The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Elder Care Is a Scandal

May 20, 2024

Nursing home providers in Maryland were finally sued by some residents this May for the disgusting care some of them have received. The lawsuit alleged residents left sitting in their own excrement for hours, bedsores developing, with call buttons left unanswered due to inadequate staffing. The lawyers pointed out that Maryland is second worse in the entire country for the backlog on nursing home inspections. And Maryland is a solidly Democratic state, solidly blue in its elected officials, plus having the highest income in the entire country, according to government statistics. But, like every other state in the union, legislators and officials claim there is not enough money for the health needs of even the most vulnerable people in the state.

And if Maryland has this problem, imagine the care the sick, the elderly, the demented and the handicapped are receiving in the rest of the country.

The United States so-called health care system is outstanding in surgery and device innovation—only. Otherwise, health care here is worse than in many poor countries in services delivered, not to mention all the services denied. When Medicare or Medicaid stops paying for a patient, they end up in their relatives’ homes—if they are lucky. In fact, millions of women and a number of men, ARE health care in the U.S. They learn nursing skills out of desperation for the lack of care available.

If a patient lacks a family member to go to, they are literally on the street, taken sometimes to a shelter, and treated as if “you are just piece of garbage,” as one outraged patient put it. Vans from the California Department of Public Health drop off thousands of homeless sick people at shelters, and have been doing so since before the pandemic. At the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, the vans come so frequently, the mission set up a camera, which they call the “dump cam,” to try to capture evidence to use for suing hospitals and nursing homes which have evicted patients.

At the other end of the scale, where people pay for assisted living, the average monthly cost has reached $5,000. That amount is higher than the average wage of individuals in the U.S. Dementia care units already average $10,000 per month. If an older person has some assets, such as a paid-for home, or a pension, they have to use every single penny up at assisted living facilities before they qualify for Medicaid, which then forces many into under-staffed nursing homes.

While nursing homes are still regulated—supposedly and only occasionally by the government, as the lawsuit in Maryland shows—assisted living is NOT regulated at all. Its lack of staffing and care makes it quite profitable, so it has become a favorite component of big investment funds. These assisted living chains have been profitable up till now, but they are pricing themselves right out of the market. Not only current baby-boomers but the following generations of much worse-paid workers will not be able to pay for any assisted living facilities as they operate today. As one official at the California Association of Health Facilities, said: “Society’s problems are manifesting themselves on the doorsteps of nursing homes.”