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Touching Lives · Providing Dignified Lifestyles

 

Observations about the 2015 White House Conference on Aging

July 30th, 2015

By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions

WHCOA 2015 - Logo

In a Blog I posted two weeks ago, my focus was on a question of mine that was addressed during a panel discussion at the 2015 White House Conference on Aging.

The question was “will technology and in-home services reduce or increase social isolation among seniors?”

Today, I want to share my observations about the Conference based on my years of experience in working in senior housing and health care.

I was pleased that much of the focus of the conference was on how we can live fuller, healthier and more vibrant lives right up until we die and not on the perception that aging inevitability equates to becoming increasingly frail and ineffectual.

As Valerie Jarrett pointed out in her remarks as she opened the Conference, “we want to be defined by our abilities; not our disabilities.” She stressed the importance of dignity and stability in retirement.

Speakers talked about how older adults can enrich our society and expressed hope that we can look at the opportunities that come from aging.

I learned, for instance, during the conference that older entrepreneurs are more successful than younger ones.

I also learned during the conference that . . .

1. By 2017, according to Robert McDonald, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, that there will be 10 million veterans in the United States over the age of 65. He noted that the VA offers services that are designed specifically to support individuals in their roles as caregivers, including webinars, workshops, training programs and a peer support mentoring program. More information can be obtained by visiting the VA Caregiver Support website at

VA Caregiver Support

The VA also operates a national caregiver support line that provides the opportunity to talk with a licensed social worker. The toll-free telephone number is 1-855-260-3274.

2. The 60 and above age group represents the fastest growing membership segment in the YMCA, said Kevin Washington of the Y. Going to the Y can help reduce isolation and can provide opportunities for older adults to engage in physical activity.

3. Three out of four people in the United States start tapping into their Social Security benefits at the age of 62. Their monthly benefits are much lower than they would be if they waited until they reached the age when they would become eligible for their full Social Security benefits.

Suggestions from the Conference included the following:

To create better health among seniors, we need to build a culture of prevention instead of treatment, finding ways to make healthy nutrition affordable and accessible, recognize how important emotional well-being is to good health, and build physical activity back into our culture. Physical activity reduces the risk and helps in the management of chronic disease.

To help those over the age of 65 who often have a hard time finding affordable housing that meets their needs, changing building and zoning requirements especially in regards to density and parking to make senior housing, and I would add assisted living, more accessible.

To help us better prepare financially for our retirement years, looking at ways to encourage us to save early and to save more for our retirement years.

In his remarks during the Conference, President Obama stated that “one of the best measures of a country is how it treats its oldest citizens.” Before Medicaid, he said, there was no help for those in need to pay for nursing home costs.

With that in mind, my biggest disappointment in the White Office Conference on Aging was its lack of attention on assisted living, which can serve as a wonderful and much more cost-effective alternative to nursing home care.

          

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Posted in Gardant

Technology, Senior Isolation and the White House Conference on Aging

July 16th, 2015

By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions

WHCOA 2015 - Logo

Here is an interesting question, Jeff Zients commented as he was reading the question I had submitted to the 2015 White House Conference on Aging that was held on Monday in the East Room of the White House.

Jeff, who is with the National Economic Council, was moderating a panel discussion on “Technology and the Future of Aging.” I was using technology to participate in the conference. I was live steaming the conference on my laptop as I sat in my home office in Palatine, Illinois. Twitter was the vehicle I was able to use to send questions to the Conference.

The question that was selected for discussion was “will technology and in-home services reduce or increase isolation among seniors?”

As the panel members who responded to the question were involved in technology, their responses were what I expected. Technology will reduce isolation.

I certainly can see their point.

Nearly three years ago, we were celebrating my Mom’s 85th Birthday at her house in the Chicago area. We were gathered around the dining room table, interacting on Skype with our oldest daughter, our son-in-law and Grace, our first grandchild, who was born just six days earlier. They lived in the mountains of Colorado. My Mom was meeting her newest great grandchild for the first time via computer technology. What made the situation even more memorable is that while we were on Skype we received a text message that our middle daughter had just delivered our first grandson.

In our business, we partnered with Caremerge, a technology company based in Chicago, to develop a Family Engagement App. The App is designed to enhance relationships between residents, their loved ones and the staff at the senior living, assisted living and memory care communities we manage. Family members of residents can enjoy easy and secure access compliant with federal privacy laws to real-time updates and insights into their loved ones day-to-day activities. It doesn’t matter if the family member lives right down the street or in a distant country.

Gardant and Caremerge received a 2015 Assisted Living Federation of America Best of the Best Award for this program.

Residents of many of our communities can take advantage of the Dakim computerized brain fitness system.

Other technology such as Smart Shoes that incorporate sensors into the design to help improve balance and reduce falls certainly can help reduce isolation among older adults. I can’t help but think that if a person is more confident in their balance and less worried about falling they will be much more likely to get out of the house.

Later in the day, I had the opportunity to ask a couple of friends the same question. Their responses were much different. Both felt technology would likely increase social isolation, at least for their parents. In their opinion, their parents would use access to technology to further justify staying holed up in his home and her apartment.

