Letters from the week of December 16, 2004

 Old Guard

A dilemma of epidemic proportions: I was moved by your story on nursing homes. It is about time someone wrote an article about this despicable problem ("Hope I Die Before I Get Old," Bruce Rushton, December 2)!

I am a provider in this area, and I am in and out of nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, group homes and private homes every day ministering mental-health services to those patients whom the state labels behavior problems because facilities do not want to take care of people properly.

What you wrote about is a dilemma that appears to have epidemic proportions, and one that no one cares about. I am originally from the Chicago area, and I have been in the medical/mental-health field since 1975. I never before saw the horrific things that I have seen in the state of Arizona.

I am very interested and passionate about the care that people young and old get in these facilities, which take enormous amounts of money from patients and their families and give them nothing for it.
Linda M. Comin, RN, clinical psychologist

The real picture: I just want to say thank you for seeing the real picture on long-term care today. So many articles about nursing-home abuse are centered on nursing assistants, as if they are solely responsible for the abuse of the elderly found today.

I believe that a long-term-care facility with the track records of the ones profiled should be stripped from their owners and turned over to the state. This goes for corporate and privately owned facilities, too. Furthermore, said owners should not be allowed to own or administer any other such facility in the state.

This sounds rash and expensive, but long-term care can be a good, lucrative business if kept in context. I'm saying, if the facilities are small and have well-chosen and well-trained staffs, they can be good places for senior citizens. And, of course, a good facility cannot take residents above the level of care it is capable of handling. And the facility must pay staffers a living wage.

As for the state failing to report nursing-home violations . . . who is the state protecting? I would question any official's motive for not reporting, fining or closing any facility with the track records profiled in this story. I believe this problem needs fixing in a hurry! As it stands right now, it's just Arizona's dirty little secret.
Jacqueline Nelson, via the Internet

Mother's little helper: My mother never reads long articles in any paper, but as fate would have it, a copy of New Times was in a waiting room we were in. All of a sudden, I saw her crying after reading "Hope I Die Before I Get Old." She was so moved that she took the copy home with her and proceeded to call her friends and read it to them.

This got me thinking. Since Sun City is supposedly a city of volunteers, instead of volunteering to hand out cookies at church bake sales, residents should help make sure seniors are attended to properly. This should be a priority on everyone's list, especially since Christmas is here.

If anyone had any ideas about how we could spread love and care to these institutions by just going and lending a hand, perhaps something could be done immediately for people like the ones mentioned in your story. I certainly appreciate New Times' efforts to expose such atrocities, but we need to do something immediately besides shake our heads and tsk tsk.

Even Sheriff Joe Arpaio treats inmates better than this!
Sharon Harrison, Sun City

Az you wish: I read with great concern your article on skilled nursing care in Arizona. In it, you failed to mention AzAHA, the Arizona Association of Homes and Housing for the Aging, as a possible resource. AzAHA is a group of nonprofit providers joined together to work toward the common good of seniors in Arizona.

Consumers looking for quality nursing care for their loved ones may want to go to the AzAHA Web site (www.azaha.org) to find a list of members. AzAHA members are currently working on a "Quality First" campaign, which could identify those organizations committed to providing quality care to seniors.

While there may be providers who are not giving good care, I can assure your readers there are a number of providers in Arizona who have a passion for caring for the elderly and are committed to providing quality health-care services.
Kathy Loscheider, administrator, Christian Care Nursing Center, Phoenix

Gay Writes

Player hater: Your comments [about A Queer Carol and other plays produced by Alternative Theatre Company] in "Homo for the Holidays" seem unfair -- even though I know you have every right to voice your opinion (Stage Frights, Robrt L. Pela, December 2).

We produced The Player, and it was a show that promoted safe sex, commitment and love. I commissioned Joe Amico, a leading sex therapist for the gay community, to read and review every part of the script. He even talked before each show about sexual addiction and praised our theater for approaching the subject.

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