A Look Inside Nursing Homes — Guest Post by RT

This is a lightly edited email from “RT”, an abbreviated pseudonym, a person who “held positions years ago with different retirement communities”.

This email deals with the Nursing Homes, specifically ones in Massachusetts, and the supposed alarm over the high number of deaths. [Time headline: ‘These Guys Never Had a Chance.’ Nearly 70 Dead in COVID-19 Outbreak at Massachusetts Veterans Home.]

Initially, I bought the spiel that these places were not where people went to die, but where they lived well and were active in their senior years. Then I saw the families’ desperation when a parent suddenly needed care, so thankful they “found” a bed that they bought anything they were verbally told.

I witnessed a person whom I knew from childhood, left in a dining room by an open window, in winter, wearing a summer dress, while her feet were soaking in a puddle of milk. She told me, “I’m so cold,” as her lips were turning blue. Of course, I got her care, but she was one of so many. Who believes the resident with dementia who complains of anything? I left the industry…

The Soldiers Home (and most nursing homes) in Holyoke, Massachusetts was ALWAYS known as a crummy, poorly run State facility with decades of political corruption in the hiring of administrators at higher and higher salaries and the coming and going of CNA staff for as little as 25 cents more an hour. ALWAYS!!!!!

It was ALWAYS filthy with rooms or floors closed off and like an old mental institution with archaic construction. Yet it was a photo op for politicians. Where is Congressman Neal hiding during this scandal? Where is Senator Warren? It is too late to now notice the disrepair and neglect. It has been the same for all the years they have been politicians representing Massachusetts.

Now people are surprised that vets were crammed into rooms fewer than 24″ apart in their beds? It did not happen overnight. Why was this not noted in yearly State inspections? Nursing homes throughout Massachusetts (and many other places) are notorious for treating private pay well until monies run out. Then with Medicare care goes down. Residents are like sardines – the more that can be packed in rooms of 2-4 with other empty rooms closed off the better.

Massachusetts limits beds to ensure crowding of nursing homes and scarcity of available beds. If a nursing home does not have enough private pay and rehab, they go bankrupt on Medicare residents. The administration’s primary job is to “fill the beds” even if not the appropriate level of care. Residents languish in wheelchairs for hours and hours in hallways. When does a wheelchair bound person, not required because of paralysis, become physically active and walk? Rarely in a nursing home. Eventually, they lose all muscle strength as so-called “fall risks.”

Decades ago, Massachusetts took rehab out of most hospitals and gave it to nursing homes in order to increase their funding. There are nursing homes and hospital rehabs (Bronson Rehab, Noble Hospital, Westfield, MA with four to a room) that take in elderly rehab and then try to flip them into nursing home care if they have private pay.

With Covid-19, people are now surprised that residents are dying at a faster rate in nursing homes than elsewhere? Come on, we have been down this path for a very, very long time. Maybe people should have cared more BEFORE Covid-19 when residents were dying from other coronaviruses and pneumonia.

Just like coronaviruses, this has been so for a very, very long time. It just took a new virus to get some long-needed media attention. But as noticed, you were too late for these people. Why do you think that the average length of a nursing home resident’s life is 5-12 months? People try to postpone care until absolutely the last resort. Nursing homes have always had the reputation of a place one goes to die. That is why older, longer term residents are given such media shows. It promotes an artificial reality to the public.

Here’s a WWLP (NBC) local news clip.

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7 Thoughts

  1. So very true. My dad lasted a week. My grandfather made two years, but he chose a private, well-run nursing home and was not as sick. This was over 30 years ago. I can only imagine what nursing homes are like today. Their staff often makes less than a janitor, with only the “administrators” taking home the big bucks. This is why “assisted-living” facilities were born. People who were still able to function but needed help didn’t have to go to nursing homes anymore. Plus home care has skyrocketed. If the market was there, that tells you the nursing homes were severely lacking. Unfortunately, this does drive out people who care, leaving only the vultures in these places. It’s a defininate commentary on the dumping of the elderly. Maybe that’s why “death panels” was so disturbing–it held a mirror up to the reality of what people already do with the elderly.

    This excuse Cuomo and the others for their callous death-panel mentality and complete lack of care about the elderly. But hey, nursing home patients don’t vote very often, so why care?

  2. We, that is, my sister and later myself when my own health deteriorated to the point that I could not live alone, *refused* to put my mother in a nursing home for her final years. Her older sister was childless and after she had a horrible stroke, had to go into one. She lived about a decade in one. She was fortunate in that the home she went to was one of the better ones.

    That said, hospitals and nursing homes are where folk are sent to die, for the most part. Seeing death is, apparently, too traumatic to people. (I’ve seen lots of death.)

  3. Um, Sheri, nursing home folk do vote, by absentee. I know of one case where people perpetrating voter fraud that way did prison time.

  4. To read the main restructuring emphasis at the veterans home was to be on spacing is hugely disappointing.

    Money should also be spent on installation of upward facing ultraviolet light ceiling fixtures combined with fans to pull the air into the UV spectrum thus killing any virus quickly.

    Additionally, UV fixtures should be installed within central heating/AC vents for redundant protection.

    I have read where those proposals were recommended decades ago, but obviously to no avail.

  5. There are good private nursing homes, I know of some – but such care is intrinsically *very* expensive, costing more than the average person’s salary per year. With a population structure older than any in history, and an increasing proportion of very old people, there will never been enough resources to have the best kind of nursing homes for all who need them.

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