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Native Americans Build a New Nursing Home for Tribal Elders

By Daniel @ LivingSenior - July 30, 2011

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There are many nursing homes across the country which have been built and are operated under the auspices of various religious or fraternal organizations. You’ll find many Catholic charities operating nursing homes along side of facilities catering also to Jewish, Lutheran and Baptist residents. Out in California, former actors and show biz professionals have a nursing home designed for its members. It makes sense then that the Native Americans would rise to the occasion and provide a special environment for their tribal elders. The South Dakota Oglala Sioux Tribe has just announce construction of a new nursing home in Whiteclay, Nebraska meant to provide care to tribe members in need.

Demonstrating a Need for More Nursing Homes

Oglala Sioux Tribal President John Yellow Bird Steele recently told the Republic News of Columbia, Indiana that there is a great need for the facility like this. "We've got a lot of elderly here. We've got a lot of elderly out in nursing homes, lonely, no one to visit," he said. "We want to bring them home."

This will be an 80 bed nursing home that is expected to open in August of next year. Tribal consultant, Gary Ruse, told NET Radio in a recent interview that “There are 200 to 300 tribe members in Midwest nursing homes who want to return to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for their final years.”

It might seem curious that a South Dakota tribe is building a nursing home in Nebraska. The reason for this is there is a moratorium on expanding of nursing home beds in South Dakota. The tribe couldn't build the facility in South Dakota, where most of the reservation lies, because of a moratorium on new nursing home beds. So, they turned to Nebraska officials, whom Steele credited with making the project viable.

Cooperation Could Mean Curb in Alcoholism

Right now, the South Dakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation prohibits alcohol. Unfortunately, the town of Whiteclay is within walking distance of the reservation and as a result tribal members have easy access to liquor which contributes to the high rates of alcoholism. In fact, Whiteclay is leading the nation in alcoholism related mortality rates. This is not a fact anyone is proud of. While tribal officials have tried to scale back the sale of alcohol in Whiteclay there is hope this new nursing home project could actually yield to lower drinking rates.

"The general idea of people going there to visit elderly and their family members, and their own family members going there, that people will stop purchasing alcohol there," Steele said.

The costs of the nursing home project is currently budgeted at $13 million and could provide up to 100 jobs for local workers. All of this goes to show the need to nursing home facilities. As states are facing severe budget crisis, often it is the care of the elderly which suffers. The more independently funded homes that can be built, the more options seniors will have.