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Network News
Disability Network/Michigan
December 2008

Teaming Up for Nursing Home Transition

Independence is important to everyone. But it can be nearly non-existent when you live in a nursing home. That's why Disability Network is teaming up with the Michigan Department of Community Health (DCH) and the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition (MDRC) to help people with disabilities move from nursing homes to the housing of their choice.

Michael Daeschlein, manager of the MiChoice program for DCH, explains, "Our main role is to provide the funding. We want to use our money to make a positive impact on the quality of long-term care. Funding transitions is one way to ensure that people have choices and can get the services they want."

With Medicare spending an average of $147 per person per day in a nursing home, transitioning people to their own housing makes good economic sense. However, Daeschlein explains, "Cost savings is only part of it. It's really driven by our intent to give people choices and the chance to live as independently as possible."

Smoothing the link between the funding and the Centers for Independent Living (CILs), who guide the transitions, is RoAnne Chaney, Health Policy Project Manager for MDRC. "I keep the CILs' issues and concerns in front of people in the Department," she says. "The focus tends to be on seniors, but long-term care is important to people with disabilities, too."

Chaney also partners with the CILs to solve problems and clarify issues. She works closely with Jill Gerrie, Director of Systems Change at Disability Network Michigan. "We have monthly meetings where we go over any changes to forms, reporting requirements, and procedures so everyone, including the DCH, hears it at once," explains Gerrie. Their services also include training CIL staff on the process and explaining how to bill the state for transitions.

While news of the program spreads, successful transitions continue to add up. Carmon Yeloushan, a certified long-term care coordinator for disAbility Connections in Jackson, has assisted with 33 transitions so far this year.

During a typical transition, Yeloushan meets with the person to discuss living options. The first step is to find a suitable, affordable place to live. This may involve negotiating prices, paying the deposit and first month's rent, and even paying past-due utility bills. Next, she helps the person gather other items, such as furniture, assistive technology, and food. She also makes sure supports such as transportation, cleaning, and cooking services are in place before the person moves in. "In a nursing home, everything is handed to people: the meals, the meds, even the laundry. We help them take responsibility for themselves again," she explains.

Yeloushan believes that any transition is worthwhile, even if the person is only able to live independently for a short while. "Eventually, some of them may end up back in the nursing home," she says, "but it's still worth it. Every day someone gets to live on their own terms improves their quality of life."

Transition Success Stories

One man, who had diabetes and an injured leg, had been homeless for 12 years before entering a nursing home. After living there for four months, he spoke with Yeloushan. "I asked him about his dreams and where he'd like to live, and he told me he'd always dreamed of a house in the country but knew he couldn't take care of it," she says. "We found him an apartment in the country, negotiated the price, and advocated to get him a job. Now he's working and living on his own!"

In another case, a daughter wanted her father to move home with her. He was unable to communicate due to ALS, but since moving in with his daughter, he has begun walking again and communicates by blinking. He has also enjoyed getting back into community life and has ridden in a convertible in many parades. His daughter is very pleased and confident that moving him out of the nursing home was the right thing to do.

Who We Are

Most people equate disability with limitations. But it's our job to change the perceptions and realities that prevent people with disabilities from sharing in the community. Disabilty Network/Michigan represents the 15 Centers for Independent Living across Michigan. We provide training, mentoring, and referrals to help people with disabilities and their families live productive lives. Because disability touches so many people, we also work on a larger scale, helping governments and businesses make changes that benefit not just those with disabilities, but everyone in the community.