Mt. Vernon Register-News

May 2, 2013

Elderly health care needs addressed

By RICK HAYES rick.hayes@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — Residents of Countryside Manor became stars on Wednesday wearing hats and tiaras while showing support for a health care initiative by the Illinois Health Care Council.

“We’re here today to raise our voices together to let the governor, senators and representatives in Springfield know that your are the stars of our life and you can’t be forgotten,” said Pat Comstock, executive director of the IHCC.

Nursing home residents and their family members as well as staff of the nursing home attended the event, which is part of a statewide tour to generate awareness for the campaign to Be a Star for Nursing Home Residents. Attendees signed a banner that will be present at all of the tour stops and delivered to Gov. Pat Quinn. They also signed cards which HCCI will take to legislators in an effort to get the General Assembly to restore funding for essential healthcare services.

Specifically, Comstock said the state’s budget problems affected Medicare.

“The state didn’t have enough money for all the commitments that they had made to all of you. So they made some cuts. This facility this year has less money to take care of you in some areas than they did the year before,” she said.

“The state said they were no longer going to pay for your routine dental care. Medicaid is not going to pay if your dentures get broken or lost. Secondly, the state said they are not going to pay for your glasses annually anymore. And thirdly, the state eliminated the funding for the care of your feet. We’re trying to tell them (legislators) to give that back to you,” she continued. “You deserve preventative dental care, you deserve a new pair of glasses when you need them, and you deserve to have appropriate foot care so you can stay well.”

“Those are all services that our residents need and it’s important that they have those to assess their overall health care,” said Countryside Manor Administrative Assistant Tyger Downen. “For example, the funding for vision and podiatry care is just not there and our residents need that for their overall health.”

Downen said most of the residents of the nursing home have their own primary physicians, although those that don’t are cared for by other physicians.

“We have certain doctors that come here or they can go to their primary physician. As far as dental care goes we became very limited on what people would offer, especially the ones who have Medicaid only, so we have recently contracted with a visiting dental company that is going to come in,” she said, adding a podiatry group has also agreed to visit and treat clients as needed.

Medicare does cover dental care and nail care in some circumstances, but not every nursing home resident qualifies for Medicare. Residents between the age of 60 and 65 would have access to Medicare only if they receive Social Security benefits.

“Residents with Medicaid have no access to detail care except for emergencies,” said Downen. “Very few residents can get podiatry care. Elderly folks with deteriorating vision can’t read the newspaper or a letter from a loved one because they get only one pair of glasses every two years. Every day I see the devastating impact it can have on nursing home residents. It’s unacceptable.”

“This facility is one of the premier facilities in the area. That’s why we chose it,” Comstock said. “They focus greatly on the care needs of their residents, and they also have a lot of Medicaid residents so this facility was directly affected by the cuts from last year.”

The HCCI started its tour in Mt. Vernon and will eventually end up in Chicago during next week’s Illinois Nursing Home Week observance.