from 1982-1989 (with many an unsuccessful attempt to bring her home) due to severe paranoia and my financial inability to provide caregivers while I was at work. The best place she stayed was the first, a supervisory care facility privately owned by a woman who cared, and whose staff cared.  Money ... even a billion dollars ... won't buy caring people.  It may pay more for skilled people, but it won't buy caring people, and that is the chief element in making those who must stay in a care facility comfortable.

As my mother grew progressively weaker from age and degenerative bone disease she was required to be placed in a skilled care facility. The one I chose had a caring administrator who wanted to keep the family informed (as to family, I was all my mother had, she was all I had). The facility, however, was sold to a group of eastern investors.
When that happens, the level of care decreases as the bottom line of the profit and loss statement dictates. Tossing more federal money into these homes will benefit the investors, not the patients.

In July, 1989, I brought her home again because it appeared the paranoia had disappeared in spite of the absence of any psychiatric treatment. She was then 87 years old. My home was retrofitted with those things she required for safety and convenience up to the structural limitations or my financial limitations. No, there is no government money available for family to take care of parents, only money for institutions. However, she spent a good four years there until I could no longer safely leave her at home because her judgment factors had waned at age 91 and she was likely to open the door to anyone. (Since she was in a wheelchair, she could not wander away.)

She was placed in another so-called "skilled nursing facility" about a mile from my house, where I felt I could keep better watch over her.  She complained about neglect and I began taking different friends (witnesses) on my impromptu night visits and found out that indeed there was neglect. It was my determination to bring her home and I did, and demanded that I be furnished by Long Term Care with some home help.  What I got were apparently former welfare recipients with no training other than a two-week course in washing their hands.  We went through one after another of these caregiver types and I found a number of items missing from my room which was "off limits" to the caregivers.

In June, 1995, my mother (then age 93) came down with shingles and had to be returned to a skilled nursing facility where she was given average or reasonable treatment, as far as I was able to tell, until her death in September of 1999 from a stroke.  What puzzles me is, when I got the late night call, the nurse said she had had a second stroke.  I told her I was never informed she had had a first stroke.  This is the kind of "information" that leaves us puzzled and worried.

Let me say now: NO NURSING OR CARE FACILITY IS ANY BETTER THAN ITS WORST STAFF MEMBER!  One negligent worker is all it takes to result in a broken bone, a wrong medication, or being given a hot shower and put to bed in a cold room with a wet head.  No billion dollar grants will take care of this problem. It can be taken care of NOW with better nursing home administrators and personnel specialists, spot-monitoring and tight reference checks, plus a personality profile of prospective caregivers to determine whether they are really fit to do the type of work they will be doing.  That is assumption of responsibility and caring, not a call for government aid.

Utterly no mention was made by President Clinton of the best solution of all:  limit nursing home admissions to those who truly need medical care or who are so deranged as to be unable to safely stay anywhere alone.  Families who are willing to care for their elderly can and should be supplied with well-trained caregivers.

If something had happened to my mom while she was at home, I could have been charged with criminal negligence for allowing her to remain at home alone while I worked, yet it was worth it to take this risk as long as her judgment faculties held up.  The idea that a family or adult child can be held accountable for accidents while deliberate abuses take place in government-funded facilities is absurd and cruel.  Yes,
there are vicious kids who would keep their parents at home and abuse them while ripping off their Social Security checks for personal use. But there is absolutely no way to guarantee that each and every elderly person will receive loving care either at home or in an institution.  It is just more convenient for the government to audit nursing homes than private homes.

No institution is a true home.  It is more of a warehouse where people are kept alive until they die.  Efforts may be made to provide recreational facilities, etc., but my mother wasn't even wheeled down to church services.  She was told when the services were (as if she could remember) and then left to find her way down, which she was afraid to try.  Yes, they had short staff, and money might fix that (or it might go into the investors' pockets).  But the truth is, someone could have at least done that much for her on Wednesday afternoons while I worked.

How much money does it take to make people care? Exactly none.

Caring is loving, and it can't be bought.  You can only buy nicer facilities for the relatives to observe and make them feel less guilty about pulling a parent out of their real home and putting them in an almost military setting.

I would, at this point, like to thank Mrs. Napier and Mrs. Scott of the first care center, the privately owned one, for their sincere love and care.  I never found another place that showed the personal care and concern that they did.  I should note at this point that Long Term Care was then a function of Maricopa County, prior to the feds moving in and giving us money and rules, while taking away personal contact and family preferences.

When will this government ever learn that much of what this nation needs can never be bought with money?  And when will our electorate stop believing that money solves everything when we have an epidemic of "affluenza" and moral decay?  Yes, my mother outlived both her body and her mind, but I was very sorry that my own resources, physical, emotional and financial, demanded the action that was taken.  She just never adjusted to a nursing home, and I think few do.

(Mom, I know you are in a much better place now, but I sure wish you could tell your story to those Washington idiots who think money buys care.)

Ephesians 6:2 Honour thy father and mother.... (KJV)


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