Law encourages departure from nursing homes

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A new law will keep frail, elderly Massachusetts seniors at home more often, and expressly out of nursing homes. Gov. Mitt Romney signed the law Thursday, giving Medicaid beneficiaries more options for private or at-home care.

The law mandates counseling for beneficiaries considering nursing home care -- to determine if staying at home or in another private setting would be a better option. Home care, private nursing, adult foster care and personal care attendants all figure to receive bigger funding streams under the new law.

The onset of baby boomers turning 65 and increased life spans have driven health officials and policy makers to look for funding alternatives, said state Elder Affairs Secretary Jennifer Davis Carey. Meanwhile, technological advances allow more caregiving to take place at home, she noted.

"Nursing homes have changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Half the people we serve go back to their homes," pointed out David Ball, spokesman for the Massachusetts Extended Care Federation. "In many ways, we're working toward the same thing."