To the editor:
In a recent letter published in the June Catholic Courier (monthly edition), Mrs. I.G. Tolbert raised a thoughtful question, “Since the various agencies, offices and commissions seem to be failing in their functions, why can’t the Catholic Church plan an active role in promoting nursing home reforms?”
Mrs. Tolbert’s question begs larger questions: Why have religious leaders of all faiths virtually ignored this issue? Why is this topic conspicuous by its absence from the sermons of priests, ministers and rabbis?
On July 15 on ABC World and National News Peter Jennings reported that over the last 10 years the investigative agency of the U.S. Congress has released 32 reports documenting widespread abuse, neglect, mismanagement and lack of fire safety that characterize thousands of our nation’s nursing homes. Mr. Jennings wondered why, with so much evidence of deplorable conditions, nothing has changed. ABC News talked with many Congressional aides who said that the nursing home population was simply “not a viable political constituency.”
Consumer Reports has noted that “the nursing home industry keeps politicians well greased. The political action committee of the American Health Care Association, which represents the for-profit nursing home chains, is an important financier of Congressional races.” Could this be why many elected officials regard nursing home residents as “not a viable political constituency?”
Studies have shown that 44 percent of senior citizens in America will spend time as nursing home residents. This means that a large percentage of people who never hear their priest, minister or rabbi — or higher-up religious officials — address the shame of our nursing homes will be personally affected by nursing home malpractices.
How can this be?
Joel Freedman, MSW
North Main Street