New Brunswick

Bill Thomas, aging expert, criticizes nursing homes

Dr. Bill Thomas, an influential thinker on aging, says now is the time for a radical change in the way society cares for the elderly.

Expert on aging says it’s time to focus on a new model for eldercare

(CBC Archives)

It's a fear many of people have — becoming so frail in their old age they will end up in a nursing home.

People see the stories on the news and, especially, online.

A quick internet search pops up pages of links slugged, "nursing home horrors."

Dr. Bill Thomas has a solution. Thomas is a geriatrician and one of the world's most influential thinkers on ageing, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

They breed dependency and illness.- Dr. Bill Thomas, expert on aging

Thomas says the time is now for a radical change in the way our society cares for the elderly, or as he prefers to call them, elders.

Speaking to Information Morning Fredericton, he compared nursing homes to the workhouses, orphanages and asylums of the past.

"That's what they are," he said, "hundreds of people clustered together for the convenience of the staff, separated from the community, with every part of their waking day focused on their medical issues and maladies."

Thomas, who was in Fredericton to speak at the annual Excellence in Aging Care symposium recently, said most people fear going into a nursing home more than death.

He said New Brunswick is going in the right direction in terms of trying to keep seniors in their homes for as long as possible.

He's also a proponent of something he calls the Green House. It sounds like a group home, but for elders.

"It's a house. It' s built in a neighbourhood, 10 elders live there. Each have own bedroom and bathroom," he said.

"Big open kitchen. They share their meals. They share life. There's people living there supporting them with the assistance … but they don't live in an institution.

Thomas said this model has two benefits: people are hospitalized less often and require fewer medications and medical interventions.

He said nursing homes have their own set of problems.

"They cost money because they breed dependency and illness," Thomas said.


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