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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bring 'em home

The State of Vermont wants seniors at home. Rather than foot the bill for nursing home care, the state institued "Choices for Care," a program that pays friends or family $10hr to act as in-home caregivers.
"One year after enacting it, Vermont officials say it is reducing the number of people sent to nursing homes, cutting the cost of taxpayer-funded care and improving the quality of life for people like Parsons.Critics, including the nursing home industry, say subsidized home care by family members and other non-professionals is far from a panacea. They say the care isn’t as good, however well-meaning family members are. ...
It costs the state of Vermont about $122 a day for Medicaid-covered senior citizens who live in nursing homes, compared with about $80 a day for those being cared for in their homes.About 120 more Vermont senior citizens are getting Medicaid-subsidized home care now than in October 2005, when Choices for Care began. The number in nursing homes has dropped by 155, according to the state."
AP Story via MSNBCspan

While I'm glad to see more families taking on the responsibility, and duty, to care for elderly relatives, I do have some hesitations about the program. Shouldn't family take care of one another out of the goodness of their heart? Why do we need to bribe them? I wonder if families will take in loved ones strictly to get a hold of the $10hr paycheck and then neglect proper care.
Ultimately, however, I guess I'm more in favor of the program than not. Maybe the money will entice families who wouldn't consider taking in a relative before to do so now. And who knows, they may find the work very fulfilling. If someone is able to quit or reduce hours at a job and take care of a senior because of this program, than I'm happy, because keeping seniors at home surrounded by loving friends and family is the goal.
Of course the nursing homes have their knickers in a twist about the whole thing but I would expect no less from those who profit from the abandonment of the elderly. Nursing home administrators would have you believe you're too stupid to care for a loved one and that it might tax your patience so why bother yourself with it.
"Mary Shriver, executive director of the Vermont Health Care Association, a nursing home trade group, said that in-home care works for some but that it cannot match nursing home care for quality.“Good intentions can cause some damage sometimes,” she said."

Let me tell you about the 'quality' nursing homes I am familiar with. As a reporter on a small paper six years ago, I started investigating local nursing homes in the county based on a tip. This was in the state of NY where state inspections and formal complaints had to be available at all times to the public at each nursing home. I traveled to several homes in the county reading files and making notes of the complaints lodged by residents, or more likely their families. I vowed then at 21 to never, ever put my loved ones in a nursing home come hell or high water. While I do not doubt the compassion of some geriatric nurses and aides, I was appalled at the number of problems related to neglect. Even in so called Catholic nursing homes. People who had open, infected, excruciatingly painful bedsores who were left to rot in the same position for days. People whose agony was ignored as senility or dementia. People who because they were too weak to ask for water or food, went hungry and thirsty. An untrained staff with high turnover who lacked compassion and could become abusive. I could go on. It was with good intentions that families placed their mothers, fathers and grandparents in these homes. What regret when the care turned out to be less than promised by glossy brochures and smiling administrators. Christian charity starts at home. If you refuse to be Christ to your elderly family and friends, do not expect nursing homes to fulfill your Christian duty. Their motivation is money and they are banking on your selfishness. If you live in Vermont, great, take advantage of the program. If not, don't wait for the government to start paying you for acting like a Catholic.