By Felicia Howard and Abby Rogers
Felicia@MarylandReporter.com and Abby@MarylandReporter.com
Stevie Barnett has been confined to a wheelchair for about six months, after contracting a near-fatal flesh-eating disease during a trip to Jamaica.
“I made it back home and I went into trauma,” Barnett, a 29-year veteran of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, said about the intensity of his wound. Barnett’s doctors cut the disease out of his leg, rendering him unable to walk. Barnett was transferred to Genesis Health Care Severna Park Center, where Barnett said the staff has made all the difference.
“They’re still working with me and they’ve been very, very good, taking care of my knees and trying to get me to walk again,” he said.
Barnett was part of a group of speakers who stressed the importance of Maryland’s nursing and rehabilitation centers at a press conference Monday afternoon. Sage Policy Group, an economy and policy firm in Maryland, also released a study at the conference detailing the economic impact of the centers.
According to Anirban Basu, chairman of the policy group, the nursing and home care industry supports 36,000 jobs, and personal income from the this sector of the job market brings $1.5 billion into the economy.
“It’s a significant industry,” he told the room of about 30 people. “It’s not an unimportant sector of the economy.”
The report also found that more centers are serving people under the age of 65, like Barnett. That age group has grown by 26 percent from 2001 through 2008.
Barnett cited the family-like atmosphere at the center for his progressing recovery, which he said goes a long way.
“My friends and family can’t always be there, sometimes I don’t want them to be, and when they’re not there, the staff always gives me words of encouragement, always helping me along the way, just the little things make a big difference,” he said. “If you’ve never been in a bed for six months you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.”
Not only are these facilities beneficial for jobs and medical care, but according to Tamara Geiwitz of Long View Nursing Home, they also improve the social development of the patients.
Geiwitz is a third-generation manager of the independent, family-owned facility.
“I’m proud and honored to be apart of the Long View community. We treat all of our patients like family,” she said. “Since 1946 our family has provided outstanding care for families in our community.”
Contrary to your lead, people aren’t confined to wheelchairs. Wheelchairs don’t confine people. They mobilize people. Nobody is confined to an automobile.
The need for quality nursing home care and in-home care is growing in this country as this article indicates. Yes the under 65 population needing care is fast growing, but so is the other side of 65. As the population ages and boomers become seniors, there will be an ever increasing need for care and are we as a society ready to accommodate this need? Certainly businesses can erect more nursing home facilities in an attempt to fill beds so they can turn a nice profit, but is this really the care our seniors need? I have toured many nursing homes and assisted living “facilities” in Maryland in preparation for a book I am writing about housing choices for seniors and have been shocked by what I have seen. Most of these “facilities” don’t provide the real caring and family-like atmosphere to which Ms. Geiwitz is referring, but are primarily senior “body dumps”. I know that sounds like a rather harsh description, but it is what I have seen. Part of the problem in this country is not just with the nursing homes, but with the prevailing attitudes of the families of those needing care. In all of the visits I have made over the past few years and from what I see and hear from the staff at these “facilities” many residents rarely receive visits from anyone. Care needs to begin with the family and friends of that senior needing care. There are alternatives, aging-in-place “villages”, to nursing homes cropping up all over this country, which allow seniors to continue to live in their homes and receive the care they need from teams of neighborhood volunteers for example and the reviews have been positive. If nursing homes want to be viewed as a valuable care-giving enterprise, then perhaps they should take a look at some of these alternatives and learn a few lessons.