Rauner Decides To Take Elderly/Disabled Health Subsidies Off The Chopping Block

Elderly and Disabled Care


It has been a bit of an uphill battle in the Illinois State Senate, but Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration finally announced that it is officially dropping its opposition to open care for the elderly and disabled. Previously, Governor Rauner had plans to limit which elderly and disabled Illinois residents could receive state-subsidized medical and other services.


Currently, the state of Illinois employs the Determination of Need score to assess a resident’s eligibility for subsidized care. The Determination of Need score takes things into account like help needed to perform daily tasks, with a greater need reflected by a higher score. The current minimum is a score of 29, but Rauner planned on raising the eligibility score to 37, which would have cut care to more than 34,000 Illinoisans.


Elderly and disabled care went to the chopping block as a part of the governor’s efforts to slash the state budget. In his cuts proposed earlier this year, $400 million was earmarked for the Illinois Department of Aging, targeting at-home and nursing home care. In July, rallies were held throughout the state, especially in Chicago, led by the SEIU and the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans. In the crowds were elderly people, family members, and healthcare workers – many of whom would stand to lose their jobs.


The state is still in the midst of a financial impasse and it is being felt throughout Illinois. Lottery winners have famously not been paid in several months, with many of them currently suing the state of Illinois. Although the House approved to begin payouts, House Speaker Mike Madigan refused to send the bill to Senate. Why is this bill important? It contains an earmark for snow-melting road salt, which is not being held up in the state government. Many suburban and downstate towns have not been able to properly prepare for this winter for the last 4 ½ months, while the budget stalemate rages on.


To help get this budget passed, democratic Representative Ken Dunkin cut a deal with Governor Rauner to remove cuts to services for senior citizens and childcare for the working poor, effectively costing Speaker Madigan his supermajority. This can end up costing Representative Dunkin his position in the government, as there is already a candidate running against him for the democrat seat in the next primary election. Not many are taking kindly to a democratic representative working with the governor on his own. In the end, however, it seems that some of the cuts to the elderly community are off the table.

Spending Easter and Passover with elderly loved ones

Importance of Spending Easter and Passover with elderly loved ones

This year, Passover and Easter coincide, with Passover beginning on Friday at sundown and Easter coming the following Sunday. This is a great time in nursing home communities, where residents celebrate the season together. Nursing home host holiday festivities for those that choose to join, with delicious food, cultural traditions, and games. The best part is that families are welcome.

There is a lot of research supporting the benefits of visiting loved ones that are living in nursing homes during holidays, and although the conversation is usually about Christmas, it is equally important during the spring holidays. It is not difficult to bring a family holiday to the nursing home, although this is a great opportunity to take your loved one out and about to enjoy festivities around town, if they are able. Otherwise, take the Easter egg hunt on the road to the grandparents.

Passover is equally an important family time, and honors the elderly. In many Jewish families, the eldest person reads the Passover story. With Passover lasting until the April 11th, this gives more reform families extra time to fit a holiday visit into a busy schedule.

These holiday visits are the perfect opportunities to reconnect with your loved ones. Listen to stories of their day-to-day lives in the nursing home communities. Do they need anything? Are they receiving adequate care? It is important that people feel cared for and important, needed even. Feeling unneeded is one of the greatest difficulties of aging so make sure that your elderly loved one feels their role in your family, even if they live in a nursing facility.

Meet the staff: Volunteers

Role of volunteers in elderly care

It takes a lot of people to provide the best care for the elderly, both medically and personally. When you look around the nursing home, you see an abundant team made up of healthcare professionals and aids. An important part of this team is the dedicated volunteers.

Volunteers can hold a variety of positions, from assisting with providing medical care to the more common social visits. Volunteers provide entertainment and companionship for the elderly, contributing to long-term welfare by spreading cheer. Nursing home residents love volunteers for this, as it becomes lonely from time to time.

