Now that we’ve been forced to recognize as a culture that there actually has been a war on women — waged from Hollywood, from some of the top left- and right-leaning figures in the national media, and from both sides of the aisle in Washington — can we also begin to come to terms with our long-running war on the elderly?
There, too, it’s another day, another horror story.
And just one of those is actually thousands of horror stories rolled into one: the news that Kansans living in one out of three nursing homes in the state face potential harm or immediate jeopardy.
To put that in context, that’s the fourth-worst situation in the country.
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It’s not as though we’re doing so well nationally, either: Overall, 13.4 percent of nursing homes put patients at that level of risk.
Now, we hope you’re seated for the response from the nursing home lobby.
According to them, this is just a matter of overzealous inspections by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, where one-third of the 60 jobs for inspectors are currently unfilled.
But unless we’re willing to keep risking the safety of our parents and grandparents, we’ve got to see that for the excuse that it is.
The current level of care amounts to “a full-frontal attack on the health and safety of frail elderly that are in nursing facilities,’’ says Mitzi McFatrich, director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care. And the current process of inspections “is really the only outside, objective health and safety check on nursing homes that exists.’’
So, why has the number of citations soared? Our guess is that that’s because the Affordable Care Act required nursing homes to report serious incidents for the first time.
Think about that for a minute. No reports, no problem?
Hair salons are better regulated, and again, this is the health and safety of our elderly parents we’re talking about.
A September report from the Office of Inspector General found that in Kansas, the state’s nursing home inspectors didn’t even follow up on about half of the problems they found in 2014.
The nursing home industry claims that fines are killing them, and while that may be true, isn’t that better than killing our elderly?
The CEO of Topeka-based Aldersgate Village described fines as “killing the goose that lays the golden egg.”
But that he sees it that way — golden egg for whom, sir? — strikes us as part of the problem.
We need more oversight, rather than less. And we need to think about all the ways in which our throwaway culture undervalues the elders other societies revere.