(WBRE/WYOU) — 1.4 million Americans live in nursing homes. That’s the figure the National Center for Health Statistics came up with in 2014 – and now the number is even greater. It’s a major adjustment to give up living independently but thanks to increasing options millions of us won’t have to.
46-million of us are now over the age of 65. As we age, our mobility and ability to care for ourselves often diminishes. Call it part of life. Many of us don’t want to end up in “the home” – so Eyewitness News looked into options that may be available to keep independent and in our own homes.
A neighborly conversation in Margaret Aton’s kitchen is actually a home care provider checking in with her client. The 69-year-old Pittston Township woman spends much of her day in a wheelchair dealing with diabetes, neuropathy and vertigo.
MMS Homecare Staffing worker Eileen Harris also prepares Margaret’s lunch, does some light housekeeping and errands, and provides social interaction four hours a day, seven days a week. “She’s not just in and out and we get to do a lot of things together,” said Margaret.
This service is fully funded by Medicare, and she doesn’t have to live in a nursing home. She gets to stay in her own home. “I’ve been in a nursing home four times for therapy and I’ll tell you what… I never want to go back.”
Larksville-based MMS Homecare Staffing is one of more than 12,000 such agencies in the U.S. “Absolutely there is a need,” said MMS Homecare Staffing Administrator Mary Sincavage. That’s why her company counts dozens of clients throughout several northeastern Pennsylvania counties. “They’re so much happier when they’re in their home, their own home with their families and they can get the services that they need.”
Area Agency on Aging of Luzerne and Wyoming Counties deals with roughly 15-hundred individuals aged 60 and older who qualify to be placed in nursing homes but instead receive in-home services. But in-home care isn’t your only option. “Years ago like when I was a kid you didn’t hear about people going to the nursing home for rehab,” said Mary Roselle the Executive Director, Area Agency On Aging, Luzerne/Wyoming Counties.
Geisinger Mountain View Care Center in Scranton is one such facility. Besides housing full-time residents, it offers short-term rehab stays. “We admit and discharge 30 to 40 people a month which is surprising to a lot of people,” said Geisinger Mountain View Care Center Administrator Kevin Russin.
One of them is 55-year-old Tom Stefanoski of Swoyersville who checked in for a few weeks following a prolonged hospital stay. “I lost the use of my legs and I’m just here to trying to get some rehabilitation.” But what about the cost of the rehab? He credits social workers with giving him confidence his insurance would foot the bill. “I really had no concern. They told me not to worry about it. They told me my job was just to get better,” said Mr. Stefanoski.
Over at LIFE Geisinger in Dunmore, it’s yet another option. LIFE is short for Living Independently For Elders. It’s existed in Scranton since 2006 and has expanded to Kulpmont and Wilkes-Barre. This adult daycare provides transportation for clients to and from home up to five days a week meeting a whole host of needs from medical to nutritional to social. LIFE Geisinger Operations Manager Georgia Kornblatt said, “If they don’t have those resources available to them, they’re going to get to a point where they just, you know, need to go to a nursing facility but with the LIFE Geisinger program they can receive all of those care and services.”
75-year-old Fran Lewis of Scranton says the program gives her the best of both worlds: independent living with an outside assist. “I still have my independence to go home at 5 o’clock or 4 o’clock at night and to come here in the morning is a treat.”
For Fran to participate in something like this she had to clear some hurdles including the financial cost. She was screened and found out she could swing it. “This is a gift from heaven for me. It really is,” she said. Ms. Kornblatt added, “The majority of our participants have medicare and medical assistance and if they aren’t qualifying for either of those we’ll work with them.”
So if you’re 60 or older – or approaching that number – you need to know your options to preserve your independence. “We need to do a good job of making sure that everyone realizes those services are out there,” said Ms. Roselle.
Area Agency on Aging says everybody wins by keeping more people in their homes. In-home options typically cost the government between $2,000 to $9,000 a month. Compare that to the government footing a $15,000 monthly bill for a full-skilled nursing home resident. To learn more about verifying PA Department of Health licensure status of Home Care/Health Care providers click here. To search for parties excluded from federal contracts click here. To search for parties excluded from participation in federal health care programs click here. To review a list of suspended or debarred parties from the PA Office of State Inspector General click here. To search the PA Department of Human Services’ database of individuals/entities that are precluded from participation in the Medical Assistance program click here.