Judy Griesedieck

San Jose Mercury News, The Providence Journal

I worked on that story (No Place to Die) for a year.

Three reporters were investigating abuse and neglect in the CA nursing home industry, but they were investigating past deaths, adding up the numbers, didn’t actually go into the nursing homes much. I was assigned to illustrate the problem by photography editor George Wedding. (He thought of me because I had found a story on my own about a group of women from the Issei generation and how they were being cared for by a Sansei woman to keep them out of nursing homes.)

Getting inside those nursing homes was tough. I went in with doctors, family members, CA state inspectors, all legal ways to get inside without permission from the administration. One or two administrators allowed me access. Nurses were paid less than zookeepers, so I spent a lot of time with them too. Basically the goal was to show why and how these deaths occur, how little oversight, how few visitors some elderly have in the nursing homes to advocate for their care, how helpless they are and so susceptible to abuse, how poorer people on Medicaid are in the worst situation.

The Mercury News was also doing occasional daily news stories about these deaths, so it was a real balancing act for me to negotiate access after one of those daily stories caused more paranoia in the nursing home industry. Yet that project was so instrumental in my growth as a photographer. It was also heartbreaking. I lost a lot of sleep that year, feeling grateful, yet guilty, every single time I walked out the door of a nursing home at the end of the day, knowing that those elderly residents could not.