Illinois Ranks Low for Keeping Seniors Out of Nursing Homes

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By Stephanie Tyrpak

WILLIAMSON CO. -- A new report ranks Illinois among the worst in the nation at keeping people out of nursing homes.

The AARP report says Illinois is getting better at helping senior citizens live at home. However, there are still too many people in nursing homes that don't have to be.
 
You can view the report here.
 
According to the senior advocacy group, Illinois does well at providing affordable care  and supporting family caregivers. Many seniors who struggle with taking medications or can't cook are still ending up in nursing home facilities. They would most likely do well with a few hours of in-home help. 
 
Shawnee Alliance handles thousands of cases in Southern Illinois. Elderly patients, like a 70-year-old woman looking for help cleaning, traveling, and getting ready.
 
"We were able to find an apartment for year that had a walk-in shower because that was a necessity," said Shawnee Alliance Division Director Carol Aronson. 
 
While there will always be situations where 24-hour care is needed, Aronson knows there's a big benefit when people live at home as long as possible.
 
"People are much happier if they're able to stay in their own home," said Aronson. "And when you're happier, you thrive."
 
That's why Shawnee Alliance connects with older patients leaving hospitals in Carbondale and Herrin. They also find state and federal resources for local families.
 
"They provide three-fourths of the care," said Aronson. "So we should have a system that lets us put in that other one-fourth of the care."
 
Aronson believes a lot more can be done, like in-home mental health treatment and helping people pay for projects to make living spaces accessible.
 
"They may not be able to get into their home, so they need a ramp," said Aronson. 
 
The report from the AARP backs that idea. Illinois ranks 2nd worst in an area that could be costing the state money.
 
"Nursing homes in cases of low-care needs residents show us that we have a long way to go," said AARP Illinois Associate State Director David Vinkler. 
 
The elderly population continues to grow. While at-home programs average about $1,000 per month, nursing home care comes at a much higher price.
 
"States are gonna have to make a choice," said Vinkler. "Do we want to continue to want to use nursing homes as the prevalent way to provide care at about $3,000 a month per senior?"
 
Shawnee Alliance hopes to have a system in the future that would dispense medications at a scheduled time. AARP Illinois is working to get family caregivers more health training on home treatments, like injections or wound care.
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