What’s wrong with this picture?

Acouple of weeks ago I saw a newspaper article on American retirees living in Mexican nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The article described these Americans as receiving 24-hour care, home-cooked meals in “sun-washed” dining rooms, and almost-free healthcare for private-pay rates one-fourth to one-tenth those of U.S. rates. One of the residents even called it “paradise.”

Of course, paradise it isn't. The article notes that the Mexican facilities are comparatively unregulated (although the question of whether there are any more LTC predators there than here is left hanging). Another flaw: American government programs and many insurance companies don't pay for care or services south of the border. By the same token, seven-figure savings accounts or mega-home values don't seem to be quite as important to American retirees living in Mexico.

But is anyone bothered by this—the fact that Americans who paid taxes all their lives, built this country's prosperity, and fought in its wars feel obliged to spend their declining years in another country?

The irony seems especially poignant in this issue of Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management, the annual OPTIMA Award issue. As in every year since 1996, we feature a long-term care facility that works hard to make itself an attractive place to live, and is adjudged by a jury of LTC peers to be worthy of commendation. It has been a remarkable experience for yours truly to review the dozens of entries we've received over the years and see how much facility staffs achieve, despite all manner of discouragements and disincentives to do so. In this issue (p. 24), see how Ballard Healthcare in Des Plaines, Illinois, takes its residents on simulated “world tours,” and how creatively its staff responds to make it happen. This is a dramatic expression of caring, and we are pleased to honor it. Conferring the OPTIMA Award is certainly one of the highlights of my year.

But there's that darn newspaper article. It seems as though all the best intentions and hard work of long-term care staffs throughout the United States aren't enough to attract and serve our elderly residents.

It isn't the fault of LTC staff and providers. It's the fault of a society that has yet to come to terms with providing adequate support to its own aging citizens. Maybe that will change after Election '08. It really has to. Otherwise, it's a matter of letting other countries do it for us. And, to me, that's a shame.


To send your comments on this editorial to the author and editors, e-mail peck0907@nursinghomesmagazine.com.


Our thanks to this year's OPTIMA Award judges:

Daniel W. Farley, PhD, CNHA

President/CEO, GlenWood Park Retirement Community

Princeton, West Virginia

David A. Green

Executive in Residence, Center for Community Partnerships

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Ian L. Cordes, NHA, MBA, FACHCA

President, Corecare Associates

West Palm Beach, Florida

Bill Keane, MS, MBA, LNHA

Consultant, Pioneer Network

Chicago, Illinois

Victor Lane Rose, MBA, NHA

Director of Operations, Souderton Mennonite Homes

Souderton, Pennsylvania

And thanks again to Glen Duncan, manager of the OPTIMA Award for the past 12 years.

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