Health dept., nursing homes want seniors to live at home longer

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. Lawmakers are seeing a push to give seniors a chance to live at home longer, with the state spending fewer tax dollars.

The State Department of Health sent a letter to lawmakers asking to expand funding to the family care program to offer more long-term care for the elderly and disabled.

“There's more people that need our help, but right now, with funding the way it is, and people's incomes being very limited, it's difficult to do that,” Paula Gibson with Azura Memory Care in Eau Claire said.

Wisconsin's elderly population is expected to rise over the next three decades when nearly one-fourth of all people will be age 65 or older, according to the health department. They said change is needed to care for the expanding population of seniors.

“We do definitely need to have more funding of services, both in home and outside of the home. But also making sure that they're high quality services, and not just anybody can do anything. You need to have the proper training,” Gibson said.

Both the Department of Health, Gibson and Oakwood Villa administrator Becca Rouse said with many at or near capacity, more facilities and nurses would provide more options for long term care.

“You have to have a very specific skill set and degree. So the jobs are out there, it's just a matter of getting the applicants. There's such a wide variety, of where registered nurses can work, that it's just making them aware of what they can do in our settings, and getting them here,” Rouse said.

“There's a big push to have Wisconsin become an dementia capable state and one of the caveats of that is having the proper balance of housing both outside of someone's home, as well as services to help them stay in their home,” Gibson said.

The health department said a stronger focus is needed to allow more people to stay in their own homes.

“It's good for them to have options with in their own communities as obviously when people want to be around their families and those that love them and that's what helps them to be more successful when they are in rehabilitation,” Rouse said.

Gibson said lower Medicaid reimbursement rates have hurt rural nursing homes and Angela Hite at Dove Healthcare says many in need of care in rural areas fail to seek out help.

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