VANESSA HO
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
February 10, 2009

For two years, Irene Henderer lived at the West Woods boarding home in Olympia, where she was known for her lively stories and sharp wit. But in November 2007, the home gave Henderer an eviction notice, along with 20 other Medicaid residents.

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Henderer, 89, grew depressed and refused to leave her room for meals. As her move approached, she quietly asked her guardian: “Why can’t I just die here?”

Three days after moving out, Henderer’s congestive heart failure worsened. A month later, she died.

“That was her home,” said Pam Privette, Henderer’s legal guardian. “If she could have stayed there, we would not have gone through any of this — the depression, the giving up on life. This pre-empted a natural death, in my opinion.”

As health care costs rise and Medicaid rates lag behind, nursing and boarding homes are forcing out sick, elderly and frail residents in what advocates say is a growing trend. No official data exist on eviction counts, but discharge complaints have climbed to record highs.

The Washington Long-Term Care Ombudsman program handled more than 700 such complaints last year, nearly a 50 percent increase over the year before. Nationally, discharge-related complaints have more than doubled in a decade — to 12,000 in 2007, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging.

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