Sunday, December 26, 2010

Guides help recovering patients find long-term care | The Salt Lake Tribune

An uncomfortable truth for anyone facing disability for a year or more: If you go into a nursing home, you might never get out.

Under patchwork Medicare provisions, says Utah Commission on Aging Director Maureen Henry, it is more convenient for hospitals to discharge patients to nursing homes than to figure out how they might live in their homes and communities.

But what looks like the easy solution can be costly. Nursing home bills may drive more people onto Medicaid, which costs taxpayers more, and the move can unnecessarily disrupt the community and impoverish the lives of patients, Henry says.

“You’re shifting residence; you’re shifting family structure out of the community and into the nursing facility,” she says.

Now, with the help of a $700,000 grant from the federal Administration on Aging, the Utah commission is linking hospital discharge staff with “options planners,” who help guide patients and their families through a complicated array of choices for extended care.

The way Medicare and Medicaid law works, people are guaranteed care in nursing homes. But there is no similar guarantee of coverage for care outside an institution, meaning family finances may limit the choices.

“People have the right to decide where and when they receive long-term care,” Henry says. “Our objective is to try to catch people before they are scrambling in a crisis, stop giving people the runaround.”

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