‘NewsHour’ Profiles ‘Eden Alternative’ to Nursing Homes
The nursing home industry is in a "state of near crisis" in the United States, but PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" reports that "Eden Alternative" nursing homes, which provide improved living conditions for residents, may help address the problem. The industry faces a staffing shortage and low Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates, and a number of nursing homes in many states have closed or filed for bankruptcy. According to Bill Thomas, a geriatrician and a founder of the Eden Alternative program, "What you are seeing right now is the end of the American nursing home. It is finished. And the big question that really ought to be on the lips of the politicians ... is 'what comes next?'" Thomas said that nursing homes, which often have "poor" living conditions, have become "anathema" to most Americans. "A hospital and a poor house got together, and they had a baby. And the baby was a nursing home. ... And that is just not any way [for a senior] to live a life," he said. In addition, some nursing home residents suffer neglect or abuse by employees. A congressional report released last July found that state inspectors cited cases of "serious abuse" at one in 10 nursing homes. According to a new survey conducted by "NewsHour," the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 45% of respondents said that patients who move into a nursing home are "worse off" than before they entered, and 43% "would find it totally unacceptable" to move into a nursing home. Eden Alternative homes aim to improve the nursing home experience, featuring widespread plants, animals and onsite day care for children. About 240 nursing homes nationwide -- including St. Luke's Home in Utica, N.Y. -- have adopted the Eden Alternative approach (Dentzer, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 2/27). An audio clip of the "NewsHour" report and additional information on Eden Alternative nursing homes are available online. Note: You must have RealPlayer Audio to listen to the report.