Letter: Experience yields insights into elder care system

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Graphic by Lori Deaton

In response to the article about elder care [“Care-full Considerations: Navigating WNC’s Long-term Care Options,” Feb. 7, Xpress], I would like to express an opinion based on my six-year experience caring for my elderly mother within the system. Quite frankly, the way we care for the elderly in this country is appalling.

As was noted in the article, most assisted living and nursing homes are owned and run by for-profit corporations — profit for shareholders is their first goal, not quality of care. So personnel and physical facilities suffer to allow for profit. Interestingly, the same problems often exist in facilities operated by nonprofit organizations as well.

During my mother’s stay at a [local] corporate-owned facility, she experienced a frightening array of poor-quality care, to the point where we had to hire a private-duty person to make sure my mother was cared for appropriately. It was a horrible and draining experience.

Most of her caregivers were kind (not all of them) but lacked supportive systems, thoroughness of training, or incentives to remain. The turnover was excessively high at all levels, and important supervisory positions were often vacant for long periods of time.

As was also mentioned in the article, this care is extraordinarily expensive, leaving many elderly out in the cold. Large nonrefundable deposits are usually required as well as costly monthly fees. Nor is higher cost of a facility necessarily a guarantee of good-quality care. Though Medicaid covers many elderly, these beds are limited, and quality of life is often lower.

I highly recommend that a resident of any large facility, no matter the cost, have a strong, caring advocate. This is especially important if there is any kind of cognitive or memory problem.

There are alternatives to the large facilities. There are homes where the number of residents is small. Though still costly (but often less so), the quality of care may be far better. And, of course, there are home care choices. One must carefully explore all options, use every resource: Question caregivers/advocates, get recommendations, read online evaluations talk to residents, talk to the Council on Aging, MemoryCare, the [Long Term Care] Ombudsman, etc.

Another difficulty: The medical system is, generally, unable to deal with the unique needs of the elderly. Many facilities have in-house medical people who can make care easier; however, this does not always work out. And “outside” doctors have little time or knowledge of how to deal with the elder care systems.

Then there are the elderly who fail Medicaid’s income requirements but do not have funds for expensive elder care. What happens to these folks? Are they left to struggle on their own? Die before they need to?

It seems clear that the poor quality, high expense and human cost of our current elder care system is a loud cry for a single payer/national health care program. We must become a more caring nation, as we have failed our elders.

— Arida Emrys
Asheville

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3 thoughts on “Letter: Experience yields insights into elder care system

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    …and don’t forget that good planning and long term care insurance is available to all who may need it one day … it’s cheaper when you’re younger.

  2. luther blissett

    “profit for shareholders is their first goal, not quality of care.”

    And that sums everything up. Care workers get terrible wages, while the medical professionals overseeing care homes get squeezed by corporate management who see every expenditure as a threat to profits. Somebody’s making money hand over fist, and it’s not the people who ought to be. In short, elder care is a branch of property development with all the failings associated with bad property developers and bad landlords. Planning and insurance isn’t going to spare you that, unless you plan well enough to do it outside of an institutional environment and have enough time to oversee the carers.

  3. Lostchild

    It’s criminal how we treat elders.
    As one who got here by medical manipulative practices focused on profit, I concur.

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