News Release
   
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   May 2, 2000

Christine Grant
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg
Dennis McGowan
609-984-7160

 

Community Choice Program Helps 3,200 Seniors and Persons
with Disabilities Find Options to Nursing Home Care
--- May is Older Americans Month ---


TRENTON - Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant announced today that the department's Community Choice Program has now helped 3,200 nursing home residents return to the community. Most of those helped (82%) were seniors, but the program also works with persons with disabilities under 60 years of age.

Acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco, who has proclaimed May as Older Americans Month in New Jersey, said the program's success "reflects our commitment to advancing high-quality health care services in nursing homes and in community settings. Community Choice helps people learn about their options and make the best choice for meeting their long-term care needs."

Community Choice is a one-on-one counseling, referral and assistance program. It began in 1998 and was expanded statewide in 1999. Through the program, a team of 40 social workers and nurses go into nursing homes and hospitals in all 21 counties to discuss housing and care options with seniors, residents with disabilities and their families. Those who are able and want to relocate are then helped through a number of in-home and community services and programs. All financial and medical requirements are fully explained to participants before services are arranged.

"Community Choice has been very successful in opening up options for seniors in nursing homes and those being discharged from hospitals," said Grant. "While for some nursing home care is the best option, many do better with in-home or community-based services and the support of family and friends. This program gives seniors, as well as persons with disabilities, choices on how and where they want to live."

In-home services arranged through Community Choice include case management, chore services, home health care, meal preparation or delivery, and medication management. Community programs include home modification, medical day care, transportation and respite care for caregivers. Housing options include returning to home or moving to a subsidized apartment, assisted living residence, residential health care facility or an alternate family care home.

Grant said a survey of 107 Community Choice participants conducted last year by the Rutgers' Center for State Health Policy found 93% of those helped liked their current living situation better than the nursing home. Some 84% also said they could now do things that make their lives more enjoyable. Grant said the high levels of satisfaction among those served through the Community Choice Program could be attributed in part to the program's dedicated, professional staff.

"It has also been successful because participation is 100 percent voluntary," said Grant. "We discuss all the options available and the resident makes the choice. Our goal is to ensure every senior or person with a disability we help is happy, secure and cared for in the most appropriate setting."

Seniors and persons with disabilities who are in a nursing home or being discharged from a hospital and wish to return to the community, or their family members, can speak with a Community Choice counselor by calling 1-877-856-0877. Information on the program is also available at the department's website at www.state.nj.us/health. For more information on senior services, seniors or their family members can call their county NJ EASE (Easy Access, Single Entry) office toll-free at
1-877-222-3737. NJ EASE is a state initiative developed in partnership with county governments to create a new and easy way for seniors and their family members to learn about services within their communities.

"Seniors today have more options as to how, where and what long-term care services they may receive than ever before. Programs like Community Choice and NJ EASE help seniors sort through those options and make the choices that best fits their specific needs," said Grant.

Grant said the Department of Health and Senior Services, which will mark its fifth anniversary this July, has also expanded existing programs and created new ones that allow New Jersey's seniors to live with independence, dignity and choice.

"Whether it's increasing the income limits for Pharmaceutical Assistance for the Aged and Disabled, conducting criminal background checks on home health and nursing aides, or creating support programs for caregivers, New Jersey is now a better state in which to age in place," the Commissioner said.

Grant said appropriations over the last three years have allowed the department to create a continuum of community-based long term care choices, expand programs such as Meals on Wheels and establish the NJ EASE service delivery system in all 21 counties. Since 1999, more than 327,000 seniors have received assistance from NJ EASE counselors and an additional 925,000 phone calls to the county offices on aging linked seniors to relevant services such as home-delivered meals, transportation, housekeeping and visiting nurses programs.

The department expanded its Congregate Housing Services Program to allow 733 more seniors to live in 64 subsidized apartment buildings and receive services, and created New Jersey's first consumer guide on assisted living to help families evaluate this relatively new long-term care option.


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