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Are there alternatives to nursing homes for Illinois residents?

Abuse and neglect in nursing homes has become an issue in Illinois as well as the rest of the country. Families concerned about the problem of nursing home abuse should be aware that there may be alternatives to nursing homes for their loved ones.

What other options exist for seniors with health issues that require some care but do not otherwise compromise their independence? Home care, accessory dwelling units such as residential cottages built onto existing residential housing (often called "mother-in-law units"), subsidized senior housing, board-and-care homes, assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities and respite care all offer some combination of attended and independent living. Naturally, the level of care needed, the elderly person's economic resources, the support of his or her family and the elderly person's current required level of independent living all enter into the equation that helps determine the best fit.

Social workers and discharge planners in hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies may be able to explain the options and assist a senior's family members in arranging for care. Alternative options are also available for vulnerable individuals who may resist or perhaps not really need changes in residence. These include community service programs such as Meals on Wheels, senior centers, adult day care services, and friendly visitor programs. In some communities helpers are available who can assist with bill paying and other financial matters, as well as advisers who can offer legal help and services and aides who can help with transportation and shopping.

If a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, they have the right to seek compensation and other legal relief in court. Consulting a law firm with experience in this field can help family members understand their options.

Source: Medicare.gov, "Alternatives to nursing homes," accessed on Feb. 11, 2015

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