Is Nursing Home Reform a Faith Issue?

11/17/2008 | Nursing Home Neglect

This editorial recently appeared in the Lexington Herald Leader questioning whether improving the nursing home care in Kentucky for our elderly is a religious obligation.  I thought it was timely and interesting, so I am posting the entire article here.

Nursing home reform a faith issue

Esther Hurlburt

People of faith have recently chimed in on a variety of legislative issues. Some religious folks have protested mountaintop removal, others have rallied against casino gambling and still others have demonstrated their support for or opposition to pre-abortion ultrasounds.

Unfortunately, people of faith have yet to add their voices to a critically important issue that calls for justice and compassion. It's time that religious people of all faiths insist on justice and compassion for the 23,000 people living in Kentucky nursing homes.

Throughout the ages we have learned in churches, mosques and synagogues two very simple lessons: We must honor our elders, and we must do unto others as we would have done to ourselves. If our theology is to be of any use at all then it must be put into practice.

Creating a culture of care means we ensure that old people will not live in despair and fear that their needs will not be met if they are forced into institutional care.

Creating a culture of care means we honor our elders by standing in solidarity with them so they do not suffer any more than we ourselves would want to suffer.

Creating a culture of care ensures that the needs of the frail elderly are no longer subordinate to corporate greed that places profit over compassion.

Creating a culture of care based on justice and compassion for our frail elderly comes in the form of nursing home reform.

Nursing home reform, as an act of justice and compassion, can be preached from every pulpit, supported by every social justice group and taught in every religious education class. Elders, whom we have been taught to honor and whom we have been taught to treat with the same love and respect that we desire for ourselves, depend on us to speak for them when they can no longer speak for themselves.

People of faith can add their voices to support four pieces of legislation that promote nursing home reform. Please consider that:

* Justice and compassion should be delivered every day by well-trained caregivers rather than rationed by corporate policy. House Bill 109 would set minimum staffing to provide comprehensive, safe and timely care to every resident every day.

* Acts of injustice and neglect should not be hidden nor kept secret. House Bill 222 would allow consumers, especially family members, to be immediately, easily and accurately informed about nursing homes that violate the appropriate standards of care.

* People in charge should be held accountable for acts of injustice and neglect and should answer to such charges. House Bill 589 would require the Cabinet for Health and Family Services' Web site to detail who owns each nursing home and where they can be contacted. Further, House Bill 108 sets stiff penalties for nursing homes if problems are found to be caused by inadequate staffing.

If we are serious about putting what we have been learning in our faith communities into action, caring for our elders is a religious obligation.

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Copyright (c) 2008 Lexington Herald-Leader