Jenna Carlesso and Dave Altimari, reporters with The Connecticut Mirror

Enabling extra Individuals to dwell their closing years at residence ought to be a win-win, giving older individuals the consolation of acquainted environment whereas saving authorities applications cash on pricey nursing residence care. 

However in Connecticut, a state program to extend the variety of long-term care residents on Medicaid who stay of their properties has adopted a rocky path.

In a four-part collection, The Connecticut Mirror revealed how the state’s rapidly growing home care industry operates with little oversight utilizing chronically underpaid staff. In contrast to requirements for nursing residence staff and residential well being aides, the state lacks a licensing course of for staff employed by homemaker companion companies, or HCAs.

Reporters Jenna Carlesso and Dave Altimari reviewed greater than 75 complaints in opposition to such companies filed with the state’s shopper safety division between 2018 and 2020 and located “at the very least half a dozen circumstances through which HCA staff have been arrested for allegedly stealing from their purchasers, greater than a dozen findings by DCP investigators of companies that routinely mis-advertised the companies they supplied, and 7 complaints of purchasers being left alone for hours at a time.”

They discovered a system that’s tough for customers to navigate and hampered by housing and transportation shortages and an approval course of that inadvertently steers some people to nursing properties. The collection uncovered broader challenges of a rising aged inhabitants and disparities in care choices akin to a dearth of assisted living facilities in nonwhite, non prosperous communities.

Right here is AHCJ’s “How I did It”  interview with Carlesso and Altimari. Responses have been edited for brevity and readability.

What acquired you interested by masking this transition within the construction of elder care?

Carlesso: In the course of the first 12 months of the pandemic Dave and I each coated the devastation in nursing properties. Connecticut’s nursing properties have been significantly laborious hit. I believe we began to surprise about how nicely the system was working for people in nursing properties, and from there broadened it to the elder care system. 

Altimari: When COVID hit, I used to be really working on the Hartford Courant the place Jenna and I first labored collectively. I got here to the Mirror in January 2021. Jenna had a way that there was an even bigger story to do about the way forward for getting older.

How did you resolve to concentrate on this subject?

Carlesso: We’d solid a reasonably broad web to start with and from that discovered what was helpful. Lots of that centered on how nicely ready or not the state was for this inhabitants that has already largely elevated and is about to massively enhance within the subsequent 20 years or so.

Altimari: I believe we did upward of 40 interviews originally, interviewing nursing residence suppliers, nursing residence individuals, the house companion company stuff, which was fully uncovered actually. A part of that was from a state audit that indicated there was very little oversight.  

How lengthy did the mission take?

Carlesso: It was over a 12 months. A part of that was the complexity of the mission, getting our arms across the system, and to be candid, a part of that was my concern. At one level after we have been type of nearing what we thought could be a publication time-frame, on account of an sickness after which a surgical procedure, I used to be out for a few months. By the point I acquired again, we have been in the course of the legislative session and needed to do some regrouping. 

Altimari: We needed to principally return and redo a whole lot of our interviews. 

Had a lot modified?

Altimari: With nursing properties, loads modified frankly due to tales that we did within the interim. We did an enormous story about one of the largest nursing home companies in Connecticut and all the issues they have been having. The legislature picked up on it. Unexpectedly nursing properties turned a scorching subject. It took us fairly some time to get the factor printed however after we lastly did, it was really fairly good timing.

What do you assume was the largest problem?

Carlesso: For me, it was the sheer complexity of the system. I had finished reporting, and I believe David had finished reporting on nursing properties, however didn’t understand what number of completely different layers there have been, what number of completely different applications, completely different funding mechanisms. 

Altimari: I believe organizing is without doubt one of the greatest. Like I mentioned, we in all probability interviewed nicely over 40 individuals, a number of a number of occasions. 

What are your ideas for reporters who need to cowl issues with elder care of their states?

Carlesso: I believe it’s actually essential not solely to get the parents who’re managing the system on the state stage but additionally to get the individuals which might be affected. It was essential to get individuals who have been having bother navigating the system, wanting to remain in residence care. 

Altimari: In case your state has a long-term care ombudsman like we do, she was an awesome useful resource to steer us to individuals throughout the completely different industries. With the story on residence companion companies, there have been arrest warrants and courtroom data that we used to buttress the story. I additionally assume it’s essential not solely to speak to the individuals who dwell in a few of these amenities but additionally nursing residence house owners. There are these nationwide chains and in addition family- owned companies that perhaps have a unique view of issues. 

One uncommon side of your reporting is that shift to the house companions. Is that a part of a nationwide pattern away from institutional care?

Carlesso: Each state I believe is going through this problem of, we name it right-sizing. We’ve seen the condensing of nursing properties as extra persons are shifting to residence care. It’s actually a subject that reporters in each state might have a look at. How does that have an effect on establishments? How does that have an effect on the place the state directs its funding? And the way nicely suited or ready are states for this rising older grownup inhabitants?

Altimari: Connecticut is an older state, and I believe that we’re a microcosm of what’s occurring all around the nation. 

Are there different ideas you could have for sourcing, significantly with regard to that residence companion piece?

Altimari: Regulate stuff that’s occurring in courtroom. Generally there are lawsuits filed in opposition to the person firms. If there’s a loss of life, for instance, or if there was a case the place there was abuse. There are additionally situations the place individuals have been arrested. Lots of occasions it’s a larceny cost or one thing like that, and in the event you discover circumstances the place you will get courtroom data, you will get entry to much more than making an attempt to undergo a state company. I really FOI’d the division of shopper safety for all of their investigations. It took them fairly some time to provide them to me, however that at the very least gave me some leads and that’s how I discovered a number of courtroom circumstances. 

It’s the identical with nursing properties — –not as many as a result of after COVID nursing properties acquired immunity [from civil liability], however we did discover some potential circumstances of abuse. With Athena there have been multiple lawsuits filed. There was really a murder investigation in certainly one of their amenities. There have been lawsuits filed by temporary employment agencies that the corporate didn’t pay.


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By Debra