Monday, June 20, 2011

Government leaves no choice for a hard working senior

I just finished reading an article written by a senior woman who is being forced into a nursing home because her savings is being exhausted following a stroke. This lady worked hard her whole life, built up a savings, but is not allowed to make a choice between remaining in her home or going to a nursing home because the government system doesn't allow a choice.

You can read the whole article here;
Forced to leave home by broken health system |

Currently, if a senior runs out of money and cannot pay for care out of pocket or doesn't have a big long term care insurance policy, the only option is Medicaid. Medicaid is available throughout the country but is a state insurance, not federal. Medicaid will not pay for someone to remain home with care, but will pay for a nursing home. Not any nursing home either. They will pay for a nursing home that has Medicaid beds, which not all do. Some states have homecare benefits under state run programs but only a very small percentage are able to receive those benefits and they are typically less than 12 hours a week. Michigan's program is often closed to new applicants, as an example.

I sit here very sad for this lady, who just wants to remain in her home, and very angry at an ineffective and poorly run system that doesn't allow choice. Our government has yet to understand and recognize the savings in healthcare dollars by paying for Homecare services, rather than nursing homes. Most seniors could remain home with a few hours a day, yet Medicaid pays for 24 hour care in a facility. Seniors remain healthier and safe at home than in nursing homes. Depression, urinary tract and other infections, falls, dehydration, and failure to thrive are all common in nursing homes. Nutrition and fluid intake is poor in those who need assistance to eat. Poor care in incontinent and immobile patients results in urinary tract infections and bed sores which are very costly to treat. Staffing levels are low and those who are at risk for falls are unsafe because there is no possible way to have a aide with them continuously, and restraining patients is against the law.

A good homecare company, like Visiting Angels, provides 1:1, or 1:2 care if a couple is in need, which allows for more individualized care, and monitoring. Homecare clients continue to have choices of when they wake up, eat meals, shower, and spend their time. They remain healthier and safer because their caregivers provide meals, hygiene assistance, help with ambulation or transferring, fluid intake, medications, and monitor their health and safety. If a client has a change in health status they are able to get the client seen by the physician early so complications are prevented. Seniors who remain at home are much less likely to suffer from depression, and injuries.

As Barbara Waas, the lady in this article explains, she was very depressed in the nursing home despite good care. She improved after returning home. Just because she had a stroke early in her senior years, should she have to reduce her life to what can fit in an 10x10 space and live her days out without any choice of when she eats, when she showers, what activities she can participate in, when she's expected to go to bed and wake up? Should she have to go live in a place she doesn't even like because it's the only facility with an open Medicaid bed? I have heard many describe nursing home living as feeling like being on prison. Is this the way we should treat citizens who worked hard, contributed to society and lived upstanding ethical lives?

Do you see how easily her story could be your story, your spouses story? How would you feel if you were forced into a nursing home because your savings ran out? This is the reality of thousands of seniors every single day, and will continue to be the reality unless we work to advocate together for better solutions. Would writing your State Representatives, which would take less than an hour out of your time be worth the effort if it kept you from living in a nursing home? We MUST advocate for choice. We MUST be willing to get involved and discuss better solutions and put better solutions in place if we want to have choices as we age.

Here is the link to find and write your State Representative online. I have written my Representatives on several occasions in my advocacy for the elderly. I have always received a response. I recommend copying and pasting the link to the original article from the lady being forced to move, or to this article. I also ask that you share this article with everyone you know, and ask them to write their Representatives. The ONLY way we are going to create change is to stand together and send a huge message to our government leaders that says this system is unacceptable!

Let's all stand up for Barbara Waas, and the thousands of seniors that have been forced into nursing homes. Let's show Barbara and others we do care, and believe in choice.


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