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Nursing-home case raises long-term care issue

Brianna Broitzman, 21, agreed Aug. 16 to an Alford plea related to charges that she abused elderly patients at an Albert Lea Nursing home.

The following editorial appeared in the Rochester Post-Bulletin.

A plea deal has spared Rochester from being the scene of what would likely have been a fairly unpleasant trial.

Brianna Broitzman, 21, agreed Aug. 16 to an Alford plea related to charges that she abused elderly patients at an Albert Lea Nursing home. That means she still maintains her innocence, but admits that the prosecution probably has enough evidence to convict her.

Her trial, moved to Olmsted County on a change of venue because of the publicity the case had generated, was to have begun Aug. 23. Instead, she’s expected to be sentenced to probation Oct. 22.

Broitzman was among six employees, four of them minors, who were charged in connection with the abuse of seven residents who suffered from dementia. The ugly details of what allegedly took place doubtless led many families across the state to make an extra visit or two to the facilities that care for their vulnerable loved ones.

Such visits will be a fact of life for most of us. No one aspires to live out their final years in a long-term care facility, and no one wants their parents to require full-time nursing care, but statistically speaking, that’s what the future holds for one in four of today’s 65-year-olds. (So if you’re married and both sets of parents are alive — well, you do the math.)

That’s why we hope the Minnesota governor’s race will include a serious discussion about the direction we’re heading with long-term care. Minnesota’s budget deficit and health care reform will claim the headlines, but there’s another iceberg out there. A 2005 report to the Minnesota House Health and Policy Committee found that nearly 50 percent of baby boomers will lack the resources to pay for long-term care — meaning that taxpayers will have to pick up the slack.

In other words, no matter how much we might want to talk about belt-tightening, this is part of the state budget that’s going to have to grow, not shrink. Between now and 2030, the number of Minnesotans 85 or older is projected to increase by 61 percent.

These seniors, regardless of their financial condition, will be entitled to a basic level of compassionate, quality care that allows them to maintain their dignity, but that won’t happen if wage freezes and staffing cuts continue to be the norm at long-term care facilities.

Yes, it’s easier to talk about using tax dollars to support K-12 public education. Our children, after all, are our future.

But we believe that a true measure of a civilization is how well it treats its eldest members. And, given that Minnesota’s senior citizens are famous for turning out on Election Day, the candidates would be wise to take that adage to heart.

Reprinted with permission.