October 04, 2017
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SRSLY: Homes for the Old Need to Learn New Tricks

Your three-minute read on the best reporting you probably missed.

Pearl S. Buck said that “our society must make it right for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is in the way that it cares for its helpless members.” Hubert Humphrey put it differently, suggesting that “the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life.” Figures from Gandhi to Winston Churchill weighed in similarly. Point being: a lot of people who are super good at quotes think we ought to treat the elderly with special respect. And, in a nice break from election news, there is some evidence we’re doing a bit of that. According to the Dallas Morning News, infractions for deficient care in nursing homes decreased by 8 percent nationally between 2010 and 2014. In Texas, however, infractions increased 20 percent over that same period. Your four Ws:


… the heck is going on with Texas?? (And I’m not just asking because the Washington Post reported that it’s now a swing state. If you saw that one coming, time for a vacay to Vegas.) The Dallas Morning News reported that Texas’s 1,200 nursing homes also reported 3 percent more “severe deficiencies” in nursing home care from 2010 to 2014 — the kind that might lead to serious injury of residents — while the national number declined 16 percent.


The usual suspect: money. The new figures come from a report commissioned by the Texas Health Care Association, a trade group for nursing homes, which is concerned about a “crisis” in state funding. The Morning News reported that this is particularly notable, given the association’s “traditional reticence” to openly discuss nursing home inspections. Nearly 70 percent of the state’s nursing home residents are on Medicaid and Texas Medicaid reimbursements “are near the bottom in the U.S.” The lack of funding has left Texas nursing home residents with less attention from staff than is the case in other states. Texas nursing home residents get 3.59 hours of attention from staff per day, compared to 4.64 hours in Florida, which has far fewer “immediate jeopardy” infractions, the kind that “if unabated, will cause serious harm or death,” the Morning News says.

What now?

Probably it’ll get worse. The Morning News notes that the next two-year state budget won’t have the cash cushion of the previous two, so lawmakers will have to cut some spending. And however much we may care about the most helpless in society, it just seems like they perpetually stink at lobbying.

What else?

It’s not all bad. The report commissioned by the Texas Health Care Association concluded that, “Significant and decisive changes are necessary to avoid a potential collapse of the long term care safety net in Texas.” So there’s a silver lining; they said “potential collapse.” I mean, wake me up when collapse is imminent, amirite??

They Said It

“When you’ve got turnover rates that are 98 percent a year, you’ve got almost an entire building that’s turning over.” —Texas Health Care Association President Kevin Warren, on the extraordinary turnover rate of nursing staff employees at Texas nursing homes.


- Originally appeared at ProPublica.Org