“Like cattle. They were just hauling them out,” said a certified nursing assistant about to lose her job of 29 years at a rural South Dakota nursing home in Mobridge, closing because it ran out of money.
We wince reading her analogy between human beings and farm animals in this front page story in The New York Times, Nursing Homes Are Closing Across Rural America, Scattering Residents.
But the sad truth is that impoverished older adult residents in remote areas around the country are the collateral damage of a woefully underfunded long-term care system.
Between the profit-driven institutions that depend on filling beds and cut-backs in Medicaid, seniors – and their families – are torn from their communities of choice.
This National Social Work Month, H.O.M.E. reflects on the fundamental importance of caregivers, whether in institutions or in their own homes, in enabling seniors to live where they choose.
"For six days this winter, Loretta Leonard could not make the 20-mile drive to see her husband, Dick, who is 91 and suffers from severe dementia, at his new nursing home. When he was living close by at the Mobridge home, she often visited him twice a day, sitting down at the piano to play the old polkas and hymns and Depression-era tunes their daughters sang growing up.
“He always knew me,” Ms. Leonard, 88, said. “Sometimes I wonder whether he knows me anymore.”
H.O.M.E. is fortunate to be serving older adults in resource-rich Chicago, the nation’s third largest city.
Yet even here, impoverished older adults can be isolated and under-served.
H.O.M.E. serves as a national model in its function as a bridge for seniors and communities.
Even when a move is desired, it can still be traumatic for a senior. H.O.M.E.’s Moving Coordinator Judy Taylor is there to provide moral as well as physical support to more than 70 seniors a year that we help to move.
Our Good Life Senior Residences at Nathalie Salmon House and Pat Crowley House foster new friendships through shared meals and socializing with peers, younger adults, and families with children as well as community care nurses, students, and volunteers.
Staying at home is by far most people’s first choice, as numerous surveys have shown. H.O.M.E.’s Upkeep & Repair Program, now enhanced on a limited basis with health services, can help even the lowest income seniors adapt as well as fix their own homes.
Our Shopping Bus provides residents of senior buildings the chance to go food shopping together, where the outing itself is anticipated with as much delight as getting groceries.
“This is where I need to be.”
We hear this refrain frequently at H.O.M.E. from residents in our buildings and homeowners. That’s where all approaches to housing for seniors should begin.
This is the second in the Making Visible Series, in which we will highlight ways that older adults are often unseen in public spaces, policies, and other areas - and suggest alternatives that make them visible. For updates, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or sign up for updates from H.O.M.E.