When your parents get old, and particularly, when one or the other dies to leave the other to fend for themselves, family members are loathed to put that person into assisted living, or god forbid, a nursing home. That is at first. After a period caring for the parent, often by juggling him or her between siblings, who are usually busy still raising their families or working full time, the easy solution is to dump them off at a nursing home. Out of sight, out-of-mind. The odds of this happening are significantly increased when the parent is suffering from some disability, mental or physical. The problem is, often the patient does not need to be in assisted living or a nursing home– there are less expensive alternatives.
The population in the United States in 2014 was reported at 318.9 million. The average life expectancy of a man or woman at the age of 65 was 19.3 years– men at 17.9– women at 20.5 years. Approximately 21.7 percent of this group were suffering from fair to poor health and 6.5% needed help with personal care. There are now more Americans age 65 and older than at any other time in U.S. history. According to a new Census Bureau report, there were 40.3 million people age 65 and older on April 1, 2010, up 5.3 percent from 35 million in 2000 (and just 3.1 million in 1900). The percent of U.S. citizens over 65 in2014 was 14%, a figure that has remained stable for the past few years.
In some states, the federal government is claiming that patients are being “held unnecessarily in sterile, highly restrictive group homes” even when they do not need to be in such environments, the New York Times reports. A sizable number of these people may suffer from some form of mental illness or another chronic disease; they could fair just fine within a less confining environment—perhaps, in their homes with the assistance of in-home care. The problem is money– it is easier for states to obtain Medicaid dollars for nursing home care than it is for home-care based support even though the latter is less expensive. Moreover, once the nursing homes start getting the dollars, there is little incentive for them to turn the money away. The government is suing states using the Americans With Disabilities Act to claim that these patients have a right to care without the isolating restrictions inherent in nursing homes. While we think the families of loved ones should have broad powers to arrange for the care of their loved ones, and that the government should rarely intervene, we also feel that our elderly and ill must be placed in the least restrictive environment possible. It is our hope that less constrained options will be seriously considered by family members.