First hand account of being a resident

Here is an article about a self described “nursing home survivor” who relays his experience in a nursing home.  Below are excerpts of his article.

I was an industrial electrician by trade, trained to evaluate current flows and make connections between positives and negatives. Get shocked once and you’ll never grab a live wire again. I’m also a Tennessee nursing home survivor, and the same goes for the 5½ years I spent living in a “home.” The experience was beyond shocking. I will never repeat it.

Jan. 15, 1984, was the day of the accident that changed my life forever, leaving me with quadriplegia. I began a journey no one would want to take — but many probably will. I was 35, young enough to at least put up the kind of fight that many nursing home residents are too elderly or sick to wage. I survived several life-threatening mistakes by poorly trained staff, years of conflict with unequipped and unsympathetic “caregivers” and countless unanswered calls for help.

I made it my mission to get out of that home, and now work to help others do the same. I wish I could say that conditions have greatly improved since 1984. But 20 nursing homes across the state have had their admissions suspended this year, a 100 percent increase from 2006; and 91 percent of the state’s homes had complaints filed against them in 2006.

Yes, nursing homes are inspected every year by the state. But what inspectors never see are the nurses and administrators scrambling after getting notice of an upcoming visit. During one of these frenzies, I told a friend, “Better watch out, you might get run over by somebody doing something they haven’t done all year!”

Before these inspections, staff members are like juveniles trying to clean up after a party before their parents get home. Bedsores are dressed, soiled linens are washed, meds are — quite generously — given, the stale scent of sickness is replaced with that of disinfectant.

Lobby keeps funds flowing

Despite their miserable track records, nursing homes receive 99 percent of the $1 billion in tax dollars that Tennessee dedicates to long-term care. Eighty percent of these homes are private, for-profit entities. It’s no wonder the nursing home lobby gives hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions each year to our state legislators; they’re trying to protect what they claim is “their” money.

Only 1 percent of tax dollars goes to home- and community-based care, even though this type of care is usually far better. This completely lopsided allocation of tax dollars makes Tennessee 50th in the U.S. — dead last — in funding for long-term, home-based and community care.

We can change this. Most of us will ultimately need to arrange long-term care for a loved one or will need it ourselves. We must demand legislators redistribute our tax dollars in favor of significantly more funding for home- and community-based care.

We must also demand that, as long as the current system is in place, the state increase the number and quality of nursing home inspections.

And finally, we must bring to a grinding halt the practice of notifying homes of upcoming inspections. The state represents the citizens who have to live in these places. On their behalf, its inspectors should be welcomed at any time.