It was difficult to read the recent story about nursing home neglect and abuse. For decades we've heard the horror stories, but it appears they got much worse in the past few years.
Larvae and maggots growing in an elderly woman's wound. A tube ripped from a patient's throat and blood everywhere. A patient allowed to wander off and die in the cold. Another dead after tumbling down stairs tied to her wheelchair.
This is not how we should end lives after raising families and contributing to society. This is not how we should treat our most vulnerable residents.
Some blamed private corporations driven by profit. Some blamed untrained, uncaring staff hired at low wages. Many pointed toward Springfield.
Apparently grandma was the silent victim who suffered the most as our state's leaders played budget and power games for two years. There were maggots in more than grandma's heel.
But that situation was across all of Illinois. It doesn't explain the local concentration of violations, where three of every four homes was rated "below average" with one of those three rated "much below average." It doesn't explain why two patients within three years died and another became permanently vegetative at Midwest Rehab and Respiratory Center, the old Calvin Johnson nursing home in Belleville.
The local situation needs more investigation, maybe by a state or federal inspector general.
The good news is that there are a lot of inspections and investigations of these quiet tragedies. Before you place someone you love, and who cared for you, in a nursing home, there is plenty of information to guide you and that will help you correct the problem.
Bad homes will get the financial message if you choose a home that is well rated, where you see engaged residents and where you walk in without holding your nose.
If forced into a questionable decision, your vigilance will make a difference: Much of what we learned about the local conditions came from the family members who kept watch. There are support and advocacy groups such as Nursing Home Monitors where you can learn about web cams and other strategies to ensure your loved one gets needed care.
It remains a complex problem as it has for decades, but are the solutions any different now than what we've known was needed for decades?
The state must get its finances in order to pay its bills on time, and that starts with a budget in place by May 31. Nursing homes must recruit skilled, caring people who can't make more money more easily by flipping burgers. Families and friends must be watchdogs for nursing home patients.
Grandma's life shouldn't be the price of her nursing home care.