By: Harley Tabak, President & CEO of Jewish Home Life Communities
As the recent Atlanta Jewish Community Study reports, Atlanta is experiencing a wave of older adults moving here from all over the country to live close to their adult children and age in place. Our data confirms it — nearly half of our assisted living residents are new to Atlanta. It’s a statistic that worries us now that steep cuts to Medicaid, the largest funder of skilled nursing homes, are under consideration. Forty-two percent of all Medicaid dollars are spent on adults living in nursing homes. As part of our mission to care for older adults, regardless of financial ability to pay, The William Breman Jewish Home reserves approximately 50% of its long-term beds for Medicaid recipients. So for Jewish Home Life Communities (JHLC), and also for clients of Jewish Family & Career Services, the threat is considerable. Read more about how Medicaid impacts the people we serve.
At JHLC we see that the growing desire to “age in place” has created new demand for more home-like and home-based services, and we have done our best to answer the call. Over the past five years, Jewish Home Life Communities (JHLC) has more than doubled its capacity to care for older adults, as well as those dealing with chronic health conditions both in metro Atlanta and beyond. One of our biggest challenges is providing the high level of service that our community expects and our loved ones deserve, but at a price that they can afford at the time they need it.
Rapid growth has enabled us to “expand the walls” of our nursing home. We now provide services anywhere in the metro area with the addition of our at-home care agency, The One Group. We’ve also tripled the capacity of our assisted living services with the addition of Berman Commons in Dunwoody. These two geographically flexible service options provide greater access to a wider range of care, from independent living through hospice.
It is fortuitous timing that JHLC is working on a strategic plan that will help guide our organization moving forward, as we proactively address the need for quality care options for our rapidly growing aging population. We’ve been working collaboratively with Federation’s Aging Advisory Committee on these issues as our community anticipates changes in Medicaid, and eventually Medicare, the primary funding sources for older adults in our nursing home, and the community.
Longer life spans and spiraling health care costs make it likely that more older adults will run out of money and become dependent on Medicaid. It’s important to note that Medicaid-funded nursing home residents are not just lower-income families. They are elderly or chronically health-impaired individuals who have exhausted their savings on care and now need the highest level of care, which is also the most expensive. At JHLC, our typical Medicaid recipient is someone like your friend’s mother or grandfather, who paid for a helper to come to the house (at $13-$25/hour) until he or she was no longer able to afford it. And, their sandwich-generation adult children are typically still in the workforce and often unable to provide or help fund at-home care like previous generations.
Our strategic plan will offer the guidance for us to grow and scale services while adequately supporting those who cannot afford what they need. JHLC will continue to develop businesses that address the growing desire for flexible care options regardless of what happens in the ongoing healthcare debate. We will also continue to partner with the other agencies that support older adults for the benefit of all of Jewish Atlanta. This balance of mission and good financial stewardship is our ongoing commitment to you, and what has enabled us to provide care, resources and peace of mind for generations.