Forbes reported on the New York Times story on Rosewood Care Centers, a bankrupt for-profit nursing home chain, plagued by mold, disrepair, and wrongful death lawsuits. The nursing home chain is accused of misusing a government loan program by diverting the money for another investment, ignoring quality issues, and allowing wrongful deaths to occur.

Readers’ comments on the Times story were specific and detailed. One former manager of a nursing home wrote that despite the alleged bad intentions of the nursing home owners featured in the story, many nursing homes in America will struggle even if they have good intentions. Several factors conspire to weaken the industry’s bottom line. The homes are mostly structured as for-profit enterprises, their workers are among the most poorly compensated in any industry, individual families can’t pay for adequate care, and the government has not budgeted enough money for Medicare and Medicaid nursing home care.

The federal agency charged with helping people in need of housing is clearly not working. It is unsettling while 10,000 aging boomers turn 65 every day, prompting a predictable surge in nation’s nursing-home population. Baby boomers, defined as the 77 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, significantly outnumber the generations that came immediately before and after. Most of them will need custodial care at some point.

In 1995 the Government Accountability Office reported that oversight on quality of care and financial stability of nursing homes was scattered and inadequate among state and federal governments.

If you have been lucky enough to have accumulated wealth throughout your working life—and avoided setbacks like divorce, job loss, or health shocks—then you may have enough money to afford a home nurse or a nice assisted-living facility. As we age we will all likely need some sort of custodial care, and whoever takes care of us will be mentally and physically drained, whether they be family members or hospital staff. If the pay for certified nursing assistants, personal care workers, and home health workers is not improved, that drain could prove unsustainable for care workers.

As the Rosewood example shows, an increased role for government in long-term elder care is sorely needed. Not only is there not enough money to meet standards of care, add the requirement to make profits for the shareholders and the system is doomed. We might all be doomed if there is no adequate care for us as we age.

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