If three out of four Americans want to spend their final years at home, why do so many of us end up in nursing homes? They have no choice. Now The Nation asks “Should we Abolish Nursing Homes?” The clear answer is yes based on the industry’s response to COVID.

“The problem is that they are total institutions: secluded facilities where staffs tightly control the lives of vulnerable people. In a nursing home, patients depend on and are at the mercy of the staff. Patients do not choose with whom they live or what activities they can do on a given day. It is…entirely opposed to the way normal society functions.” Would anyone choose to live this way?

“The rapid spread of infection in nursing homes isn’t new. Before the pandemic, 82 percent of nursing homes had citations for failure to adequately prevent or control the spread of infection; about half had multiple citations. Opportunistic infections by pathogens like Clostridium difficile thrive in nursing homes, and those usually caused by neglect, like sepsis and urinary tract infections, are prevalent. Covid-19 just spreads more easily and does its deadly work faster.”

“Nursing homes allow for an economy of scale. Feeding, washing, and otherwise seeing to the needs of elderly and disabled residents all at once is more efficient than addressing those needs on an individual basis. But this efficiency comes at the expense of human dignity.”

Not Inevitable

“Despite scandal after scandal and reform cycle after reform cycle, federal spending on nursing homes was $57 billion in 2016. The American Health Care Association, the largest lobbying group for the industry, spent $3.84 million in 2019 in its push to further loosen safety regulations and reduce the industry’s legal liability.”

“Finally, there is the prevailing cultural idea that nursing homes are inevitable: We are born, we work, we retire, we go to a nursing home, we die. But there is nothing inevitable about nursing homes.” Amen. Abolish the Industry! Allow citizens to make their own choices.