Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hurdles Raised in Home Care for Aging after Hospitalization

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hurdles Raised in Home Care for Aging after Hospitalization

Article excerpt

A new State Plan on Aging drafted by the Corbett administration lists among its top goals making it easier for older adults to return home after a hospital discharge instead of facing an unwanted nursing home stay.

It's a priority that the head of a local aging agency says will be harder to meet, starting today, because the state Department of Public Welfare has just ended a program that served that purpose.

Leslie Grenfell, executive director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Area Agency on Aging, which covers Washington, Fayette and Greene counties, pleaded for continuation of a program known as Community Choice at a public hearing of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging in Oakland Thursday.

Community Choice started as a pilot program in those three southwestern counties about eight years ago and spread to 12 counties around Pennsylvania since then. It fast-tracks arrangement of government-subsidized home assistance for frail elderly individuals who are hospital patients, so that upon hospital discharge they aren't forced into nursing homes to receive care.

Ms. Grenfell said about 50 individuals a month of low to moderate income in her region have been able to receive the Aging Waiver services at home in a matter of days, rather than a longer, customary evaluation period of up to two months. The hospitalized patients' cases are given special, coordinated attention by employees of local aging and state welfare offices who review eligibility for assistance, based on the individual's health and finances.

The expedited access to home services such as personal care aide has saved the commonwealth a large amount by avoiding more expensive nursing home reimbursements, Ms. Grenfell said.

"You can't wait two months for in-home support if you're leaving the hospital," she said. "You've got to have that immediately. …

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