Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Charlie Sabatino, the rock star of elder law and the Director of the ABA Commission on Law & Aging recently wrote an opinion piece for Next Avenue on this important topic. OPINION: It’s Time to Defund Nursing Homes: How the traditional nursing home model can be replaced. Sabatino writes that:
[T]he COVID-19 pandemic ravaging nursing home residents underscores a deep-seated ageism inherent in our institutional model of nursing home care. I believe it is time to defund the institutional model and replace it with a radically different model.
Today’s typical nursing home has never come close to meeting the public’s desire for humane and dignified long-term care. Warehousing large numbers of frail elders in hospital-like buildings with residents in double or triple rooms along with staff turnover as high as 100% unavoidably creates a high risk for resident safety and compromises quality of care.
We've all read the stories about the horrors occurring in the nursing homes as the pandemic rolls across the country (for patients and caregivers too). A number of calls for change have been made, but as Sabatino aptly observed, "
[M]ultiple recommendations for change have gained attention. They include ensuring adequate personal protective equipment in nursing homes; disaster plans that facilitate quarantining; more and better trained staff and heightened monitoring and oversight of care.
But let’s be clear: These measures do little more than rearrange the deck chairs in a failing system.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a 9/11 moment for nursing home care and a test of our ability to reimagine nursing home care that puts the “home” into nursing homes.
Sabatino then turns to specifics regarding change and suggests the key to change is to tie it to Medicare and Medicaid funding.
As the largest payor for nursing home care, Medicare and Medicaid hold the key. Now is the time to change facility requirements to gradually limit participation in the program only to facilities that provide the following:
Small home-like facilities
Single rooms and bathrooms
A flattened, more flexible staff hierarchy with cross-trained staff
A culture focused first on residents’ goals, interests and preferences.
Sabatino concludes "[a]s long as the nursing home industry can rely on the flow of federal money for the current model of care, it has no financial incentive to change, not even after the coronavirus catastrophe. ... Change that flow, and a major cultural change in long-term care will follow."
Stay safe and healthy everyone.