Last spring, my half-sister Michele called me concerned about her 21-year-old daughter’s mental health, as she’d had several bouts of depression and it appeared another one was coming on. This time, Michele was eager to get in touch with her daughter’s therapist before their next meeting. She had some new—and potentially treatment-altering—information.
“Her tests came back,” Michele told me. “Turns out she’s got a MTHFR-gene mutation. We’re waiting to find out which kind.” This was not a conversation anyone would have had 10 years ago, and it’s not one that many are having now. But if personalized, gene-based medicine keeps expanding into the brain sciences, it might be.
Michele, who works as a medical researcher in Australia, may know more than the average parent about the potential of genetics in treating psychiatric conditions. She had read studies that a mutation in the MTHFR gene may increase the risk of psychiatric disorders. Depending on the variation of the mutation, it could also signify which medications are most useful—with some studies recommending folate supplements instead of, or in addition to, antidepressants.
Tonight, PBS Frontline will be running a special about assisted living homes for seniors, focusing on the largest player in that industry, Emeritus corporation.
Assisted living homes are a largely unregulated industry. Many of the allegations against Emeritus are shocking, but typical of greedy corporations. Here’s a small sample of what the report will focus on:
Once upon a time, assisted living facilities were created as a happy medium between simple retirement communities and skilled nursing homes. Elderly residents would live largely independent existences but would, as the name implies, receive largely non-medical assistance for things they could no longer do on their own. But that has all changed, as more Americans lived longer and assisted living operators realized they had a virtually unregulated goldmine on their hands.
Complaints addressed include lack of training of Emeritus employees:
Again, when you see the attractive buildings being operated by the country’s largest assisted living group, you might believe that the professionals in Emeritus’s Memory Care units have a background in dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients or undergo lengthy, thorough training. Not quite.
But this is how an Emeritus Vice President actually describes the entire training process to Frontline:
“For our staff that works in memory care, they’re gonna go through what we call general orientation which everybody in the community would go through, then we have an 8-hour class that’s the ‘Join Their Journey’ class and that’s where we cover everything from disease process to how we serve meals slightly differently to folks who have dementia to how to engage, how to approach, how to communicate… There are some communication barriers at times.”
“Eight hours?! That’s nothing,” says Hawes. “Who’s going to explain, ‘This is what the disease is, this is the impact that it has on people’s physical health and on their behaviors’? You’ve gotta know how to interpret non-verbal cues that something’s going on with this resident because they can’t tell you verbally — in the same way that a 2-year-old can’t tell you, or a 1-year-old. You’ve gotta do a lot of training for memory care units. You can do great care; you gotta know how.”
Speaking as someone who has a bit of experience caring for seniors, I completely agree that 8 hours is a freaking joke. Whoever that would be adequate training should get slapped upside the head.
Like other large companies, Emeritus apparently squeezes its employees for every ounce of productivity.
“We were constantly being told to cut labor costs,” testified a former top executive at Emeritus’s California operation. “There was a lot of frustration around these kind of directions from corporate that said ‘Cut labor by 10%.”
She said she brought her concerns to the Executive VP of Quality Control, but claims that his response was, “We do not use staffing ratios because if we do not have the right amount of staffing in place and a… negative resident incident or issue occurred… we could be sued.”
After that discussion, the former exec said she became persona non grata at Emeritus and was eventually fired because she “didn’t fit.”
“Didn’t fit”….right, because that’s just so much nicer than the truth of “We don’t want any of you moral people around here!”
As you might have guessed, priority numero uno for Emeritus is getting elderly people into those beds to keep the money flowing in…
Melissa, a former sales rep at Emeritus, is one of several ex-employees who say that the company’s main goal is to get paying bodies in beds.
“The biggest thing I ever heard was ‘You need 100%… fill the building,’” she recalls. “It gave me a lot of anxiety because my philosophy wasn’t to move in a warm body just to fill the building. My philosophy was to make sure it was the right fit with the person, the prospective resident moving in… They wanted a hard close after every single person I met with.”
Elder care attorney Lesley Clement claims this allegation is bolstered by documents she uncovered when representing the family of a woman who died following three months of living at an Emeritus facility.
According to Clement, these documents show that Emeritus targeted seriously ill seniors with advanced dementia, specifically because they could be charged a higher rate.
“Everything I look at at the corporate level, all of their records, it’s all about push for more money to increase the cash flow and there’s no talk about caring for the elderly,” says Clement. “When you read their records, you think that this is a real-estate company.”
And perhaps most damning of all, a number of residents have died under unusual circumstances at Emeritus facilities, many only resulting in a slap on the wrist for the company.
Then there are deaths, like that of Chicago Bears Hall of Fame running back George McAfee, who died shortly after wandering out of his room at an Emeritus facility and drinking a bottle of industrial strength detergent. Though Emeritus settled with his family, the state of Georgia only fined the company $601 over the incident.
“Had this been a daycare facility where a child died, the place would have been shut down,” points out one of his daughters.
In an interview with Frontline, Emeritus CEO Cobb chalked this up to human error and called it “the exception to the rule.”
What about the Mississippi woman who was only at an Emeritus facility for 9 days when she packed up a bag, told a staffer she was leaving and then went up to the second floor, pried open a window and jumped out?
Her daughters arrived as their mom was being taken to the hospital where she would eventually die from her injuries. They claim that not a single person from the facility was outside helping their mother and no one spoke to the family about what had happened.
