South Dakota has disregarded the federal law and has situated disabled elderly people in nursing homes without any substantial reason. The US Department of Justice, in an investigation report carried out on Monday, found that these individuals had been placed in nursing home facilities without their will and could have been kept in the comfort of their own homes.
The report revealed that in order to be provided with adequate services by the state for the elderly and people with disabilities, the individuals have to be living in a nursing home facility for their needs to be met. One 73-year-old declared the nursing homes to be ‘warehouses’ whereas a 45-year-old diabetic man proclaimed his wish of being home with his wife and daughter and spoke about how it’s difficult for him to move around in the nursing home with just one leg without their help. Other residents voiced their unhappiness and complained of feeling ‘trapped’ in these nursing homes and expressed their concerns of wanting to move out of there and live in their own homes as they were not allowed to leave the institutions or move around freely even for basic needs such as getting groceries or go for shopping without supervision. ‘They have to sign me out like a kid,’ said one of the residents when his friend came to visit him.
Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, stated in a letter addressed to the Governor on 2nd May that, “Many of these individuals and their families have sought long term care services from the state only to find that a nursing facility is the only available option.” She further goes on to say that this does not just violate the rights of the individuals but is also a waste of the resources as it is actually cheaper to provide services for people in their homes as opposed to running an entire nursing care facility. The Justice Department also spoke about how with a little help the disabled people could be active members of the society and did not need to be necessarily segregated.
In reference to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, it is the state’s responsibility to provide disabled people with adequate services in an integrated community setting, keeping in mind their needs and wishes without any bias of age or disability. To be clearer the exact ruling passed by the Supreme Court is that ‘unless a nursing home is medically necessary, people have a right under the Americans with Disabilities Act to receive care without being segregated from the society.’ But the South Dakota government has not even informed people of their rights and services and the choice of being able to opt for community based services, let alone receiving these services at home.
A similar situation took place in Ontario, Canada, earlier when the residents of Canada were neglected and did not receive the required services they had a right to receive. For those who did end up becoming a part of the nursing facilities, they further went on to experience severe problems that actually worsened while they stayed at the nursing home. Though the exact same circumstances did not take place in America, there have been various cases where people have not been provided with what they deserve.
Obama since his administration has, however, changed things around a little. He looked into 50 such similar investigations and has arrived at conclusions for up to eight states in total. He also went a step ahead by examining why these people should be kept in a limited space in the first place and granted 50,000 patients with the liberty to leave the nursing homes and stay at home. One of these investigations included Florida’s treatment of children with disabilities. After the release of the report on Monday, the Justice Department is now indicating that it might sue South Dakota as it has been aware of this situation for many years and did not sought out to do much about it by increasing its services and community capacity to serve.
The Governor of South Dakota Dennis Daugaard spoke about how they have done what they could do and have even made progress but the federal government is disregarding their efforts. He also went on to say that the problems South Dakota has are not inclined with the problems experienced by other urban areas. He was quoted saying, “Ideally, we want elderly residents and people with disabilities to be able to stay in their communities and receive the services they need without going to a nursing home. That can be a challenge for a state like ours, which is made up of rural communities.”
The government is choosing not to comment until further ongoing analysis is being conducted.