FLORIDA MEDICAID RECIPIENTS JAILED IN STATE’S NURSING HOMES
I’m mad as hell about the way our elderly population—our parents, senior relatives, other loved ones and friends—are being shoved aside, tormented, victimized and abused. Why, you may ask, are we so angry about how our seniors are treated? Here’s just one example: The plight of defenseless seniors committed to nursing homes.
You’ve probably never heard of Charles Todd “Bud” Lee, although he was an award-winning photojournalist whose work has been published in Life magazine, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine and even Rolling Stone. Bud’s photo of a bleeding 12-year old boy in Newark, New Jersey, who’d been caught in the crossfire of a police shooting, graced the cover of Life in July, 1967.
Almost exactly 16 years later, however, Bud suffered a stroke that left him semi-paralyzed and landed him in a Florida nursing home.
It turns out that Florida law requires nursing home care for Medicaid recipients, rather than allowing them to live wherever they choose. Again: Medicaid recipients in Florida have to live in nursing homes—not in their own homes, for example, or in senior apartments, or even in assisted-living facilities.
Bud is still living in the Community Care Center in Plant City, Florida, an involuntary resident, and he’s really angry.
Bud’s plight caught the attention of Matt Sedentsky, a writer for the Associated Press. Sedentsky claimed that Florida nursing homes, fearful of losing money, have successfully pressured politicians to make such alternatives as in-home health care difficult for Medicaid recipients to obtain.
He reported that Bud Lee has filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the approximately 8,500 Floridians who are similarly institutionalized. As Bud succinctly described his situation, "Most of the people come here to die, so you want to die. It is a prison. I can't escape it."
A recent study found that seniors fear moving into a nursing home and the loss of their independence far more than death. Indeed, according to the study commissioned by Clarity and the EAR Foundation, fully 89 percent of America’s elderly want to age in place, and will use adaptive technology to stay independent. Their Baby Boomer children, the study noted, are equally concerned about nursing home care for their parents, and they’re eager to support their parents in this quest.
More than one-quarter of the study’s respondents cited as a fear a loss of independence, which is closely aligned with the fear of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Moving from their home into a nursing facility is a fear of 13 percent of seniors, while a mere three percent of research study participants identified the fear of death.
These fears appear to be justified. A recent report by the Department of Health and Human Services found that about 17 percent of nursing homes had deficiencies that caused actual harm or immediate jeopardy to patients, including infected bedsores, medication mix-ups, poor nutrition, and patient abuse and neglect. In fact, approximately 20 percent of the complaints verified by federal and state inspectors involved abuse or neglect of nursing home patients.
I'm THE SENIOR WATCHDOG. I'm on the case. I don't want to close nursing homes; I couldn't, even if I wanted to. But many nursing homes aren't Great Places. And I refuse to believe that our parents and grandparents--The Greatest Generation--and those of us who will end up in these facilities cannot be treated with “dignity, respect, and freedom,” or that restraints, physical or otherwise, have to be used to control them--and us.