The Elderly in Puerto Rico Wrestle with Access to Nursing Homes and Care Centers
As the percentage of people over 60 years of age on the Island increases, which currently represent 27% of the total population, the difficulty of accessing nursing homes also increases, due to the increase in costs and the decrease in available capacity on the Island.
This reality has led to many older adults being abandoned in hospitals, and many also having to choose the streets as their home, as recognized by several experts on the subject.
Lourdes Adames, a resident of Trujillo Alto, found herself last year needing to transfer her 84-year-old mother-in-law to a long-term care facility, colloquially known as an asylum, after being left without immediate family members to assume her responsibility, after the death of her children and husband.
For the last year, the octogenarian has found her home in these facilities, paying $2,500 monthly for an exclusive room. This sum is covered entirely by Social Security, which is precisely the amount she receives.
However, Adames explained that it took her time to find a home within her budget and that met her expectations. Otherwise, he acknowledged that he would have to cover the expenses with additional money.
“This definitely places a financial burden on many adults or a family, especially if they do not have the financial resources to pay for the services. If you compare this to the fact that more than 40% live below poverty levels, and the main income is Social Security, what they receive — which is a pittance — is not going to give them,” said the Office attorney of the Ombudsman for the Elderly (Oppea), Carmen Delia Sánchez.
According to a study conducted by the Association of Long-Term Care Facilities, the base cost, including services and regulatory requirements, starts at $1,900, and there are currently over 33,000 people residing in the facilities they represent.
“42% of people in Puerto Rico live below average. Within that 42% are the majority of our old people. To think that the average Social Security in the United States, which includes Puerto Rico, is $1,100 per month, if that is the only income and you are going to add to that the $89 TANF and the $200 PAN for an older adult, we are talking that they cannot pay a rent of $2,000 to live with dignity,” affirmed Belinda Hill, president of the Continuing Care System (CoC) for Homeless People PR-502.
According to the organization’s latest count, by 2023, 12% of the homeless on the Island are people over 65 years of age. Of this group, 27% have been due to financial and economic problems, 14% due to unemployment and 11.6% due to eviction.
On the other hand, statistics from the Department of the Family reveal that for the 2022-2023 fiscal year there were 769 cases of hospital abandonment. This has resulted in an increase in residents in care centers with debts to the owners of said centers, reaching amounts owed of between $6,000 to $7,000 per month, for some institutions.
As Ciení Rodríguez Troche, secretary of the Department of the Family, informed, they are currently working to reach agreements on the money in debt, and expedite the process.
In the second report in this series, we will learn more about why costs have increased in care centers for the elderly.