As manager of Waupaca County’s Aging and Disability Resource Center, Pat Enright has worked for more than a decade to eliminate a waiting list.
The list, which had reached 140 names in July 2010, was for seniors waiting to become part of Waupaca County’s Community Options Program.
Waupaca County launched the program in 1986.
It is now called Family Care, and about 500 Waupaca County residents benefit from the program.
Family Care allows elderly residents to remain in their own homes and communities rather than going into a nursing home.
Enright said most seniors prefer to stay at home rather than be relocated into an institutional setting.
The challenge, however, is that elderly people need more attention and care than is normally available outside of a nursing facility.
Waupaca County’s Family Care offers an array of services that range from health care management to weekly visitors who help with meals, laundry and transportation.
Family Care provides medical equipment, home health services, adaptive equipment for homes and vehicles, physical therapy and counseling.
“It was a pilot program funded by the state dollars to provide an alternative to nursing home care,” Enright said. “It was woefully underfunded.”
Enright said community care is also more cost effective for those who do not need the constant care provided by nursing facilities.
“You’ll pay more than $6,000 a month for nursing home care,” Enright said. “There was about a 50 percent reduction in costs when the county ran the program, and there is another 18 percent reduction now that it is run by managed care.”
Although Family Care was more cost effective with its use of Medicare and Medicaid dollars, the state had not provided adequate funding for the program.
This lack of funding resulted in long waiting lists for people wanting into the program.
“For the elderly, there was quicker movement, but some had to wait at least a year,” Enright said. “Those who were physically or developmentally disabled could have to wait at least five years.”
Enright said changes in federal law have made the option of community care an entitlement, which requires the state to provide funding for the program.
“Without the entitlement, they are placed on waiting lists,” Enright said. “Now, if a person is functionally and financially eligible for a nursing home, they are entitled to choose any program that meets their needs.”
In May 2010, the federal government required the state of Wisconsin to provide more funding to Family Care.
With the extra funding, Waupaca County set about to eliminate its waiting list and planned to have all names on the list removed by July 2013.
The county reached its goal more than a year earlier than planned.
“There is no longer a waiting list, and even for people who are currently in nursing homes, there is no waiting list for them to return to the community if a feasible plan can be worked out,” Enright said.
Since May 1, 2012, 76 Waupaca County residents have enrolled in Family Care. Of those, 16 were relocated from nursing homes back into the community.
“During my entire career, I’ve faced waiting lists,” Enright said. “Now, there are no waiting lists and it’s time to celebrate and to make people aware of the choices available to them.”
Enright, who has been working in social services since 1979, will retire on Jan. 3, 2013.
He sees the elimination of the waiting lists as a major accomplishment.
“I feel like I met a goal and did a good job of helping people stay in their own homes,” Enright said.