Volunteers come from all walks of life and their contributions to a nursing home usually reflect that. Stylists come to donate their time by giving residents a new hair do, high school theater troupes come to perform skits or sing songs, and more. Most importantly, volunteers offer a human connection that has nothing to do with medicine or illness, giving residents reprieve from being patients. Sometimes a visit is as simple as a volunteer playing cards with a group or reading a story to a resident.

Nursing homes offer fun activities to give residents this much-welcome break, but volunteers add another component. Human companionship is vital, making volunteer visits so special. Their roles are so important that nursing homes sometimes host volunteer recruitment events. Next time you visit a loved on in a nursing home, pay attention to the vibrant community of the facility.

Why women need to think about long-term care cost now

Why women need to think about long-term care strategy and cost sooner!

About 70 percent of people that reach the age of 65 will need long-term care at some point, and this is especially important for women, as they tend to have longer life spans than men. On average, women outlive men by approximately five years so they need an average of 3.7 years of long-term care, compared to the 2.2 years that men require.

In a recent study, 74 percent of women admitted that they are worried whether they can pay for long-term care, although on 61 percent of men said the same. It is stressful to actively plan and strategize your own elder care, but it is a necessary step to ensure affordable, quality living.

All said and done, long-term care may be the most expensive part of a woman’s retirement. The national median rate for a private room in a longer-term nursing facility is $240 per day, due to the extensive care that goes into a nursing home, and this varies depending on city and level of care provided. Medicare provides help, but typically only covers the first 100 days of a stay. The other options are to pay out-of-pocket, ask family for help, or self-insure with long-term care insurance.

Your policy should cover both facility care and home care, as your needs may change. Also look for an inflation rider, which increases your coverage over the years because the cost of care can rise. Since Medicare covers the first 100 days of long-term care, you should look for a long-term care policy that has a 90-day elimination period so benefits don’t start before then.

3 New Year’s resolutions to make with elderly loved ones

New Year's resolutions to make with elderly loved ones

New Year’s resolutions are more of a tradition than a reality, as they barely last longer than the New Year’s Eve celebration. This year, bring your family together to set resolutions for you and your elderly loved one. After all, the family that grows together stays together.

Today’s seniors come from a time when hand-written letters were the norm. They spent a good deal of time reflecting over their thoughts by putting pen to paper. This year, give the gift of a journal, and if you live far from your loved one, add some envelopes and stamps. This will help keep their minds sharp in old age and also infuses a little extra excitement into your life. When was the last time you got mail that wasn’t a bill or junk mail?

Aging gracefully
A good diet and exercise is not only important for seniors, but for young adults (and children), as well. Talk to your elderly loved ones and their doctors about their health goals and treatment plans for 2015, and align your own health resolutions. Talk to your parent about your diets and support each other through difficulties.

Despite medical difficulties, many seniors still smoke cigarettes. This may be the year to quit by joining forces with your older family members to really drop the habit this year. You can hold each other accountable and provide support through rough patches. Most importantly, quitting smoking with family inspires people because it is no longer just their own health on the line. You’re more likely to quit if you know your loved ones’ health relies on it, too.

The importance of friends and family to the well being of the elderly

Importance of family and friends to the well being of the elderly community

Many elders in the U.S. live in a state of isolation and loneliness. Children move across the country and spouses and friends pass, while it becomes more difficult to make friends. Even younger adults remark that it is more difficult to make friends as an adult than it was as a kid. For seniors this is compounded by the physical decline associated with aging – loss of hearing and vision, which ultimately leads to loss of driving privileges.

Elders typically prefer to stay in their homes for as long as possible, downplaying the health risks it poses and reassuring everyone that they feel fine. However, what gets overlooked too often is the risk of a lack of social contact. A periodic caregiver and assistant is great to have someone check in regularly, but doesn’t do much in providing the excitement and joy of being with friends and family.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do for your elderly loved ones is spend as much time with them as possible and pursue opportunities that foster friendships. If your loved one does not live in an assisted living home and you’ve been considering having the conversation, the risk of ongoing isolation could be the right catalyst.

If your loved one does live in an assisted living home and therefore has greater access to socialization, you can still play a role in decreasing loneliness and increasing stimulation by following the three tips below.

