“You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)

Nursing Homes Should Have Nurses

I admit it. I am old-fashioned.  

For some odd reason, I think that if a facility calls itself a “nursing home,” it should always have at least one nurse on the premises.  

A nurse wearing blue scrubs assisting a lady wearing a yellow dress use a walker.

But, much to my surprise, that isn’t the case.  

Under current Federal rules and regulations, nursing homes only need a registered nurse to be present for 8 hours a day, which means that nursing homes don’t need to have nurses on staff for the vast majority of the time.  

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is trying to change the rules so that nursing homes must have actual nurses all the time.  

However, some senators and representatives are trying to block the change.

CMS has stated that it is illogical for nursing homes not to have nurses on the premises all the time.  

The United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra said during Senate Testimony

“…if you’re going to call yourself a nursing home, you should have a nurse that’s present to provide care to the families that are leaving their loved ones there.”

Unfortunately, not everyone in Washington agrees.

Senator John Barrasso is attempting to block HHS from requiring nursing homes to be staffed with nurses.  And, a few weeks ago, a House Committee passed a bill prohibiting the rule change requiring nursing homes to staff with nurses.  

When I go into a doctor’s office for care, I expect to see a doctor.  

When I walk into a barber shop, I expect a barber to cut my hair.  

And, when I go to a lawyer’s office, I think a lawyer will help me.  

An African American man wearing a white long sleeve shirt covered by a black apron, a white female Dr. wearing a white lab coat shaking a patients hand, a white female wearing a white blouse and blue blazer sitting and explaining information to a couple.

But it isn’t the same for nursing homes.  If I were a nursing home resident, I should not expect to be cared for by a nurse.  

I can’t understand why any elected official would not want nursing homes to be staffed with nurses. 

Every day I get calls from people whose loved one died in a nursing home and can’t get a straight answer as to what happened. 

But why should they expect anything different?  

If the staff caring for the elderly and most vulnerable aren’t medically trained and licensed, why should relatives of deceased residents expect to get a straight answer as to why a loved one died?  

Yesterday, I was in a nursing home where I witnessed a grown man living on a hallway floor.

The picture below is not of the man I saw (I am not going to put this man’s picture in an email distribution), but it is close to what I saw.  

A man who appears dirty, laying on a sidewalk wearing ripped jeans and a dirty grey jacket has a blue tarp over his head while he sleeps.

The man was dirty, the floor was filthy, and other residents, staff, and guests were stepping over the sleeping man in the middle of the hallway.  I asked the staff (none of whom were licensed healthcare professionals) why the man was living on the floor.  The staff told me the man made the hallway his home because he wanted to.  

I don’t know the man sleeping on the floor, but I do know he is someone’s child (he is now old) and was once loved and cared for by his parents. 

But not anymore. 

Now, he is just a problem for the people who are responsible for caring for him because he wants to live in a hallway rather than his room.  

Everyone was created in God’s image – even the man wanting to live in the hallway

We don’t have to go very far in the Old Testament to learn that every man and woman was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27).  

Leaving an old man to live on the floor of a nursing home because it is easier to leave him dirty and without dignity is not how I think anyone created in God’s image should be cared for.  

I don’t have a cute or cool way to end this email other than to write that I am disgusted by what I witnessed at the nursing home and by our elected officials who are actively trying to make things worse for nursing home residents.

Mark Sunshine

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