In this case, state regulators did not even cite or fine Emeritus.
There’s much, much more at this link and, as mentioned above, PBS is doing a feature on this company tonight which I HIGHLY recommend watching.
I’ve put in time caring for my elderly grandparents and this stuff makes me sick. It’s why I worry about the soon coming time my grandmother will more than likely have to go into some kind of facility like that. Granny does not have dementia and is pretty mentally sharp for an 86 year old, but I’d hate for her to spend out her last days living in an awful Emeritus like facility.
These companies need to be regulated. The exploitation of our nations senior citizens MUST STOP.
“Citizen Koch,” a documentary about money in politics focused on the Wisconsin uprising, was shunned by PBS for fear of offending billionaire industrialist David Koch, who has given $23 million to public television, according to Jane Mayer of the New Yorker. The dispute highlights the increasing role of private money in “public” television and raises even further concerns about the Kochs potentially purchasing eight major daily newspapers.
The film from Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin documents how the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision helped pave the way for secret political spending by players like the Kochs, who contributed directly and indirectly to the election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in 2010 and came to his aid again when the battle broke out over his effort to limit collective bargaining.
Originally slated to appear on PBS stations nationwide as part of the “Independent Lens” series, “Citizen Koch” had its funding pulled after David Koch was offended by another PBS documentary critical of the billionaire industrialists.
“People like the Kochs have worked for decades to undermine public funding for institutions like PBS,” Deal told the Center for Media and Democracy. “When public dollars dry up, private dollars come in to make up for the shortfall.”
And that private funding can conflict with PBS’ “public” mission and its editorial integrity. The PBS distributor “backed out of the partnership because they came to fear the reaction our film would provoke,” Deal and Lessin said in a statement. “David Koch, whose political activities are featured in the film, happens to be a public-television funder and a trustee of both [New York PBS member station] WNET and [Boston member station] WGBH. This wasn’t a failed negotiation or a divergence of visions; it was censorship, pure and simple.”
Republican lawmakers in Texas have cut the state’s family planning budget by two-thirds, forcing many clinics that focus on women’s health to close across the state.
This was on last night, I’m hoping there’s a replay coming so I can see it.
FIRST FREEDOM: The Fight for Religious Liberty is the human story of how the Founding Fathers viewed faith, and how they radically broke with the Western tradition of religion-by-law to create a nation in which belief in God is a matter of choice. The film is about the people who imagined a new way of approaching human and civil rights and ultimately transformed a nation and the world. Often misunderstood, sometimes purposely distorted, the religious feelings of America’s founders are approached on the basis of fact. From the most non-conformist to the most devout, the founders might sometimes shock or surprise modern sensibilities regarding religious belief.
Doomsday Preppers has to be the saddest show on for profit TV since Honey Boo Boo: Really? On the National Geographic Channel?
I don’t get why once reputable cable television channels devoted to education have become the national version of circus freak shows.
These shows are on cable channels so they get an income from subscribers so ratings should not be a factor but it seems greed knows no bounds.
Again, if there is any one questioning why there has to be tax payer funded govt television programming here it is……..
I think what really sets me off about it is the exploitation of children. Right now on Doomsday Preppers they have a teenager (must be 15?) who is obsessed with the end of the world who is building improvised weapons (baseball bat with nails) and firing weapons and setting a fire in an abandoned building as practice for keeping warm while living on the run (and nearly kills himself and his 3 pals). Instead of getting this kid help and teaching him about socialization they are feeding his delusions.
We will never know since since Mr Rogers has long since passed. But when President Nixon was trying to cut funding to PBS in 1969, Fred Rogers testified before Congress to prevent such cuts. As much today as it was in 1969, this is an attack on children.
Okay, I may be taking this further than Mitt intended. So let’s go back to his central thrust. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting receives nearly half a billion dollars a year from taxpayers, which it disburses to PBS stations, who in turn disburse it to Big Bird and Jim Lehrer. I don’t know what Big Bird gets, but, according to Senator Jim DeMint, the president of Sesame Workshop, Gary Knell, received in 2008 a salary of $956,513. In that sense, Big Bird and Senator Harry Reid embody the same mystifying phenomenon: They’ve been in ‘public service’ their entire lives and have somehow wound up as multimillionaires.
Mitt’s decision to strap Big Bird to the roof of his station wagon and drive him to Canada has prompted two counterarguments from Democrats: (1) Half a billion dollars is a mere rounding error in the great sucking maw of the federal budget, so why bother? (2) Everybody loves Sesame Street, so Mitt is making a catastrophic strategic error. On the latter point, whether or not everybody loves Sesame Street, everybody has seen it, and every American under 50 has been weaned on it. So far this century it’s sold nigh on a billion bucks’ worth of merchandising sales (that’s popular toys such as the Subsidize-Me-Elmo doll). If Sesame Street is not commercially viable, then nothing is, and we should just cut to the chase and bail out everything.
Conversely, if this supposed ‘public’ broadcasting brand is capable of standing on its own, then so should it. As for the rest of PBS’s output — the eternal replays of the Peter, Paul & Mary reunion concert, twee Brit sitcoms, Lawrence Welk reruns and therapeutic infomercials — whatever their charms, it is difficult to see why the Brokest Nation in History should be borrowing money from the Chinese Politburo to pay for it. A system by which a Communist party official in Beijing enriches British comedy producers by charging it to American taxpayers with interest is not the most obvious economic model. Yet, as Obama would say, the government did build that.
Read the whole thing.