Arguments abound about the proper level of care that needs to be provided to residents of nursing homes. But there is another ancillary argument often made about who should even be sent to these long-term skilled nursing facilities at all. In Illinois, for example, much disagreement (and litigation) has centered around whether certain residents with developmental disabilities or mental health challenges should be forced to live in long-term care facilities which are typically populated with seniors.
In our state this disagreement grew into civil rights litigation, attempting to force state officials to provide alternative living arrangements to those capable of living safely outside of these facilities. The state is involved in these cases because they provide significant financial assistance to pay for these individual’s stay in the long-term care facility. The suits sought to use those funds in alternative ways to provide more opportunity and freedom to certain community members. Fortunately, the case settled last year-as part of that agreement some residents are now transitioning into community living situations instead of being forced to live in more structured long-term care facilities.
A similar problem seems to be brewing in Florida, with certain activist organization claiming that the state is placing children with disabilities into nursing homes typically reserved for senior citizens. The housing arrangements are unacceptable, say the children’s rights proponents, and need to be changed.
Proper Nursing Home Residents?
As reported on by the Mason County Daily News, the U.S. Justice Department has begun an investigation into the matter. The concern is that the institutionalization of hundreds of children in nursing homes violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is obvious a serious concern, as few causes are more important that the safe, fair, and healthy treatment of vulnerable young children.
Violation of the federal law is obviously a problem, but the issue can also be grasped on a practical level. Children with disabilities forced to live in these settings often have little to no opportunities to interact with anyone outside of the setting. They therefore miss growth experiences that other children receive-they experiences to interact with the world are obviously crucial for their development. Various recreational, social, and educational opportunities are unfairly denied to these children.
The Justice Department letter notes that may of the children taken from their families and placed in these institutions are deemed “medically complex’ or “medically fragile.” That includes children who suffer from cerebral palsy or who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child (often in car accidents or falls). Many of these children face serious medical complications, including attachment to medical equipment to keep them alive each day.
Even with the complications, however, it is not too great a burden to demand that these children not be forced to languish in long-term care facilities surrounded by those at the other end of the demographic spectrum. Unfortunately, the report found that once many of these children arrive at one of these facilities, they often never go back home.
For example, one child mentioned by DOJ investigators became a quadriplegic following a car accidents. Without funds to provide the care he needed, his family relied on state support. However, the state told the family that the waiting list of “at-home” care was five to ten years. As a result, the boy was forced to move into a long-term care facility-he has been there for three years.
Hopefully this matter will be resolved so that these children are afforded a chance to live with their family and friends.
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