Granny Snatching: Media Discovers Granny Snatching in Connecticut; We’re Saved!?

Everyone I know sent me a copy of the news article that surfaced last week concerning a Fairfield family in which a son is attempting to have his 98-year-old mother confined in an elder care facility while he takes her house and sells it. (Thanks to everyone I know, it was very much appreciated.)

My first reaction was “Hallelujah, the Media has discovered us, we are saved, we are saved!”

Maybe that is a bit sardonic or even sarcastic, but come on please, media, this is not exactly a new story and what was so special about this one that it warranted coverage of any kind, not to mention the national exposure it got?

Ron Winter

In this case the elderly mother apparently is in full command of her faculties and has no intention of being placed anywhere but her son claims he visited her several months ago and she was not doing as well as he would like.

Here is an excerpt from FAIRFIELD — The last thing Mary Kantorowski thought she would have to worry about in her golden years was having a place to live.

After all, her husband, a machinist, had worked two jobs for dozens of years just so he, his wife and their two sons could live comfortably in their Flax Road home. But on her 98th birthday, Mary was served eviction papers — at the hands of her eldest son, Peter Kantorowski.

“This is just a despicable situation,” said Richard Bortolot Jr., a Stratford lawyer appointed by Fairfield Probate Judge Daniel Caruso to represent Mary Kantorowski. “Mary has been living here happily paying all the expenses for the house and now her son, Peter, comes along and is telling her, `Get the hell out,’ so he can sell it.”

A trial on Peter Kantorowski’s efforts to evict his mother is scheduled for March 2 in state Superior Court in Bridgeport.

Peter Kantorowski, 71, a retired taxidermist who lives in Trumbull, said the reason he is trying to evict his mother from the home she has lived in since 1953 is that it’s for her own good.

“She would be better off living with people her own age,” he said.

Now that is where I really get steamed. I am fortunate to have a long list of relatives living and dead who survived way past the current American life expectancy of 78.3 years – which puts us only at 36th worldwide by the way – and none of them wanted to be squirreled away in a “elder care facility” where they would only get to play with “people of their own age.”

My father died at the age of 83 from cancer and he was one of the youngest to go in his generation. He died in August and the previous winter when I called to talk with him one day my mother said he had gone to the local grocery store, which coincidentally had a huge parking lot.

A snowstorm had just gone through the area and I asked Mom why Dad didn’t wait until the plows had cleared the snow before he went for groceries.

“Oh, he isn’t shopping,” she told me. “He got some new snow tires last week and he’s down in the parking lot trying them out.”

My Dad. 82 years old at the time, blowing doughnuts in the parking lot at the local shopping center so he could test out his new snow tires. Yeah, he would have loved it in an elder care facility.

Can you just see the aide trying to keep a guy like that sedated? “Mr. Winter, it’s time for your sedative. Now just take your pills and don’t give us a hard time or we’ll have to do it by injection again, and you know how you hate that.”

I have been inside some of those facilities and that is not an exaggeration. I am not saying all places are like that, nor am I saying that no one ever should be in a nursing home. But they have – or had – a reason and a place both of which seem to have been long since forgotten.

Nursing homes were intended as places where people with serious illnesses or injuries requiring constant medical care could go to recuperate. Now in far too many cases they simply are places where the elderly are warehoused, often in substandard conditions, often neglected as overworked or under-caring staff tend to the squeakiest wheels while others spend their days in a drug-induced trance until they die.

And they are used in conjunction with Medicaid which pays the patients’ expenses, at an exorbitant cost to the taxpaying public. The residents are placed on Title XIX, or 19 for those of you who don’t read Roman Numerals, meaning virtually all of their  savings and other assets are taken from them.

Houses have a special category under Medicaid regulations and may not be counted as an asset for Medicaid purposes, which is why younger relatives may try to get possession of the real estate before Mom and Dad are signed over to the government. Nationally the average cost of nursing home care is about $6,000 per month, but in places like the Northeast – including Connecticut – the cost is easily double the national average.

Medicaid costs are shared by the state and federal governments which explains why budgets at both levels are so deep in debt. And what really stinks is that despite a lot of talk and the extraordinary efforts of a large number of forward thinking people, state and national governments have done little to accelerate the rate at which people are aided in moving back into, or staying in, the community.

Lots of people know what is needed to reverse the trend, to keep people out of facilities, but real movement to that goal from legislative bodies is still pretty rare.

A friend told me yesterday that in the next 30 years some 10 million baby boomers will be diagnosed with dementia meaning many of them will require specialized care, so it isn’t as if the nursing home industry will die or workers will lose their jobs.

But too many legislators on the state and national level act as though every union job in every elder care facility in every state in the country is on the line. They’re not. There are too many baby boomers and we stand a far bigger chance of the existing health care structure being totally overwhelmed than we do of losing skilled positions.

So, how about the media which found this story of such interest, starts paying a lot more attention to the fact that there are thousands of stories like Mary Kantorowksi’s out there every day. They are a harbinger of a medical catastrophe, an elder care holocaust in the making, and nothing will change if the harsh spotlight of exposure isn’t shined on this issue, every day, every month, every year until real change is enacted.

If the media will do that I will stop criticizing the media for being slow and unresponsive. At least on this issue.


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