Sen. Isadore Hall has a bone to pick with those who abuse elders. He’s not having it. Sharing with 2 Urban Girls the horror of his own grandmother being neglected in a nursing home, he has penned an op-ed that was published in the Daily Breeze. He specifically calls out a nursing home based in Inglewood, CA, who receives upwards of $500 million in medical/medicare payments according to an investigative report by David Goldstein of CBS/KCAL.
California has an opportunity to prevent nursing home nightmares like this one: In 2014, Geneva Hilton was admitted to Centinela West, a nursing home, after a brief stay in the hospital. Five weeks later, she was returned to the hospital with pneumonia, dehydration and a body temperature in the 80s. She did not live. The nursing home, part of a troubled for-profit nursing home chain already under fire for previous lapses, is now under investigation for wrongful death.
These cases are too common. Our tendency, though, is to blame individuals — nursing home owners, nursing home workers, or other residents — rather than examine the conditions that lead to these results on such a regular basis.
While individuals often do share blame, a deeper, more systemic problem opens the door to tragedy: inadequate staffing. Study after study shows that safe staffing saves lives and prevents injury. That’s why I am dedicated to working with our state’s dedicated caregivers to improve nursing home quality.
If you have never thought about the kind of nursing home you’d want for yourself or a family member, now is the time. More than one third of today’s seniors will need nursing home care at some point.  One in eight of our elderly over age 85 are currently living in a nursing home.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, our state’s patients are more likely than the national average to be kept in physical restraints, develop pressure ulcers or lose control of their bladder or bowel function. We must do better.
California’s leaders aimed to prepare our state for an aging elderly population by investing more than $1 billion annually to increase nursing home quality. But that investment is all carrots and no standards: our requirement for hours of care per resident per day has not been updated in decades, and it falls nearly 25 percent below federal minimum guidelines.
These additional resources must translate into care our elderly and disabled parents and grandparents are counting on. That’s why I’m committed to Assembly Bill 2079, which would require nursing homes to bring nursing home staffing levels at least up to the federal minimum.
Listen to the nursing assistants who provide the bulk of the care in understaffed nursing homes and it’s clear how dedicated they are to their work, and how stressed and heartbroken they feel when they can’t provide the care they know patients need. Shawn Pagano, a caregiver who recently came to Sacramento, told legislators, “Residents run the risk of getting hurt because we can’t spend the proper time with each of them. Their basic needs of brushing their teeth and clipping their fingernails can’t be met on a daily basis.”
The caregivers who change diapers, hold the hands of dying patients, take care of skin and teeth, and ensure nutritional needs are met bear an emotional toll as well as a physical one. “We are physically and mentally drained,” Pagano says. “There’s not enough of us to help each other, we are having to do a two-person job. We deserve the proper help and residents deserve the proper care.”
AB 2079 would offer relief to caregivers working in a strained system and offer peace of mind to family members that their loved ones are well-cared for.
We can’t wait. Our aging population will require more and better care. For example, the number of Californians with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to grow by 200,000 by 2025.
That’s why I’m working with California’s caregivers to make sure we can all count on quality care when we need it most. Too many nursing home chains still put profits above patients; they should not have the choice to understaff.
This year we have the chance to change that.
State Sen. Isadore Hall III, D-San Pedro, represents the 35th Senate District. He is a November candidate for Congress.