1. Contact
It is important for elderly people to have frequent contact with family, and the same can probably be said for people of all ages. Friends are important to the emotional and even physical well being of a senior, but familial interaction is still crucial. There is no set recommended frequency, but often and meaningful are good guidelines.

2. Visit
A phone is a great start, but in-person visits do so much more. It is best for your elderly loved one to see you and hug you. In the early 1950’s, now-famous psychologist Dr. Harry Harlow established through experiments with capuchin monkeys that physical contact is important in the emotional and physical development of infants. We now know that this is true and invaluable to all people. If time and distance are an issue, try to Skype more often. Many seniors are not too tech savvy, but an aide, friend, or nurse may be able to help.

For distance caregivers, it may be a good idea to hire a home aide or find a new home for your loved one. This is true when health complications increase and bodily and mental functions wane; however, solitude can be just as detrimental in the long-run.

3. Trips
If your elderly loved one is still able to get around, take him or her to events they would enjoy. Be it a concert or ballet, bingo night, or anything else they like. Taking your time to do this gives the senior an opportunity to get out, plus the added benefit of visiting with family. If an outing is too much, take your parent to run a few errands that they may need. It is very nice of you to bring your parent the new socks that they have been needing, but it will be more beneficial if you take them with you. A dose of physical movement and mental stimulation will go a long way to lift their moods for weeks to come.

Staff the key to top rated nursing homes

Why to know the nursing staff of top rated nursing homes

Top-rated nursing homes maintain consistent staffing levels, not just beefed up around inspections. The Center for Public Integrity found that out of 10,000 analyzed nursing homes, the levels of staff reported was much higher than calculated by Medicare cost, so something is clearly not adding up. Medicare cost reports are largely out of the public eye and easier to cover. Obviously, Medicare numbers are more reliable than self-reported data, and it was confirmed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

These oversight agencies also took into account other variables like size, occupancy rate, ownership status, and the percentage of days covered by Medicaid. They have found that the best rated nursing homes do not differ greatly from poorly rated homes in these aspects overall. However, the best homes typically have 50 percent more registered nurses on staff than the average across all homes. This results in staffing levels at approximately four hours per resident per day.

It makes sense that the quantity and quality of staff is such a large indicator of the level of care. Studies have proven this to be true, especially from registered nurses. The results are shown to be happier residents and even better health outcomes.

Take the time to get to know the staff where your loved one lives. This will not only help you understand the day to day care being delivered, but will also help you notice staff changes. In addition to providing medical care, staffs at senior care facilities strive to create a community.

The Elderly Need Friends, Too

Why the elderly needs a social community and friends

People are social creatures – it begins in infancy and doesn’t end when we grow older. Babies develop stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally if they are held often and spoken to. Children and adults seek out friendship, and it is scientifically proven that seniors benefit greatly from the effects of socialization.

As people grow older, they lose many social contacts and it becomes more difficult to form new friendships. Losing the ability to drive, illness, caregiving, and death of loved ones all contribute to elderly isolationism. Increase social activities and supporting access to an active community for your loved one. In nursing homes, residents enjoy common areas and create friendships with their neighbors.

The science supports what we already know – friendship feels good and happiness is good for our health. It has been shown that elderly people that get out and interact with others during cold and flu season are actually less likely to have a cold or illness than those that are alone a lot. The same goes for seniors with pets – enjoying a pet has been shown to reduce risk of illness. This is in part due to the fact that the immune system is negatively affected by social isolationism.

In 2008, The New York Times ran an impressive piece, backed by the Harvard School of Medicine and The American Journal of Public Health, which reported that socialization can even contribute to the slowing of memory loss. The study indicated that elderly people who have many social contacts and engage with them regularly had the slowest rate of memory decline. Socialization is crucial to brain health.

People value fulfilling relationships and are delighted with social community at every stage of life. It is in our physiology so deeply that our physical health is dependent upon it. An active social base for an elderly is the key to slowing the deterioration of health and provides joy.

