Letters to the Editor

Letter: APH vs. API

A December photo in the ADN showed an impressive fourth-floor renovation at the Anchorage Pioneer Home for complex mental health issues “related to dementia.” But the Pioneer Home lost its nursing home license in 1988 and is only licensed and approved as an assisted living facility to provide custodial care. In contrast, Alaska Psychiatric Institute is a licensed medical facility providing therapeutic medical interventions with specifically trained staff who can provide care to patients often diagnosed with anti-social dangerous behaviors.

When these patients age and develop dementia, they should not be reclassified as dementia patients to qualify for APH admission. Dementia is not classified as a mental illness.

When my father was a resident at the Pioneer Home, he was severely beaten by a former API patient — a mentally ill man who should not have been a resident with the vulnerable dementia APH population. How does APH believe that they are capable of treating patients whose mental illness makes them potentially dangerous to themselves, other patients, and staff? Mentally ill API-type patients should not be part of the APH population.

With the loss of its nursing license in 1988, the Pioneer Home could function with low staffing to provide minimal custodial care exemplified by having CNAs give medications, which resulted in spilled medicine, meds on the floor, meds taken by the wrong residents — care not permitted in nursing homes; it resulted in only allowing residents one assisted bath per week.

Psychiatric patients who develop dementia do not belong in an assisted living facility. These seniors should not be deprived of therapeutic interventions and psychiatric medications administered by trained medical staff — without this, they are at risk of being overmedicated and chemically restrained and therefore receiving a substandard quality of life.

The state licensing APH’s fourth floor for mental health patients is like the fox guarding the henhouse. If APH could meet nursing home quality and standards, this new “renovation” would not be so disturbing. Dementia-affected senior residents are vulnerable and should not be endangered by being housed with mentally ill patients. And mentally ill patients should not be simply given custodial care so the state can siphon mental health funding; mental ill patients deserve approved psychiatric care, meds and interventions which APH, as a custodial facility, cannot provide.

— Marty Margeson


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