Commentary: Nursing home system’s problems extend far beyond COVID

By Lindsay Miller: For Entire Post, Go Here…

The COVID-19 pandemic has, obviously, been a global tragedy and has forced all of us to reconsider how we live, work and interact with each other.

Except for some in New York government.

It is hard to believe that faced with a preponderance of evidence and the unfortunate consequence of – at least – 6,500 dead New Yorkers in nursing homes, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other elected leaders would even consider continuing to care for New York’s aging and disabled residents in these settings.

COVID-19 did not create the problems in New York’s nursing home industry. It exposed them.

For too long New Yorkers have languished in nursing homes and other congregate-care settings while understaffing , poor infection control and inadequate oversight and enforcement at these facilities jeopardize the health and safety of their residents. Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic was unforeseen and was particularly difficult for those working and living in nursing homes (without even addressing the policy issues or errors that may have been made), but devastating numbers of people have been dying in nursing homes for years.

So with these problems now laid bare for more public scrutiny, it is time to find solutions for New Yorkers that do not put them in dangerous situations and, instead, allow our elderly and/or disabled family members and neighbors to live their lives in comfort and safe surroundings with dignity and hope. New York needs to invest extensively and immediately to make home and community-based services easier to obtain and to make it easier for people to quickly transition out of an institution in a crisis.

Instead of responding to the failure of New York’s nursing homes, congregate-living settings and other institutions by throwing more money into that canyon, New York needs to address proven solutions that put people with disabilities and seniors in situations in which they can thrive — and perhaps even recover more of their independent lives.

Independent living centers (ILCs) are part of the solution. They are community-based nonprofits run by and for people with disabilities that provide vital advocacy, services and support to individuals so that they can live fully independent, integrated lives in their communities.

Each year, ILCs prevent hundreds of our neighbors and family members from being institutionalized and hundreds more are helped to transition from institutions – often requiring immense efforts – back into community-based settings. Over the past 20 years, the work of ILCs to transition and divert people with disabilities from institutional placements has saved New York state more than $2.5 billion.

We have a choice in New York as we enter into our ninth month of the pandemic and head toward the beginning of a new year: Invest in institutions and systems that are killing our family members and fellow citizens, or invest in community-based programs that offer choice, independence and safety. New Yorkers choose to live at home, not in a home.

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