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J.M. Sorrell: Raises questions about caring for aging parents

To the editor:

Peter Smolenski makes interesting points in his March 18 column about caring for aging parents at home.

In my position as an advocate for residents of nursing homes and rest homes, I often work with staff and families to create a safe discharge plan to go home. It is the optimal place for any of us to be whenever possible.

What was missing in the column was an understanding of the variety of circumstances that lead to someone living long-term in a skilled facility. The columnist made sweeping statements about adult children “condemning” their parents to live in a nursing home.

Over the last 10 years, I have met with thousands of residents/patients. Our health care system is financially biased to long-term care. More than two-thirds of the long-term residents (not rehab) in Hampshire County are on MassHealth. With all of the staff and overhead costs, a typical facility charges up to $9,000 per month. If someone needs skilled care around the clock, the cost would be approximately $12,000 per month to live at home.

Most people could get by with less expensive (PCA) help at home and some skilled care; however, MassHealth pays little for community-based care. Imagine if MassHealth paid even $5,000 a month to keep someone home. The taxpayers would save a bundle and the person could live at home.

Perhaps Smolenski has the means and time to support his mom to live independently. Most people do not.

Some nursing home residents have mental health issues and have no where else to go. Some are not connected to family in any way. Some residents would be homeless if not in long-term care.

Others have family members who live very far away, and they opt to stay in the area rather than to relocate.

This is not as black and white as Smolenski sees it.

Nursing homes are a product of our society. There is no “blame” here. We can work to improve the quality of life and care in facilities, and we can work to improve the healthcare system to allow people to stay home with services.

J.M. Sorrell

Haydenville

Comments
Legacy Comments6

Thanks for the flood of phone calls and emails of support from all the old folks who took the time to contact me. I got calls of support on this as far away as Florida! You have to take the good with the bad, I have also received hate mail, personal attacks online and more from people feeling guilty about things they may have done. Those were your choices you made for your own reasons not mine. I also find it interesting that the only comments made to the paper were posted on other people's letters to the editor about my column, not on my page here. You shouldn't be afraid to comment to the person who wrote the article. In fact you can call even me (anything you want). I'm very easy to talk to!

None of us, from the limited words we have shared here, can assess and judge others' choices about how we have gone about caring for our aging parents. It is not just about now, but about our lifetime with our parents and siblings. I have learned so much from the experience of others, as well as the decade of caring for my mother at a distance. I hope our insights will help us as we move towards our own days of being cared for.

Paul, Sometimes it is hard but it is very rewarding. To see my mom out on her porch with her squirrels and birds is the greatest thing. So much better than visiting her in a nursing home. She's into Netflix now, she is learning how to use a computer and writing a memoir of her life story. And in a couple months we are having a big party for her 87th birthday (oops the secret is out). We are having the time of our lives at the moment. I do my best artwork when my mom is home and feeling good. She knows she is safe, she is happy, and doing great. Life is Great. Thank you for your comments and kind words.

GGPP, Thank you for responding and I must say I agree with you on every point. I especially liked that you wrote, "The real causation of some of the strife is that family members are not equally sharing the responsibility but definitely want their share and perhaps more when the proceeds are distributed." I am very aware of this problem, and see it happen regularly. Also " A parent neglecting a child is just as horrid as a child neglecting a parent." another well made point. I hope we can get more of us to help and "keep up the good work"

Many thanks to J.M Sorrell for her work with staff and families to create a safe discharge plan to go home. It is the optimal place for any of us to be whenever possible indeed. I have spent a lot of time in rehab/nursing home facilities also. I have seen people who have definitely been "abandoned there", by family members who live within 5 miles of their home against their will by family members who don't have the family values that I grew up with. To quote a favorite nursing home resident, "My son is taking care of my house, but I cant go home" with a look of such sadness it will never leave my mind. I have heard these stories over and over. Yes I could see if you had a business in Idaho that you might not want to relocate, although it could be possible to relocate your parents there. Nothing is ever black and white, There are always circumstances. To quote the author "Perhaps Smolenski has the means and time to support his mom to live independently. Most people do not." I would like to respond that I am disabled with very limited income and I choose to MAKE the time and use whatever means possible to keep my mother where she wants and deserves to be, After all if not for her, I would not be here, experiencing all that this life has to offer. I am eternally grateful to my parents for all they have done for me. I wish more people felt the same way. Again thanks to JM Sorrell for her work with the eldery and for responding to my column.

This is great conversation. The important thing is communication. Let's keep up the good work. Express your needs and hopefully you will be heard. The problems really don't rest with growing older. The real causation of some of the strife is that family members are not equally sharing the responsibility but definitely want their share and perhaps more when the proceeds are distributed. So, let's hear more about filial responsibility laws. A parent neglecting a child is just as horrid as a child neglecting a parent.

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