Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Remembering Our Institutionalized Brothers and Sisters

Blue over at the Gimp Parade is commemorating her one year anniversary of avoiding permanent institutionalization in a nursing home. Having gotten to know her over the past few months, it's really chilling to hear how close she came to being warehoused in a place where she would be confined to a bed in a small room for the rest of her life.

Our healthcare system indicative of just how callous this society is. I've heard right-wing American pundits claim that universal healthcare would be a total disaster but does anyone still believe that the system we have isn't a disaster already? Are there still people walking around this country who don't know at least one person who has suffered unnecessarily as a result of healthcare shortages and/or HMO policies?

If you're lucky, the worst you'll experience is an occasional foot-dragging by your HMO. If you're not so lucky, then you just might happen to be one of the 38 million people who have inadequate healthcare coverage or you could be one of the 44 million people in this country who have health insurance at all. In either of those latter two situations, you may seriously want to consider moving to another country. Don't worry though, there are plenty of places to choose from since the United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn't at least have policies that restrict the price of pharmaceuticals and lots of these countries also have publicly administered national healthcare. In fact, the United States is the ONLY western nation that doesn't provide healthcare for all of its citizens.

Unfortunately, those who are most in need of healthcare services--people who have chronic or progressive disabilities--are often unable to afford moving elsewhere. Many of these people wind up indigent eventually. This can happen as a result of trying to pay for the care they need or because they are no longer able to work because of their under-treated/untreated condition. Others wind up being institutionalized by insurance companies that find it much easier to just stick people in nursing home instead of providing them with the assistance they'd need in order to live at home.

I understand that there are many people in this world who do not have a home nor do they have any family members who are willing to care for them. I'm not against the idea of providing such people with a place to live. It's just that there is no reason why society must incarcerate them in nursing homes as if they were guilty of some sort of crime.

Of course, it isn't surprising that we allow this to go on in this country. Nursing homes are proof that this country really does believe that people deserve to be penalized for being disabled. It doesn't matter if you are disabled because of some factor that you couldn't control like having a genetic defect or being the victim of a drunk driver. Regardless of the circumstances around it, if your body fails to conform to societal expectations, you must be punished.

Every few months or so, some story comes out in the news about how some nursing home has been abusing their patients or even killing them outright. I think that when many people hear about these stories, they want to believe that they are just isolated events. Unless we die young, it's quite possible for any of us to wind up in a nursing facility at some point and I think some people need to believe that being locked up in a nursing home like the ones on the news is something that could never happen to them. Nevertheless, these problems are systemic. The entire healthcare system is broken and nursing homes are a red flag that we should be paying more attention to.

What kind of conditions exist in these institutions? Does the average person really know? I don't think they do. Reading about the nursing home that Blue was almost forced into would be a good start for those who wanted to find out. If you have ever read her blog, this would probably be a good time to let her know how much you enjoy it.

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