For decades, the Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) has maintained a strong commitment to supporting older adults in their own homes through community-based services. Through its partnership with the aging network, the department has succeeded at diverting many older adults from more costly nursing facility care while supporting their ability to remain independent and improving their overall quality of life.
We’ve had some success, but we’ve also learned there are areas where we can do better. While Illinois spends 3.7 times the national average on older adults who are not eligible for Medicaid, we also have many low-need individuals in nursing homes.
These are difficult facts to face; with an aging population that is projected to more than double by 2030, it’s incumbent upon us to acknowledge that improvements can and must be made in order to serve seniors in a more effective and cost-efficient way and increase our ability to serve new clients.
The Department’s Community Care Program (CCP) has experienced significant growth over the past 10 years, from 45,746 enrollees in 2007 to 83,599 enrollees in 2016, an 83 percent increase. The projected growth in the aging population will directly impact the department’s ability to maintain its community-based service system; the funding necessary to respond to the anticipated growth will need to increase by 52 percent.
Society is changing, advancing. The last 30 years have brought with it amazing innovations in technology and service delivery. Today, we read books on tablets, have cellphones the size of pocket calculators and talk to our television sets. Yet despite all these advancements, we continue to serve our clients the same way we did three decades ago.
Innovation is not limited to multimedia; groups such as AARP and the National Association of State Units on Aging (NASUAD) have conducted studies and advocated for the use of more advanced methods and technologies to help care for seniors. Medication management, including automated dispensers, and devices to turn off faucets and stoves after periods of time are among a growing list of new technology designed to help seniors live comfortably and safely in their own homes.
Motivated by a desire to serve an increasing number of older adults and provide a greater menu of services to address unmet needs, IDoA has developed a responsible and proactive solution through the Community Reinvestment Program (CRP) that bridges modern advancements and senior care.
Seniors in Illinois not eligible for Medicaid currently receiving services through the Community Care Program will be transitioned to the Community Reinvestment Program and have access to the same core services offered under CCP. In addition to these core services, participants will be offered a menu of flexible services to help meet their needs. Services such as medication management, companion services and mental health services and one-time expenses for home modifications and assistive technology may be among the services offered to clients.
The health and security of our older adult population is a fundamental component of the mission of IDoA. All core CCP service providers will still be held to CCP standards and protections; Regional Options Services providers will have standards developed by the local AAAs and outlined in their contracts to ensure the safety and security of all of our clients.
This is not a new concept; states such as Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana utilize a 2-tier system to serve both Medicaid and non-Medicaid older adults. Florida — with a population most similar to that of Illinois’ older adult population — has successfully kept seniors in their homes by providing services using a similar structure for 20 years. After administering a successful demonstration program that established a framework for providing a larger menu of services with minimal bureaucracy, IDoA was able to blend the successful models used by other states with a variety of innovative flexible services to create CRP.
As society progresses and improves, it’s important that older generations are not left behind. If we continue operating the way we have for the last 30 years, we will miss out on countless new and innovative ways to provide a better quality of life for our seniors. We cannot improve services for our clients both today and in the future if we don’t make changes in how we deliver those services — CRP allows us the opportunity to make necessary changes in a responsible way that can sustain the projected growth in the older adult population and provide them with the services and supports that will keep them safe, secure and living independently.
Jean Bohnhoff is director of the Illinois Department on Aging.