Traumatic brain injuries are devastating, and many who suffer from them end up in nursing homes throughout the country when caregivers can no longer meet their needs. While most believe they are placing their loved ones in facilities that will provide them with the care they need, the reality is that this is not always the case.
While nursing homes are designed to handle the needs of the elderly, most of them simply don’t have the staff or practices in place to work with patients suffering from head injuries. The specialized care needed, such as specific rehabilitative therapies that are created to address the needs of the person with the brain injury, aren’t available, which means the patient often shows a decline in their abilities.
An example of this problem is Larry Boswell, a brain injury patient at the Cobden Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Illinois. When Boswell arrived at the facility in 2008, records show he was able to walk – now he is slumped in a wheelchair. Boswell’s lawyer also explains that while Boswell is difficult to understand when speaking now, except when saying “no” to whether he wants to remain in the facility, his speech therapy was stopped altogether shortly after he arrived at Cobden.
Including Mr. Boswell, there are approximately 244,000 people suffering from brain injuries in nursing homes, with a majority of them residing in facilities that can’t provide the care they need. Due to this, Boswell is a part of a battle on the national level that is trying to get those with brain injuries out of nursing homes, and into facilities that can actually help them.
There are brain injury-dedicated facilities for rehabilitation throughout the country, but they are only equipped to handle around 40,000 patients. Unfortunately, that still leaves around 3,960,000 people with brain injuries that require specialized long-term care unable to receive it.
The laws in the United States require Medicaid to cover the costs of nursing homes for those requiring long-term care. However, there are no requirements in place for paying for the specialized care that brain injury sufferers need. When you consider that most insurance companies place strict limits on funding for long term care, that leaves many of those with severe brain injuries relying on Medicaid for their care. While there are slots that are paid for by Medicaid in nursing homes that are equipped to handle these injuries, that only adds up to around 19,000 spots, and there’s a waiting list that is over five years long.
Many of the patients with brain injuries that are in nursing homes can live in environments with less restrictions, but Medicaid funding doesn’t cover the costs associated with the care they need. Additionally, many of the facilities that can handle these cases are not licensed as nursing homes, which means Medicaid won’t cover them for long-term care. The issue is further compounded by nursing homes who realize that those with brain injuries don’t belong in restrictive environments, so they refuse to take them. Together, this leaves those with traumatic brain injuries at a severe disadvantage when it comes to achieving their full potential.
Perhaps one of the most disconcerting things about this entire situation is that many of the facilities in which patients with brain injuries end up have very low ratings on federal inspections. This means those who place their loved ones in these facilities need to make sure they are visiting frequently and paying attention to the care they receive.