STARKVILLE — For the elderly and disabled who don”t want to live in a nursing home and are struggling to care for themselves in their own home, there”s a program available with people ready to help.
Home and Community-Based Services under the Elderly and Disabled Waiver offers a variety of services not typically covered by Medicaid, but meet Medicaid Waiver requirements.
The service, established in 1994, is run in each of the 10 planning and development districts in the state. Locally, Home and Community-Based Services are offered by the Golden Triangle Planning and Development Districts to Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay, Choctaw, Webster, Winston and Noxubee counties.
The GTPDD has 13-and-a-half teams, each of which includes one registered nurse and social worker ready to serve 1,400 clients in the seven-county area. Still, the organization is 100 referrals short of filling the available slots, GTPDD Executive Director Rudy Johnson said Tuesday.
“I know there are people out there that need this service,” Johnson said. “I don”t want us to be sitting around knowing we have those slots open.”
The GTPDD gets elderly and disabled referrals from Community Counseling, nursing homes, social security, the Department of Human Services and individuals themselves.
“We”re in touch with them daily,” said Vicki Clay, Medicaid Waiver case manager supervisor. “Still, there are many who aren”t receiving the services, possibly because they”re attached to home health care and may not have seen a doctor who can give us a referral.”
Despite numerous referral sources, individual awareness, Johnson believes, is the roadblock separating Home and Community-Based Services and the teams ready to help.
Home and Community-Based Services are provided to anyone over the age of 21 who scores 50 or above on the Medicaid Long Term Care Pre-Admission Screening Instrument and requires nursing facility level care. The evaluation, performed by a registered nurse and social worker after receiving a referral, is based on a client”s physical needs, like how far they can walk without assistance or if they”re able to bathe themselves.
Home and Community-Based Services include home delivered meals; escorted transportation; nurse, aide, physical and speech therapy; and respite services for relief of primary care givers. Additionally, Home and Community-Based Services will provide transition assistance to those currently living in a nursing facility to transfer to living arrangement approved by the Elderly and Disabled Waiver.
Ruth J. Geiger, a resident at retirement community Boardtown Village in Starkville, has received Home and Community-Based Services for 10 years. Geiger is 77 years old and has trouble getting in and out of the shower following a series of strokes. She cooks some of her own meals and uses a walker in her apartment, but she can”t drive.
Geiger has a homemaker who cleans her apartment twice a week, runs errands and picks up her groceries and medication. She also has a nurse that helps her bathe.
“I don”t know what I”d do without someone to help,” Geiger said. “I have a tendency to fall; the fire department has come out several times to help me up. Bending over is difficult.”
Geiger said she”s grown close to the social workers and nurses who”ve assisted her over the years. Her bather has a daughter who went to grade school with her daughter and they often share stories about their families. She even wrote a poem for her case worker Tina McWhorter”s son.
“They”re always welcome,” Geiger said. “Each one is different, but they”re all so helpful and kind. I tell them what needs to be done or what I need that day and they always do it. I get everything in my kitchen arranged for me to cook meals without having to bend over and get anything.”
The GTPDD delivered more than 600,000 meals in 2010 and averaged close to 1,100 Home and Community-Based Services clients over the last two years.
The GTPDD is currently working with Winona-based Medicare supplier Pharmnet to help deliver prescription medicine and supplies to rural areas at no extra cost.
“We want them to be in their home as long as they can before hospice,” Johnson said. “Likewise, people want to stay in their homes as long as possible.”
Johnson said the average cost to support a single person on an Elderly and Disabled Waiver is $16,000-$18,000 a year, compared to $50,000 to $60,000 in a nursing home.
Geiger is surprised the program is in need of clients because of Starkville”s growing retirement community.
“I know there are plenty of people like me who could not possibly live on their own,” Geiger said.
The ratio of elderly clients to physically disabled clients is roughly 80/20, but Home and Community-Based Services officials stressed the needs of disabled clients are just as great as the elderly.
“We”ve had several people in their 40s and 50s,” said McWhorter. “It”s hard to see them in a nursing home when you know they”d feel more comfortable in their own home. People our age take things like being able to wash your own clothes and fix your own meals for granted.”
Home and Community-Based Services has four full-time teams to service Lowndes County. Oktibbeha County has four teams, with three that also serve other counties to keep their client average of 100 per team.
For more information about the program, call Clay at 662-324-7860 or 662-251-3223.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.