Green Hill Executive Director/President
Toni Lynn Davis MHA, CNHA, FACHCA
Another disheartening story about aging in New Jersey and in America, The High Cost of Aging, by AP reporter Matthew Craft, was published on the front page of The Star Ledger on Tuesday.
As an Executive Director of Green Hill, a 150-year old non-profit nursing and long-term care facility in New Jersey, I get angry and frustrated at the long-term care industry when I hear about another elder going broke and being evicted from the facility that they call home. To have to find housing and care when indigent and ill is one of the most stressful experiences for families and a debilitating emotional and physical experience for the elder.
One of the greatest challenges to aging in this country is the current big business mentality of the health care industry. Senior nursing and long-term care facilities are part of the growing big business boom, as the large number of baby boomers are quickly aging into the elder care system. Gone are the days when elder parents lived in a multigenerational family home. While the current and next wave of elder care clients saw great economic growth in their lifetimes, they also experienced the financial exorcism of the great recession that decimated retirement funds. Add to that, the warnings that Social Security is on the brink of collapse. It’s a recipe for an elder care and housing disaster.
With “two-thirds of Americans over 65 expected to need some long-term care” the costs are absolutely beyond the reach of most people. Liquidating assets to garner placement in a facility and receiving Medicare benefits to offset added expenses is the standard procedure. When the funds run out the elder is forced to relocate from the place they have become familiar with or are evicted outright. Medicaid placements in most facilities are limited.
The Center for Medicare Advocacy states that 82% of the providers are for-profit nursing homes and long-term care companies. These facilities have the added financial pressure of creating profits for their shareholders. This is often accomplished by charging higher rates, lower nurse and staff to patient ratios, and lower quality and quantity of services. Studies indicate that for-profit facilities have a lower standard of care than non-profit facilities. Physicians For A National Health Program quoted, “ The reason patients’ quality of care is inferior in for-profit nursing homes is that administrators must spend 10 percent to 15 percent of revenues satisfying shareholders and paying taxes.”
Non-profit facilities tend to have a mission for quality elder care for their market group that is not inclusive of the profit structure. Profits garnered and taxes saved are invested into the facility, staff, quality and innovative services. Non-profits provide long term care for those who can’t afford it and funds are also invested for the future of the organization.
To help families budget their available funds and garner all state, federal and private available funding to achieve the level of care needed is one of the goals of the non-profit provider. Providing a variety of levels of care beginning with home care to enable the elder to stay at home longer is the new frontier of the non-profit. Green Hill is in the process of launching our Green Hill @ Home program to enable elders to remain at home as long as possible. Unfortunately, home care for elders is also a new market where the for-profit care industry sees a lucrative return. Offering independent living options, assisted living, nursing and rehabilitative care, all within the same community creates stability, continuity and continuum of health care for the elder that is shared by the for-profit and non-profit industries alike. Providing care for the entire length of an elder’s life without fear of eviction is exclusively a function found with the non-profit providers. At Green Hill our Care For Life program achieves that goal.
Perhaps it is time to remove the ‘profit’ from the for-profit assisted and nursing home industry and create an industry standard of the highest quality of services including life time care to serve our ever growing senior age group. To divest senior citizens of all they have earned and saved, just to have the housing and healthcare that they need, and then to leave them ill and homeless is an unconscionable act and it should be legislated as an illegal business practice.