Look at the impact that technology has had on younger people, they said.

Go into a restaurant today and take a look at a table of young people, my friends said. None of them are talking to each other. They are all focused on the technological devices they are holding in their hands.

Look at the problem we are seeing with obesity among those in our younger generations.

Won’t technology have the same impact on older adults, my friends wondered.

As a speaker was noted during the Conference on Aging, life can be good at any age as long as we stay active and engaged. More and more research is showing that social connectivity and engagement along with staying physically active are vital for healthy aging. Physical activity can reduce the risk and help in the management of chronic diseases.

What I heard leaves me with several more questions:

Do on-line interactions provide the same benefits as in-person interactions where there are opportunities for human touch?

Will older adults, their loved ones and their friends use technology to visit with each other more often or will it reduce the frequency of in-person visits?

What steps might need to be taken to ensure that technology does not negatively impact physical activity among older adults in the same way it has impacted younger generations?

In my next Blog, I will be sharing other observations of the White House Conference on Aging.


All affordable assisted living communities managed by Gardant Management Solutions are certified and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. All assisted living communities are licensed and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“Gardant Management Solutions is the leading provider of assisted living in Illinois and one of the 20 largest providers of assisted living in the United States.”

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let us know.

          

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Posted in Assisted Living Event

Celebrating Independence

July 10th, 2015

By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions

US Constitution - We The People with USA Flag

As I watched fireworks light up the night sky over the Independence Day weekend, I thanked my lucky stars that I was born and live in a country that was founded on the principle that we enjoy unalienable rights that include Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

We celebrate Independence Day on the Fourth of July because the Second Continental Congress, meeting in what is now known as Independence Hall in Philadelphia, approved the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

I also am so thankful to be working for a mission-driven company that has as its focus helping individuals of all financial means maintain as much independence as possible for as long as possible.

Thirty-eight of our 40 senior living communities operate through a special program here in Illinois called Supportive Living. The program is designed for adults 65 years of age and older and disabled adults ages 22 to 64 who need some help to maintain their independence but do not require licensed skilled nursing care.

One beauty of the program is that the emphasis is on personal choice, dignity, privacy and independence. Another is that it especially benefits those who cannot afford private pay assisted living, including those who are on or would qualify for Medicaid.

Since the first Supportive Living community opened in 1999, the program has experienced significant growth. Today, there are more than 140 Supportive Living communities housing nearly 11,000 apartments located throughout the State.

The communities provide a wonderful alternative to living in a nursing home or to struggling alone at home.

The Supportive Living communities managed by Gardant combine the opportunity to live in a residential apartment-home environment with the availability of personal assistance and support services. Each of the private apartments at these affordable assisted living communities feature a kitchenette, spacious bathroom with shower, individually controlled heating and air conditioning, and emergency alert system.

Certified nursing assistants are on-duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide help with medications and personal assistance. Meals, housekeeping and laundry are included.

Residents also benefit from plenty of opportunities to easily socialize with friends and neighbors and to participate in activities and special events.

Our focus at each of the communities that we manage is on providing residents with the love, compassion and dignity that they so richly deserve in addition to the care, services and assistance that they need. Our approach is to place residents first in each and every decision that we make.

You can find Supportive Living communities managed by Gardant in the City of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, the St. Louis Metro East area and other locations in northern, central and southern Illinois.

Click here to see a Map of where our communities are located.

I hope you had an enjoyable Independence Day and that you appreciate the liberties and freedoms we enjoy in the USA.


All affordable assisted living communities managed by Gardant Management Solutions are certified and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. All assisted living communities are licensed and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“Gardant Management Solutions is the leading provider of assisted living in Illinois and one of the 20 largest providers of assisted living in the United States.”

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let us know.

          

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Posted in Supportive Living

Gardant Leads National Summit on Affordable Assisted Living

July 2nd, 2015

By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions

Less than two weeks ago, nearly 40 movers, shakers and thought-leaders involved in senior and assisted living gathered together at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois, for a landmark summit on affordable assisted living.

As far as we can tell, this is the first time that so many key individuals from across the country were gathered together in one room for one day to talk about this issue, Rod Burkett, CEO and President of Gardant Management Solutions, told me as he reflected on his impressions of the summit.

Rod and Gardant spearheaded the summit, which was designed to create a national conversation about models for assisted living for seniors who cannot afford many of the assisted living options that currently are available in the United States.

Participants included the –

CEO of the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA)

CEO of the American Senior Housing Association (ASHA)

CEO of the National Investment Center (NIC)

Board Chair of the Center for Excellence in Assisted Living (CEAL)

Executive Director of the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL)

Executive Director of the Affordable Assisted Living Coalition (AALC)

Also participating in the summit were representatives from the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD) and the National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) as well as developers, operators and representatives of financing sources and managed care organizations.

What sparked the idea for the summit was a combination of our experience here in Illinois and what we see going on nationally and in other states, Rod explained.

Nationally, we are facing the greying of America, with a tsunami of Baby Boomers aging into their retirement years. The focus is on delivering quality health care in the lowest cost and least restrictive setting possible.

