What are the motives behind the caregiving our elderly receive? Do the nursing facilities cut corners to stay in budget? Do they push unnecessary therapy on a 99 year old, so they can charge Medicare for it? There is a lot of money to be had in the nursing home industry, but who benefits?
When you think of nursing homes, you probably don’t think of good times. Nursing homes aren’t associated with joy, peace, and tranquility. I find that rather unfortunate considering what they could be, or in some cases, are. I was talking to a friend the other day whose mother was admitted to a nursing home about ten years ago. She lived in a community of elderly friends, celebrated birthdays and holidays, and lived a full and pleasant life until the day she passed, loved and celebrated. Instead of this beautiful picture, we unfortunately associate most nursing homes with foul odors, people sitting around in wheelchairs, looking at nothing, people lying in bed, sleeping all day and all night. If you’ve ever had someone you love admitted to a nursing home you may also think of the lack of water at their bed side, lost clothing or personal items, weight loss, the embarrassment when they lie in their own urine for hours. It’s disturbing. People don’t generally like to visit their loved ones in these places. What is it that makes these long term care facilities seem so bad?
Well, what a lot of people don’t realize is, nursing homes are now more often than not owned by corporations, not communities or religious groups. There’s something to be said for a morally motivated organization taking care of the community’s elderly, but it’s another matter entirely when you add a corporation that owns maybe dozens of facilities looking at numbers and not at people’s faces.
What can you do to improve the situation? Talk about it. Report problems to the State, and make formal complaints to the nursing home administration. Call, email or send a letter to your state legislator, letting them know about your concerns for your elderly, and ask them to act. Most importantly, keep visiting your elderly, and let the staff know when something needs to be done that isn’t being done. Keep a journal, documenting anything and everything that happens at the nursing home. If you notice anything suspicious, a sudden change in your loved one’s health or mental status, let the staff know your concerns, and in more serious cases, contact your ombudsman and an attorney. Find someone who will investigate in a way that you don’t know how. If you speak up for your loved one, you may also be helping someone who is all alone, and has no advocate. Don’t be afraid to say something.