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It’s Not Optional – Seniors Must Be Told Long-term Care Options

February 22, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS - A bill on its way to Gov. Mitch Daniels' desk requires that Hoosiers be told all their options for long-term care when they're being discharged from a hospital.

Rep. Suzanne Crouch, R-Evansville, author of House Bill 1211, says most people don't want to go to a nursing home.

"When you ask elderly people. 'If you can stay in your home, would that be the best option?', 80 percent of them will say yes. They would love to stay in their homes. They want to stay in their homes."

Under the bill, Crouch says, patients and family members will be given contact information for Area Agencies on Aging before they are discharged. Those agencies have counselors to help determine which options for care will work best for the individual.

Without this legislation, says Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend, a person is discharged from the hospital before understanding what care options are available.

"There's almost like a knee-jerk reaction of 'Well, this person can't live alone right now so therefore he or she needs to be a nursing home facility.' There's actually a wide range of services out there and available to help people make better decisions and to seek out that assistance and service that would allow them to stay in their home."

Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, says it can be expensive for people needing care and their families - and expensive for the state if seniors don't learn all their options for long-term care.

"At a time of crisis, it's a lot harder. People react to the first thing they hear, and so we want to be sure that they actually have all avenues of information available to them."

For the Medicaid program, Becker says, a year of nursing-home care costs around $50,000 - versus about $7,200 if the senior can be cared for in his or her home.

Paul Chase, AARP Indiana public policy director, says the Area Agencies on Aging provide options counseling for anyone in need of assistance. Knowing about these services, he adds, often means the difference between being cared for at home or in an institution.

"There is no organized statewide program to reach people at the time of hospital discharge or soon after nursing home admission. And these are two critical times when options counseling is needed. So this bill will really remedy those situations."

The text of HB 1211 is online at in.gov/legislative/bills.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN