Aging Committee chief hears complaints about nursing homes

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) took advantage of his position as chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging to hold a field hearing in his home state to drum up support for re-authorization of the Older Americans Act. But he might have received more than expected Tuesday, when a local agency leader used the hearing to blast nursing homes “not appropriate for people to live in.”

Criticizing what she calls outdated, poorly designed facilities with overcrowded rooms, Milwaukee County Department on Aging leader Stephanie Sue Stein said a national campaign is needed to bring buildings up to par, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. “There are facilities that are simply not appropriate for people to live in,” Stein said to raucous applause at the Wilson Park Senior Center. “It is not a way any of us want to live our lives.”

Stein said an overhaul of the system would be in line with goals of the Older Americans Act. Kohl noted that 10 million Americans use services provided by the Act, many aimed at keeping seniors well fed, healthy and out of institutional care.

Also at the hearing, Assistant Secretary of the Administration on Aging Kathy Greenlee noted that 12 states will be receiving federal funding for the development of community-based respite-care programs for caregivers. The funds, which include $188,000 for Wisconsin, will be used to coordinate respite services, identify service gaps and solutions, and recruit paid and volunteer respite providers, Greenlee said.