The Importance of Giving Seniors Access to Religious and Spiritual Services

Importance and benefits of spiritual and religious services for seniors

Being religious and being spiritual are two separate things, but what they have in common is that more than 90 percent of elderly Americans consider themselves to be both (while only 5 percent say that they are just spiritual, and the rest report being atheist). While spirituality is difficult to measure, studies have examined religiosity of this population and revealed that 96 percent believe in a God or universal spirit, 90 percent pray, and more than 50 percent attend religious services at least once a week. This makes them the most religiously active demographic in the U.S.

This generation grew up in a time of a more religiously active society, in communities often constructed and operated around the religious institution. This community has provided them with a source of social support and other benefits. It is believed that religion may yield the following psychological benefits in seniors:

–       Optimistic outlook on life and illness, which results in lower mortality rates and improved health recovery outcomes

–       A sense of purpose in life

–       A greater ability to cope with illness, disability, and death

It is important not to overlook the religious and spiritual needs of seniors, especially in care settings. Nancy C. Kehoe, RSCJ, Ph.D, is a practicing psychologist and professor associated with Harvard Medical School and she developed the fourteen spiritual needs of seniors:

1.         A need for meaning, purpose and hope

2.         A need to transcend circumstances

3.         A need for continuity

4.         A need for support in dealing with loss

5.         A need for validation and support of religious behaviors

6.         A need to engage in religious behaviors

7.         A need for personal dignity and sense of worthiness

8.         A need for unconditional love

9.         A need to express anger and doubt

10.         A need to feel that God is on their side

11.         A need to love and serve others

12.         A need to be thankful

13.         A need to forgive and be forgiven

14.         A need to prepare for death and dying

These needs become particularly important in long-term care when patients are going through periods of loss and adjustment. This phase of life is marked by the loss of ability, health, independence, and friends. Religious and spiritual people often use their faith and beliefs to cope with these losses, and so it is crucial to continue to provide religious services for seniors who want them. BRIA Health Services is committed to honoring personal beliefs and maintaining quality of life. In addition to meeting physical and health requirements, BRIA is devoted to the personal needs of our residents.

When in Rome: Foreign Cultures and American Nursing Homes

Foreign cultures and American nursing homes

“We don’t do that.” How many times have you, as an immigrant or the child of foreign parents, said this about nursing homes? In many foreign cultures, it is unacceptable to place a parent into an assisted living facility because it is considered abandoning the parent and failing your responsibility as a child. However, an assisted living home can improve the parent’s quality of life and longevity. This is a cultural barrier that, due to modern lifestyles in the U.S. and other factors, you and your parent can cross together.

The first step is coming to the decision that an aging or ailing parent can no longer care for themselves or may need immediate assistance at all hours of the day. Once you have decided that your parent can’t live alone anymore, your next thought may be to bring your parent into your home to live with you. In a bustling city like Chicago in the modern age, people have to be active around the clock to maintain their lifestyles, which often does not leave a lot of time for providing attentive, around the clock care to elderly parents. Instead of looking at this decision as one that would hurt the parent, consider what you are willing and capable of providing, including skilled medical care. Let go of any guilt and see the benefits of an assisted care facility.

Now it is time to have this talk with your parent. In this case it is important to act as your parent’s advocate and not add pressure to an already difficult and oftentimes scary situation. Big life changes are difficult at any age, especially to someone in their later years. Express concern, not anger, to win them over. No parent wants to be a burden and this way your mother or father can listen to you as a friend. Ask your parent to come with you to view the facility and reveal that the scary place behind the curtain is actually a gentle home with around-the-clock care and attention, and a strong social life. This way you can dispel the myth of “dumping” your parent in a nursing facility.

While there are no magic words to convince your parent that this is best for them, the best advice is not to use force. This decision is best made by the parent when they are ready, and although you have to be vigilant on the matter, you may have to wait for things to get worse before they get better. Unfortunately, this may mean them forgetting to pay their bills, falling, or experiencing anything else that sends an alarm that they need help.