Number of Wisconsin Nursing Homes Shrinks as More People Favor Home Care

By Nursing Home Law Center

Wisconsin

Lawrence Pittman, a resident of Oakview Care Center is one of 35 patients being relocated after an announcement of the closing of the nursing facility in Durand. Joss Eggleston, Durand’s city administrator, claims that the closure of the town’s only nursing facility and the relocation of residents will likely cause a “pretty big impact” on the community. He fears the change will produce significant economic ripples on the small population of 2000 individuals. At least 50 employees will lose their jobs once the door closes on the facility.

According to the Wisconsin Health Care Association, closing the Oakview Care Center is part of an ongoing trend in Wisconsin. To date, at least 40 nursing facilities – approximately 10 percent of the total number of aging care centers in the state – have closed over the last decade.

Why Closure of Skilled Nursing Facilities is Inevitable

Oakview management claims that a significant reason for closing the facility is the financial response of diminishing Medicaid reimbursements through state agencies. Executive director Tom Morgan of the Wisconsin Health Care Association believes the significant gap between reimbursements and the cost of operating the facility has worsened over the years in nursing homes all across Wisconsin. He claims that the payment system in Wisconsin ranks third worst compared all other states in the union.

However, reimbursement issues are not the only challenges facing Oakview management. Nearly 33 percent of all beds at the facility remain empty. This is because many nursing facilities have struggled to keep all beds full after many national programs have been developed to provide health care to individuals remaining in their homes.

Sadly for Lawrence Pittman, remaining at home to receive healthcare is not an option. Lawrence’s brother Ralph stated, “Old people do not like to move around.” So far, the family has explored other options including placing Mr. Pittman in a nursing facility in Plum City, located approximately 12 miles away.

Why Home Healthcare May be a Better Option for Some People

As individuals age, they have associated memories and nearby neighbors who provide them peace of mind during the last stages of their lives. Often referred to as “aging in place,” having the ability to remain in one’s own home during the last years of life can be more difficult, especially in daily activities including cleaning, doing laundry, toileting, cooking, shopping and driving. However, when families can provide effective support systems, staying at home is much better than receiving care at a nursing facility.

In addition, nursing facilities often provide a lower level of engagement than staying at home to receive health care. In many communities, there are numerous home care and supplemental services to make the process of staying at home while growing older much easier. This includes:

  • Health Care – The aging individual might have quick access to rehabilitative therapy, physical therapy, nursing, monitoring, medicating and medical equipment all within the comfort and familiarity of home.

  • Personal Care – Ongoing assistance is available to help the aging individual with personal hygiene, bathing, exercising, getting in and out of a chair or bed, dressing and other personal care. This is an important factor in preventing conditions such as bed sores from developing.

  • Nutrition – Meals can be delivered to the home or assistance can be provided for planning and cooking meals at home.

  • Homemaking – Services in the community can make shopping, housekeeping, home repair and bill paying much easier on the elder individual.

  • Safety and Social Needs – Many communities offer transportation and escort services along with telephone safety checks, companions, coordination services and planning programs.

There is a significant independent advantage to staying at home during the final years of an elder’s life. Typically, there is less chance of abuse or neglect when family members are able to control the amount of care their loved one receives. In addition, there is a significant financial savings if care provided to the elderly individual is not complicated or frequently required. For most individuals, long-term-care will be necessary at some point at the end stage of their life.

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