Monday, August 22, 2011

More seniors, but fewer living in nursing homes

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The past five years have been nothing but accommodating, she said. Even though she shares a bathroom with her 24-year-old granddaughter, she has her own room. If she wants to spend time with the family, she can. If she wants to close her door and crack open a book, she’s able to.HAMILTON — In November 2006, Jean Baker moved from rural Kentucky to a two-story West Chester Twp. home with her daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.
“I would never want to go and live in a nursing home or one of those assisted living places,” the 75-year-old said. “I could never afford it.”
Although Butler County is home to a growing number of senior citizens, fewer of them are living in nursing homes. The down trend can be attributed to what is often perceived as high cost for their services and increased accommodations in local programs that benefit senior citizens.
According to newly released 2010 Census data, 55 percent of Butler County’s 42,484 citizens ages 65 and older are living at home alone, with a spouse or with their children. Only 4 percent of the demographic lives in a nursing home.
Baker, who says she has never worked outside the home, is among them. Drawing social security from her deceased husband, she says there are not only financial obstacles in nursing home care, but the facilities themselves do not appeal to her.
“Here with my children I have everything,” Baker said. “We have televisions, computers, everything. My family has these things and they’ve agreed to share them with me.”
County wide, the number of people living in nursing homes has dropped 13.3 percent from 2,322 to 2,012 in the past 10 years.
The fact trends opposite the county’s rising senior population.
About 11.5 percent of Butler County is made up of those 65 and over. Ten years ago the demographic made up 10.7 percent.
Across the state, the percentage of seniors living in nursing homes dropped from 5.6 percent to 4.1 percent over the past 10 years, according to Census data.
Trend away from nursing homes cuts costs for seniors, state
According to AARP, the average cost for nursing home care is more than $50,000 a year and continues to increase. It can also vary widely depending on where a person lives.
About 65 percent of people in Ohio’s nursing homes have their care covered by Medicaid, according to the Council on Aging of Southwest Ohio.
Local programs such as Meals on Wheels and the offering of transportation services through senior centers can reduce costs for seniors, their families and the state of Ohio. The state is obligated to cover a senior’s nursing home costs if the patient qualifies for a level of care under the Medicaid system that requires nursing home usage.
Medicaid will also pay for seniors to be cared for in their homes, but those are much more manageable costs, according to Benjamin Johnson, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
“The cost of providing in-home care for a Medicaid patient is less expensive than providing nursing home care for that same patient in most cases,” he said.
Ann Munafo, executive director of the Middletown Area Senior Center, said nursing home costs can be a challenge even for seniors who consider themselves financially stable.
“Even if someone has a healthy retirement (savings), that can eat it up real quick,” she said.
Local programming
Local programming brought on by the creation of the Butler County Elderly Services Program in the late 1990s has gone a long way in contributing to the trend away from nursing homes, said Karen Dages, director of social services at the Hamilton-based Partners in Prime.
The tax levy funds in-home services from homemaking to personal care to Meals on Wheels. Partners in Prime and the Middletown Area Senior Center are two agencies that have contracts with the program to provide these accommodations.
Its levies have been successful when presented before voters, Dages said. Last November, voters approved the 1.3-mill levy with a 65.9 percent majority. In 2005, a five-year 2-mill levy passed with 54 percent of the vote and in 2001, a 1.3-mill levy passed as 57.5 percent of voters approved the initiative.
“I think everyone sees the value in keeping our seniors at home,” Dages said. “For seniors, they want to stay home where they’re comfortable. Children, they know mom and dad are happy. Plus, you’ve got property taxes and other things a city benefits from by living in a house.”
A similar program, PASSPORT, works through Medicaid and is overseen by the Council on Aging.
Betty Carter, of Middletown, said she relies on transportation services from the Middletown Area Senior Center to take her to doctor’s appointments. The 77-year-old had a hip replacement almost 10 years ago, and has since been determined to live on her own.
“If they didn’t have the services they offer here, you’d have to go to a nursing home,” she said of the position many seniors are in. “You couldn’t do it yourself.”
Senior centers also provide a sense of security, she said.
“If something were to happen and I couldn’t clean my house, I could call and have someone help me out,” she said. “That means a lot.”
Ultimately, the decision falls to seniors and their families, said Gary Horning, vice president of marketing and communications for Otterbein senior communities in Warren County.
“There will never be a need to eliminate 24-hour skilled nursing care,” Horning said. “In the grand scheme of things, there will always be a demand for a variety of wellness choices.”
Contact this reporter at (513) 705-2871 or


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