Molly Parker

Stop sending parents to nursing homes

February 13, 2023

Sixty-four percent of nursing home staff in the U.S. admitted to committing some sort of abuse or neglect to their patients in the past year, according to a February 2019 PubMed study. 

This statistic is not only shocking but absolutely appalling.

We should not be sending our parents or grandparents away once they reach a certain age. We should treat the elderly like we treat everyone else in society. We should care for and love them when they get sick. We should stay by their side, not neglect or abandon them.

The idea of sending our parents to an assisted-living facility once they reach a certain age is a very American tradition. 

In other countries, such as China, they have passed laws like the Elderly Rights Law—this mandates children not to neglect their parents in their old age and to visit them no matter how far away they live, according to a Jan. 10, 2015 article by The Week

These laws are not perfect. There are parents who have abused or neglected their kids. Because of this, the children may not want to look after or care for their parents. 

While the program is better than nothing, the U.S. should take inspiration from the effort and develop modified version of this program, or create alternative options besides nursing homes or mandatory family visits. 

There should be programs that are fully funded by the government and not-for-profit agencies, whose only goal is to make sure the sick and elderly are taken care of.  

In most countries, there is government aid or not-for-profit programs that help the elderly, according to the Senior Care Center. In Canada, they have the Old Age Security pension, which gives elders monthly pensions from the government and can provide other services if necessary. 

We should be implementing programs like these in the United States.

There are around 15,600 nursing homes in the U.S., 70% of which are for-profit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This means the nursing homes have to make their money from somewhere. Usually, it comes from charging residents thousands of dollars each month. The median cost for a nursing home room in the United States is $8,500 per month, according to GenWorth 2023.

Although nursing homes are charging residents an arm and a leg, the money they are spending is not necessarily going to improve the care they are getting at these facilities. Nursing homes are chronically understaffed and overworked, according to the Human Rights Watch

For such a steep price, why don’t all nursing homes have well-trained staff, gourmet food and medical staff on at all times? 

The more residents these nursing homes have, the more expensive it is to keep the nursing home running. With each additional patient, the nursing home has to hire more staff, get more medication, food and other supplies. 

It’s estimated that nursing homes need around a $2.5 million budget per year to stay open, according to Profitable Venture. Because running a nursing home is expensive, it is common for nursing homes to cut corners, often through partial or complete lack of patient care, according to a 2016 study published by the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

Nursing home staff have been known to have inadequate training, according to an Aug. 3, 2022 Nursing Home Abuse article

“Nursing homes increase their own profitability by hiring and keeping poorly trained staff, stretching them to their limits and paying them as little as possible,” according to the Nursing Home Abuse article.

On top of having poorly trained staff, there are many other factors that can lead to abuse or neglect in nursing homes.

If a resident is socially-isolated, meaning they do not have family members or friends that visit them frequently, they have an increased risk of being abused by both staff and residents, according to an Oct. 25, 2022 Nursing Home Abuse Justice article.

People who have Alzheimer’s, dementia or other memory-related diseases are also at risk of abuse. 

Nearly 50% of elders with dementia experience some sort of abuse or neglect, according to the Nursing Home Abuse Justice article.

These residents may not have family that visits often or any friends in the nursing home. So when a staff member does something, like hit them or yell at them, they may not have the ability to tell anyone. This could either be because they don’t have anyone to tell, or because they physically cannot tell anyone due to a severe illness or memory issues.

Most of the residents in nursing homes are there because they cannot support themselves enough to live on their own and they need 24-hour care, according to a Senior Safety Advice article.

Because they often have memory problems, mobility issues and a boatload of other health problems, they may be completely reliant on their care-taking staff, which puts the staff in a position of power.

This abuse isn’t just something we can ignore because we think it won’t affect us. 

Every one of us has a parent, grandparent or friend who will be old at some point. And it will be on us to decide what to do when that time comes. 

We all need to work on coming up with a better option than sending them away and having little control over what happens to them.

One alternative to nursing homes is assisted living communities. In these communities, residents can live in their own homes with other people their age who are suffering from similar issues, according to an Arbor Company article.

Another alternative for elders who need more support than an assisted living community can provide would be a Medicare program. This program would send assistance or a full-time nurse to your home to provide 24-hour care to the patient. 

These are not the only options for elder care, but they are definitely better options than nursing homes. 

Having an elderly or sick parent is never easy to deal with. So knowing that they are being taken care of properly when you’re not there should be something we all prioritize.

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