SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Illinois is showing significant improvement in helping older residents live independently at home as they age, according to a new scorecard by AARP.
The state ranks 15th in the nation when it comes to the long-term care needs of older residents. David Vinkler, associate state director of the Illinois AARP, says that's because Illinois does a good job of funding home and community-based services.
"This makes a lot of sense because people prefer to be in their own home than go to into a nursing home," says Vinkler. "But it also saves taxpayer money. In general, you're paying about one-third the cost of a nursing home for home and community-based services."
Vinkler notes Illinois also earned a low ranking for the number of people in nursing homes with a low level of need. He says this demonstrates a need for higher-quality services within a patient's home, and that support should continue for programs which provide medication management, home modifications and programs that help family caregivers.
Close to 2.5 million Illinois residents care for their aging parents, spouses or other loved ones, which Vinkler says can put incredible stress on finances, jobs and family. He says the state's Care Act (SB 3304) could help by providing caregivers assistance training when their loved ones are discharged from the hospital.
"This is one of those areas where people just feel overwhelmed," says Vinkler. "So the patient ends up going back into a nursing home. They may get better in the next few months, but then they just kind of end up sticking around in the nursing home."
Vinkler adds while Illinois has made recent strides in long-term care, there's much to consider in the future.
"The number of seniors that are in the system is growing rapidly - there's nothing we can do about that," he says. "But we do have the ability to make a choice. Do we want to be paying for older residents to be in a nursing home at three times the cost? Or are we going to pay for them at a lower level of cost with home and community-based services?"
Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service — IL