Our elderly mother does pretty well with my sister’s support. A health crisis recently landed mom in the hospital. The doctor recommends a rehab and therapy center where she can get some intensive support for 2-3 weeks, to restore her ability to return home where she enjoys a measure of independence and privacy. The problem: Of the 20+ nursing centers within 10 or so miles that offer the services and support she needs, less than five have Medicare.gov’s (this site allows you to find and compare facility ratings) highest ratings, and of those, only one appears to deserve that rating, based on our personal visits and observations… and of course, that one doesn’t have an open bed, regardless of the patient’s financial ability to pay.
Our next move was to research companies that offer in home care. We decided we can supplement the skilled nursing and therapy sessions ordered by the physician (which are partially covered by Medicare) with private duty nurses we’ll pay out-of-pocket to work on shifts, to monitor mom’s complex health issues – issues that were exacerbated by her recent crisis.
The services we contacted all require we make a big leap of faith: We will have to trust that the people they send will be both skilled and trustworthy.
A patient in her late 90s isn’t likely to notice she isn’t getting the care she is paying for… or worse.
We would feel safer with mom in a professionally staffed, fully equipped nursing home, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.
Regarding the nursing homes: Every one we visited has a beautiful website and well designed marketing materials that say all of the right things. Most patients would be better off if those facilities were investing those dollars in better staffing and services. How could a Medicare 5-star facility have corridors with medical waste on the floor, and abandoned patients staring vacantly at the wall? Is this really the way we want mom and dad to live? A few days in there and we’re pretty sure that mom would decide, why bother?
Mom is in Livonia, Michigan, a very nice place to live. The ambulance took her to St. Mary’s Mercy Hospital, and the nurses and support staffers in their ICU and medical cardiology unit are excellent, caring professionals. I know the social worker who wants us to move mom out now, anywhere there’s an open bed, is only doing his job, but we aren’t budging until we have arrangements made that will give mom the care she needs and deserves, and allow us to sleep at night.
Nursing home problems may boil down to available funds not matching current needs, but the fact that most unacceptable homes we visited, are run by for-profit companies, gives me pause. Maybe their administrators should be required to spend a few weeks in those facilities as patients, to see where their marketing promises fall short of reality.
Visiting nursing homes may be depressing, but there is a silver lining: Once you’ve toured a few, you may decide to take better care of your own health.
Nursing homes may be the last place many people call home. They certainly – for the most part – are the last place you’d want to go, based on what I’ve seen this week.
It’s a shame that the government’s rating system can give 5 stars to a facility that clearly doesn’t deserve them. We visited places that made us want to cry, and take the residents somewhere else.