Friday, May 3, 2013

Program offers disabled and seniors choice to leave nursing homes, live in own homes

FYI: To apply for the MI Choice Medicaid Waiver program, call 866-593-7413
A day after his 59th wedding anniversary, Jack Masters left a nursing home to return to live with his wife, Sue.

This was after Masters spent some 10 months in a nursing home after having three strokes in 2011.

His transition back to his home on Harsens Island where he and his wife retired was possible due to funding from the Money Follows the Person/Nursing Facility Transition program via the Michigan Department of Community Health MI Choice Medicaid Waiver Program. The program provides home-care services for people who are seniors or disabled and are 18 or older and eligible for Medicaid. He and his wife manage those services via the Self-Determination option.

When asked what advice he would give to people considering leaving a nursing home, Masters, 84, said: “You will feel much better, make faster progress, and accomplish more because you will be where you belong.”

Many residents in this nation aren’t really where they belong.

There are some 16,639 nursing homes in the United States with 1.7 million residents. Many of them are disabled, including the 39,917 in Michigan in such homes, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

This program assists those who want to leave nursing homes to return to living in a community setting of their choice. This program helps “gets them started then helps to maintain them in the community,” said Marcia Marklin, the program manager of Home Care at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, a nonprofit with offices in Auburn Hills and Clinton Township which provides services to seniors and those with disabilities.

When money from the federal or state government through Medicaid follows the person, “it creates housing options for the disabled, younger people and those with low incomes,” she said. “People should be able to choose where they live. This program helps to provide that choice.”

Michigan and 41 other states and the District of Columbia have implemented Money Follows the Person programs. From spring 2008 through December 2011, nearly 20,000 people have left nursing homes and returned home.

MORC alone has transitioned 157 people out of nursing homes into the community since 2005. A dedicated nursing facility team has been created to get some of the 10,051 people in Medicaid nursing home beds in Oakland, Macomb, St. Clair, Livingston, Washtenaw, and Macomb counties in their own homes or apartments with the daily care they need, said Marklin.

“The people we have helped transition are much happier, healthier and live a better quality of life,” she said.

Besides being 18 or older, MI Choice requires recipients to have a monthly income of $2,130 or less; $2,000 or less in assets (excludes one home, one car) and requiring nursing home level of care.

Caregivers are provided to do errands when people are moved out of nursing homes into places of their own as well as help with personal care, dressing, provide adult day care and other daily living tasks.

“We help support some people in the program who are 100 percent disabled and they have caregivers 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Marklin. “There’s sometimes a combination of paid workers and family members who are not paid.”

MORC, which started trying to move people into homes or apartments before the federal program began 21 years ago, receives annual funding of $8.7 million from MDCH for the MORC Home Care Inc. division.

Jerry Wolffe is the Disability Rights Advocate/Writer in Residence at MORC Inc., a nonprofit that provides services to people with disabilities in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties. He can be reached at 586 263 8950.