Lorchid Macri, 70, says she couldn’t find any information online when she had to find an assisted living facility for her mother in California. (April Dembosky/KQED)
Lorchid Macri wasn’t sleeping. Her elderly mother was wandering out of the house in the middle of the night, forgetting to turn the stove off. Macri had to keep watch over her 24/7.
“Dementia is a cruel disease,” Macri says.
She says the stress of caring for her mother was overwhelming. It wasn’t until she landed in the hospital herself — losing the sight in her right eye for 10 days — that she was ready to confront the fact that it was time to place her mother in assisted living.
“It’s gut wrenching to put someone that you love and who has cared for you in a facility with strangers,” she says. Continue reading
TV lounge at Westchester Villa, an assisted living facility in Inglewood, in Los Angeles County. (Rachael Myrow/KQED)
This week, lawmakers in Sacramento get busy on 15 bills that together constitute the most comprehensive overhaul of assisted living facility regulation in three decades. But for many Californians, it’s not even clear what an assisted living facility is. People often ask if assisted living is the same thing as a nursing home. It’s not.
In nursing homes, people get round-the-clock medical care from licensed nurses. Assisted living comes in because not everyone who needs help also needs that level of care. Sometimes that assistance doesn’t even involve a facility. Sometimes people can receive assistance and remain living in their own homes.
Say you’ve noticed your mother is walking with a new shuffle and dropping things, or that dad is mixing up his medications — and getting argumentative when you bring it up. Something is going on that must be addressed, even though your parent is still physically healthy and wants to be independent. Continue reading
(Sebastien Bozon/AFP/Getty Images)
By Polly Stryker
The assisted living industry in California is big business: More than 7,500 licensed facilities provide care for more than 175,000 people statewide. Starting Monday, and over the next two weeks, The California Report will bring stories about assisted living facilities in the state.
Assisted living is an alternative to more expensive — and often more institutional — care in a skilled nursing facility. In assisted living, staff help seniors with daily needs, such as meals, medicine-taking and bathing. The homes range from small mom-and-pop places with six beds to corporate chains with over 100 beds. A growing number offer dementia care.
But while these facilities are licensed, the laws regulating them have not had a major update since 1985, and California has lagged behind other states in updating its rules. Continue reading
An impromptu memorial in Isla Vista, Calif. for a victim of the mass shooting May 23, 2014. Incidents such as these have raised the issue of how well law enforcement officers are trained to deal with people with severe mental illness. (Diane Block/KQED)
By Stephanie O’Neill
Debbie is a Ventura County mother of a 23-year-old son diagnosed with bipolar disorder. At times his condition becomes so severe that he gets delusional and requires hospitalization.
“They weren’t threatening; they didn’t scare him. It stayed really, really calm.”
“He doesn’t understand that he’s ill and that he needs help,” Debbie says. “He thinks he’s fine.”
Debbie, who asked that her last name be withheld for privacy reasons, says when that happens, she calls the sheriff’s department for help — as she did earlier this year. Their response, she says, was heartening.
“The police officers … were so great, because they kept telling him, ‘You’re not in trouble, we’re here to help you,’ ” she says. “So they weren’t threatening; they didn’t scare him. It stayed really, really calm.” Continue reading
Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.
Former foster youth lined up at Covered California’s last board meeting to complain about the hoops they have to jump through to enroll in Medi-Cal, the state’s health plan for the poor.
“Navigating adulthood is challenging enough, let alone trying to find insurance to cover your medical needs,” said Vanessa Hernandez, who spent 14 years in foster care. She says her younger brother tried twice to sign up online before he gave up.
“Currently the process is very unclear, it’s hard to navigate, and it’s not very accessible,” she said. Continue reading
By April Laissle
California is well behind almost every other state when it comes to caring for its kids, according to an annual report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and its Oakland-based partner, Children Now.
The report looks at four indicators of children’s well-being: family stability, economic stability, health, and education. This year, California inched up one spot to 40th overall, but ranked 26th in the health category.
Some of that progress is due to the expansion of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, though advocates say there is still work to be done.
“We have increased the number of children now that are on Medi-Cal,” said Jessica Mindnich, research director at Children Now. “But do these kids actually have access to doctors and to dentists? Are they able to get in in a timely manner?” Continue reading
Napa has the second highest rate of the disease. (Esparrow1/Flickr)
By Lynne Shallcross
It’s been a little over a month since California declared a whooping cough epidemic, and according to the most recent data from the state, three neighboring Bay Area counties have the highest rates of the disease statewide: Sonoma, Napa and Marin.
Sonoma County’s rate of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is almost 120 cases per 100,000 people. Napa County’s rate is 90 per 100,000, and Marin’s rate is 65 per 100,000.
Sonoma County’s interim health officer, Karen Holbrook, says the number of cases reported each week has peaked and is now declining.
“It’s not what the state is experiencing as a whole, but we are coming down,” Holbrook says. “Will that hold indefinitely remains to be seen.”
Holbrook says California is seeing a whooping cough epidemic partly because the disease is cyclical, with cases spiking every three to five years. Continue reading
Bernice Arnett, school nurse for the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District, is in charge of student health at the district’s seven public schools. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)
Editor’s Note: School nursing is more than Band-Aids and ice packs. Nurses help students with complex medical conditions and tough home lives. Bernice Arnett is a nurse for seven schools in Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District — two Central Valley towns just south of Modesto. This month, our ongoing health series called Vital Signs focuses on prevention. Arnett talks about how she’s working to keep students and families in her community healthy.
By Bernice Arnett
There have been days where I have visited all seven sites in one day. But I was doing reactive nursing rather than proactive nursing. There were times that I’d have to actually triage in my head what I should go do first.
You treat the whole student. Sometimes you treat the whole family. And a lot of times, families are desperate. They don’t know where to turn. Continue reading
Cha Deng Vang, 68, tends to the community garden at Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries. Working in the garden helps Vang, a refugee from Laos, relieve anxiety and get exercise. (Annabelle Beecher/KQED)
Editor’s Note: Refugees face unique challenges building lives in the United States. Cha Deng Vang fled Laos in 1987 after fighting as soldier in the US-backed forces. As part of our ongoing health series, Vital Signs, we hear from 68-year-old Vang who has found that a community garden for Hmong refugees at Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries has helped him build community and relieve stress. Chong Vang and Sam Chang helped to translate his story.
By Cha Deng Vang
On this side we are growing Hmong pumpkin. They’re very round and very big compared to the American version.
Growing up my parents taught me how to garden and farm. As soon as I turned 18, I became a soldier, and that was basically my entire life.
When I first came to America, I had no education. I couldn’t find a job which equals no money to help my family. So with no financial support, it was a lot of stress on the entire family. And on top of that we also had a lot of illness in the family, which also caused a lot of stress on me as well. Continue reading
Dr. Jamie Eng with patient in the documentary “Code Black.”
Don’t eat a sandwich before you sit down to watch the documentary “Code Black.” In one of the first scenes, we watch a team of doctors and nurses cut into a patient. It’s a bloody business, and the camera doesn’t turn away. That’s because this film is about the brilliant chaos of emergency care, and the people drawn to this work.
For all the debate over health care in America, it’s relatively rare to hear from doctors on the front lines, and even more rare to hear from young doctors about a field they’ve recently chosen to devote their lives to. “Code Black,” a documentary by a doctor when he was a resident at LA County’s USC Medical Center, delivers that perspective with punch and passion. It promises a look into “America’s busiest ER.” Continue reading