A few months ago I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw a post that compared going to prison to going to a nursing home. The post detailed how an inmate receives basic healthcare, three meals a day and has the ability to have a job (depending on if they are in minimum or maximum security.) On the flip side, in order to be in a nursing home you have to give up all of your possessions in order to pay for the facility and sometimes have to wait months before the institution has space. At the time, I thought the facts were interesting but soon scrolled past it. At the time, I did not know a few months later my family's world would be turned upside down.
A few months ago, I did not know my grandfather would have to be going through the process of getting into a long-term care facility and just how difficult that would be.
At least in the state of New Jersey, in order to enter a nursing home you have to have Medicaid Insurance. According to MedicareMadeClear.com, the difference between Medicare and Medicaid is that typically Medicare is for the elderly or disabled. Medicaid is for people with limited income or resources. Most elderly people, just like my grandfather, only have Medicare insurance. Some elderly people make the mistake of never investing in Medicaid insurance before they have the need for long term care such as a home health aid or a nursing home thinking they will have enough money with just retirement savings, Social Security and pensions alone. Sadly, most are wrong.
Throughout his life my grandfather worked extremely hard, enough where he lived a comfortable lifestyle for most of his retired life up until recently. When stopping home from college one weekend in October, I got a chance to see my grandfather. He seemed to be comfortable, and even though he was having a little bit of trouble walking, he was doing okay. During Thanksgiving break, just one month later, everything had changed. My normally chatty, sassy grandfather was quiet and sleeping the whole time during our Thanksgiving get together.
Little did my family know, my grandfather was suffering from pneumonia for a month. After a week or so in the hospital, he was transferred to a rehab facility near by. The staff at the facility told us after a week or so of him staying in there that my grandfather had essentially given up. No matter how hard any of our family tried, he would not eat or go to occupational or physical therapy. Since he was not participating in the rehab he would have to be moved to a long-term care facility.
This is where our family's problems, and where the problems for most elderly in our country, started.
Without Medicaid the average cost of a decently rated nursing home is $675 a day, which would equate to about $246,375 a year. Even facilities that are on the cheaper side are about $200 a day. Having 24-hour care at your apartment costs about the same.
In addition to the cost-at-large, my grandfather would still have to give up everything in all of his savings accounts, his apartment and anything he owns to enter a nursing home. Even when he finally gets Medicaid (the process can take about 3-4 months) it will still happen.
During this process, we also tried to get him into a VA hospital since he served in the Korean War but that was a 3-4 month wait list when my grandfather only has a few weeks until he is kicked out of the rehab facility.
The reason I am telling this story to you is because my story is not unique. Thousands of families just like my own face this kind of problem everyday. No one anticipates exactly when an elderly family member is going to get sick and no one knows exactly when long-term care is going to be needed.
If we can pay for our prisoners to have basic healthcare and three meals a day, why can't the American people take better care of our elderly? Why can't our government provide long-term care for the people who spent years working hard? Why do our nation's veterans have to be forced into nursing homes or be potentially kicked out on the streets?
My hope is this is something in the forefront of our new president and Congress' minds. I'm writing this article to bring awareness to this situation in hope that it changes soon.
Above all, remember to take care of the elderly in your life and to stick up for those who do not have the ability to speak up for themselves.