Op-Ed by Francis E. Parker Memorial Home CEO Featured in Burlington County Times
This op-ed by Francis E. Parker Memorial Home CEO Roberto Muniz originally appeared in the Burlington County Times. To read the full article, click here
The state Department of Health and Senior Services has documented the many financial abuses in the adult day care system, reporting numerous providers who have scammed Medicaid to reap small fortunes off the backs of taxpayers.
Negative stories abound in the media: Day care providers telling the elderly to lie to state investigators about their needs, people with disabilities placed in wheelchairs when they are able to walk, and even one case where a client with alleged heart failure and severe asthma was spotted cutting the center's grass. All these examples illustrate the extent that unscrupulous providers will go to collect Medicaid payments.
With investigators suspecting that nearly one-third of the state's adult day care centers committed some form of Medicaid fraud, according to published reports, it was no surprise that the state stopped issuing new licenses for adult day care centers in 2008. And, in an April 16 decision, that moratorium will be in place until at least Nov. 1.
But while the Department of Health and Senior Services remains hesitant to allow any new centers to open, the demand in New Jersey for home and community-based long term care services is growing and adult day care is a cost-effective option.
Adult day care centers, if operated honestly, are beneficial. They make life easier for older New Jerseyans, giving them a safe and supportive place to receive quality care throughout the day. Services vary among centers, but include medical care, stimulating activities and exercise, and nutritious meals and snacks. They also provide transportation within a designated service area, making care and support accessible, and give caregivers, such as a spouse or child, a break from 24-hour-a-day care.
Center staff is trained to monitor medical issues and communicate changes in health to caregivers. For example, a scratchy throat or a fever could ultimately become a costly stay in a hospital if left untreated. Having a hot, fresh, nutritious lunch supports a daily balanced diet minimizing risk of dehydration or malnourishment. An engaging walk with friends around the grounds can replace another inactive hour in front of a television.
Adult care centers, which receive $78.50 a day from Medicaid for each person served, are saving taxpayers a small fortune. Consider this: if not for these adult day care centers, many more seniors would be placed in skilled nursing homes, where the government would be spending significantly more to care for them, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Aside from cost, adult day centers honor every senior's wish to remain home for as long as possible.
Around New Jersey there are a variety of adult day programs. At Parker, we offer two types, supporting both the social and medical needs of seniors. The social program, available five hours each weekday, is for socially isolated elderly, who need motivation and support to maintain an active lifestyle while managing aging issues. Participants benefit from the wellness center, take in a movie, use the hair salon, attend rehabilitation therapy and engage in a host of other stimulating activities.
We also offer a medical program, available eight hours each weekday, that provides health services, such as monitoring glucose levels, managing medications and providing clinical support for elderly with functional or cognitive challenges.
Additionally, the program provides many activities that support the social and emotional needs of participants.
Parker offers supportive education to caregiver families and assistance with care options as participant needs grow.
The time is now for New Jersey officials to plot a future for adult day care, as statistics show there are now 1.13 million seniors living in the state and the numbers are quickly growing.
We are grateful that the state identified the unethical sources of fraud in adult day health services, and put corrective actions in place. It's time for state officials to lift the moratorium on new adult day centers, so that more high quality adult day programs can become available.
As the state is encouraging long-term care funding to move to home-and-community based services, supporting the growth of adult day programs makes fiscal sense and is the right thing to do for a growing demographic of New Jerseyans who want to remain at home with the support of affordable community resources.