Opinion: In Nursing Homes, Impoverished Live Final Days on Pennies
Nursing homes are meant to be a haven for the elderly who require skilled care. But for hundreds of thousands of Americans, living in one means a lack of dignity and financial destitution. Medicaid’s personal needs allowance, a stipend meant to cover basic necessities beyond what the home provides, has not been raised since 1987 and remains at a minimum of $30 per month. In exchange for care costs, nursing home residents must surrender all Social Security, pension, and other income.
For residents without family support or financial assistance, the personal needs allowance can mean living with shocking poverty. Supporters of elderly care have spoken out against the inadequacy of the allowance; Sam Brooks, an attorney for The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, has called it “one of the most humiliating things” for nursing home residents. The allowance can cause them to live in shameful hardship, with ill-fitting clothes, low supplies, and an inability to afford basic toiletries.
In light of this alarming reality, some have attempted to prompt change. This includes legislation introduced by Democratic Representative Jennifer Wexton in 2019; the proposed bill aimed to raise the minimum allowance to $60 and link it to Social Security’s annual increases. Unfortunately, the bill did not receive a hearing, leaving elderly individuals in nursing homes with limited funds and resources to fall back on.
Though some states have acted independently of the federal government to increase allowances, many remain low. A majority of states offer $50 or less per month, and four states still offer the $30 minimum. Furthermore, some nursing homes have been cited for failing to provide the allowance, spending it without permission, or not informing residents of their entitlements to it.
This situation is unacceptable, and it is time for significant changes to be made. The elderly population deserves to live with dignity and humanity in their final years. It is vital that Congress raises the personal needs allowance to a respectable amount, making it a priority to ensure the elderly living in nursing homes can live their remaining days with dignity and basic necessities.
– Nearly two-thirds of American nursing home residents have their care paid for by Medicaid
– The personal needs allowance was established in 1972 and set at a minimum of $25 per month
– The personal needs allowance has not kept up with inflation, and low-income nursing home residents currently receive as little as $30 per month
– Many nursing homes do not inform residents of their right to a personal needs allowance or spend it without consent
– Just five states grant residents $100 or more each month, while four states remain at the $30 minimum
Medicaid’s personal needs allowance has not been adjusted for inflation or raised since 1987, meaning low-income nursing home residents are living in poverty and lacking basic necessities. It is time for Congress to prioritize this issue and raise the allowance to allow elderly individuals to live their remaining years with dignity.
The personal needs allowance is a necessary resource for elderly individuals in nursing homes, and it is unacceptable that it has not been raised in decades. It is up to Congress to prioritize this issue and ensure nursing home residents can live with dignity and humanity during their final years. Let us hope that legislative changes will be made and that the elderly population will receive the respect and care they deserve.