New Jersey's State Program to Assist Nursing Home Residents to Move Out from the Homes

Every once and a while my brother and I would see a resident in the home where our mom was staying who looked as if they did not belong in a nursing home. Sometimes a person gets accepted into a nursing home on a temporary basis when the hospital where he/she was treated feels that person is not quite ready to be sent back to his/her home. That is one of the reasons some nursing homes have areas allocated to sub-acute care treatment of patients on a temporary basis. Some individuals get accepted into nursing homes when in fact they really only need a temporary stay in order to be able to put themselves back together again. My brother and I often wondered if there is a way for an individual, especially those who do not have relatives or friends around, to be able to opt out of the nursing home.

Recently we found out New Jersey has begun a pilot program to try and find those individuals who are in nursing homes who may be able to be released from the homes to other more suitable types of living arrangements. The state set up an agency to centralize all of the other state agencies that deal with the elderly. That agency has the long-winded name of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Division of Consumer Support, Office of Long Term Care Options, Community Choice Initiative. For short it is called The New Jersey Community Choice Program. It was the brainchild of Susan Reinhard who holds degrees in both nursing and a Ph.D. in sociology. When the state decided to consolidate all the agencies involved in senior services under one umbrella, she had the concept of retrieval from nursing homes admitted under the aegis of the umbrella. The program has 40 nurses and social workers who so far have transferred over 2500 residents of nursing homes into more appealing settings. The range of transfers include going to assisted-living facilities; foster care families; congregate houses and even back to their own homes. As a critical part of the program it provides the needed follow up checks to make sure that the individual is taken care of in the new environment.

The nurses and social workers visit the nursing homes in New Jersey to find residents who they feel may be eligible to participate in the program. They question officials of the homes to ascertain if there are residents of the nursing home who might be better served by living under other arrangements. According to the latest statistics available almost 20% of the population age 85 and older live in nursing homes. Obviously the program requires that competent professionals must be the ones who make the decision as to whether or not an individual is better off living in an environment outside a nursing home. Even more important than the initial decision however is the need for professional health care follow up that the individual receives once he/she is living under a different arrangement than the nursing home. It is a program that we hope other states start to initiate and determine for themselves how it works out.


By Allan Rubin
March 10, 2001

to e-mail: rehabstrat1@aolcom or

Return to Home