Assisted living can offer a wonderful residential alternative to a nursing home and can be much less expensive than nursing home care, says Rod. Assisted living also can be less expensive than home health care. Yet, there is no comprehensive national plan for assisted living.

At the state level, we are fortunate in the State of Illinois to have the Supportive Living program.

Wayne Smallwood, who is the Executive Director of the Affordable Assisted Living Coalition (AALC), spoke about the program during this presentation at the summit on Medicaid Options for Assisted Living. Wayne served as Co-Chair for the summit.

Supportive Living communities combine apartment-style housing with personal assistance and support services such as three-daily meals, housekeeping and laundry. We are able to provide older adults who need some help to maintain their independence with the love, compassion and dignity they deserve in addition to the help and assistance they need, Rod says.

Summit participants commented that the Supportive Living program is a “perfect model” for affordable assisted living.

The program has grown so that there are now more than 140 communities located in more than 70 counties throughout the Illinois. Together, these communities house nearly 11,000 apartments.

Unfortunately, while most other states have a Medicaid option for assisted living, there inevitably are obstacles that are very difficult or impossible to overcome. Reimbursement rates are way too low; there are not enough Medicaid waiver slots available; and the processes for the community to be approved to serve Medicaid residents and for seniors to be approved for Medicaid and assigned a Medicaid-waiver slot take way too long.

“We had great discussion about the accessibility and affordability issues of assisted living for low and moderate income seniors and about what needs to be done next,” Rod says.

The participants talked about this being an “issue whose time has come” and how it will be “one of the biggest issues that our country will face in the next 10 to 20 years.”

The ideas include defining what affordable assisted living is for the low income and the middle income market and what the key characteristics of successful affordable assisted living models are; becoming part of healthcare reform; identifying payment sources beyond Medicaid and Medicare; and showing how affordable assisted living can slow down the spend down of assets by older adults.

A much stronger political advocacy and educational effort also is needed.

“We recognize this was step one, Rod said. “As the first step of converting our discussion to action, the Summit Steering Committee during the coming weeks will be establishing work groups to move forward on the steps we need to take.”


All affordable assisted living communities managed by Gardant Management Solutions are certified and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. All assisted living communities are licensed and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“Gardant Management Solutions is the leading provider of assisted living in Illinois and one of the 20 largest providers of assisted living in the United States.”

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let us know.

          

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Posted in Assisted Living Event

Proposed Illinois Budget Cut Measure Likely To Be Costly

June 25th, 2015

By Rick Banas of assisted living provider Gardant Management Solutions

Budget Cuts

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is poised to make a costly mistake as he looks at how to balance the state’s budget.

His administration is looking at making it more difficult for seniors and adults with physical disabilities to qualify to live in one of the state’s more than 140 Supportive Living communities by increasing the Determination of Need score from 29 to 37.

The communities, which are located in more than 70 counties in northern, central and southern Illinois, operate through a program that was created during a previous budget crisis. The program has saved the state money since the first community opened in 1999. The cost for an individual on Medicaid living in a Supportive Living community is 48% less than the cost of nursing home care.

Any decision to increase the DON score, either as part of the budget or by Executive Action, will be devastating.

The most immediate consequence will be that 4,000 residents of Supportive Living communities will be forced out of their apartments by the State. They will be homeless.

These are seniors and adults with physical disabilities who moved into the communities because they need some help to maintain their independence. These are low-income and very-low income individuals who have less than $2,000 in assets.

The longer term impact will likely result in the state losing any savings it thinks it can generate and end up costing the state many more dollars than it currently is spending.

For Supportive Living communities, losing 4,000 residents will mean a loss in occupancy of 25% to 40%. Most of the communities would be unable to survive the impact of the significantly lower occupancy, especially when also combined with the proposed cut in reimbursement rates. They would not be able to meet their mortgage principal, their mortgage interest, their mortgage insurance and their replacement reserve obligations.

This would result in . . .

Another more than 6,500 seniors and adults being forced to move out of the Supportive Living community where they currently live. Nearly 4,000 of these individuals would be eligible to move into a nursing home on Medicaid, which would cost the state 48% more than if they lived in a Supportive Living community. If less than 1,600 of the 4,000 were to move into a nursing home, the State would lose all of the potential savings it thinks it can generate from the increase in the Determination of Need score. If all 4,000 were to move into a nursing home, the cost to the state would more than double.

More than 5,000 individuals would lose their jobs, collecting unemployment benefits rather than paying income taxes.

Financing sources, including the Illinois Housing Development Authority and Illinois mortgage companies and banks, having to foreclose on mortgages, many of which range from $10 million to $20 million.

Local taxing bodies would lose the property taxes paid be Supportive Living communities.

I understand the crucial need to balance the budget and that options are limited.

I also hope that the decisions that are made will actually result in generating savings.


All affordable assisted living communities managed by Gardant Management Solutions are certified and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. All assisted living communities are licensed and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“Gardant Management Solutions is the leading provider of assisted living in Illinois and one of the 20 largest providers of assisted living in the United States.”

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let us know.

          

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Posted in Gardant, Tips
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