Why Are Detroit's Senior Citizens Dying Before Their Time?
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Marylyn Thurmond is 57 years old.
Novella Walker-Page was a registered nurse at Hutzel Hospital in high-risk labor and delivery for 26 years before becoming a home care nurse and then a contract nurse for the Detroit Public Schools. One day, she fell from the bus that took her around for student care. During that same doctor's visit, she learned that she had sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease. She also suffers from hypertension, high cholesterol and atopic dermatitis, a skin condition.
Walker-Page, who cares for her 95-year-old mother at her northwest Detroit home, is 60. She doesn't think she'll live as long as her mother or her grandmother, who died at 116.
Thurmond and Walker-Page are among a fast-growing part of Detroit's population -- the new elderly, people who are 50-59 years old but more like 60-74 in terms of their health. Neither, for now, wants or needs nursing home care. But as that need is growing among their age group, their chances of finding it are in decline.
Detroit, a city that once had 50 nursing homes, has lost 20 -- 16 of them in the past 13 years. And many are struggling to remain open. Nineteen Detroit nursing homes must upgrade or install sprinkler systems by next summer to be certified and continue to receive the government funding they need to stay open.
The new elderly and the looming nursing home crisis are documented in a Detroit Area Agency on Aging report that was released Monday. Based on a three-year study of illness and death rates in Detroit, Highland Park, Hamtramck and the Grosse Pointes, the report shows that in addition to accelerated aging, the elderly in the Detroit study area die at a rate 131% higher than their peers around Michigan.
The percentage of older residents in the Detroit study area (particularly those 50 and above) increased significantly between 2000 and 2010 as younger people, especially those with school-age children, moved out of the city.
"We have not built a brand-new nursing home from the ground up since the1960s," said Paul Bridgewater, CEO of the aging agency. "There used to be 50. But they face a lot of challenges primarily because they get Medicaid reimbursement.
Source: Detroit Free Press | Rochelle Riley
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