Rochester is the birthplace of a national nursing home culture change movement called the Pioneer Network, whose goal was to change the nature of nursing homes from hospital-like holding institutions into meaningful and fulfilling homes for elders. Unfortunately, Rochester also currently contains the nursing home Blossom South, labeled as “Worst in the Nation.” The NYS Department of Health and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is attempting to close it after more than three years of violations and “special focus” by NYS inspectors.
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Elder Justice encompasses not only eliminating issues related to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, but also issues of enabling elders to live purposeful, self-directed, meaningful and dignified lives in their homes and communities. The new Elder Justice Subcommittee is composed of several Metro Justice members with geriatric experience, including Bill Barker (physician), Janet Gelein (nurse practitioner), and Ken Traub (ombudsman), who had been active in ALTY (Adding Life to Years) New York, a local advocacy organization, and who are passionate about making changes that improve the lives of elders.
As ALTY, we produced two educational reference brochures and began to work in coalition with other advocacy groups to accelerate nursing home improvements, increase public knowledge and improve government regulation of nursing homes. Our short term projects include: educating the public and health care professionals by distributing materials regarding nursing home ratings and how to select a highly ranked person-centered homes; working in coalition with the Long Term Care Community Coalition (LTCCC) to fight for increased nursing home and hospital staffing levels; and putting pressure on sub-standard nursing homes and the government agencies that regulate and inspect such facilities to meet performance standards or be financially penalized or shut down.
Elder Justice is also closely related to Metro Justice’s Racial and Economic Justice campaigns. MonroeCounty contains 35 nursing homes, 12 of which are currently considered “sub-standard” (ranked 1-2 stars on the www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare website). The residents of these sub-standard homes are primarily lower income elders of color without significant savings or income who usually end up being directed to, and accepted by, these sub-standard nursing homes that will initially accept Medicaid-paid residents. Certified Nursing Assistants who provide the hands-on assistance that elders require in most nursing home are primarily hard-working, trained people of color whose median wage is a mere $11.50 per hour, about half of the living wage for a single parent with one child! Currently only six of the 35 nursing homes are unionized.
Last month’s Metro Justice Council members approved the proposal to incorporate the Elder Justice subcommittee into the Dignified Retirement for All campaign since dignified retirement certainly encompasses a society that encourages and supports elders to live purposeful, self-directed, meaningful and dignified lives in their homes and communities. We need your help to make our goals a reality. If you are interested in participating in this subcommittee, please contact us at [email protected] or 585-325-2560 to join in making changes that will one day affect you yourself and your loved ones!