The Register-Mail: Some services for Illinois elderly, disabled in limbo

From The Register-Mail

by Sophia Tareen

SPRINGFIELD — Mary Schnell rises around 6 a.m. each day to help dress, feed and give medicine to her husband of nearly 65 years, who has dementia that affects his memory, his movements and makes him disoriented even in their Springfield home.

The 82-year-old Schnell says it’s an around-the-clock job and she can’t manage without state-backed adult day care and an attendant who tackles errands. But that type of long-term assistance could end soon for tens of thousands of elderly and disabled residents if Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration pushes ahead with eligibility changes. His office says the move — with roots in a Medicaid overhaul lawmakers approved in 2012 — could save the cash-strapped state an estimated $127 million.

Opponents question the savings. They say cuts to at-home and community services are closer to $250 million and argue that booting people raises other costs, like emergency room visits or nursing home care. The debate comes as the Democratic-controlled Legislature and first-term Republican governor remain deadlocked on a budget. Public comment on the issue closed Saturday, then it’s up to state agencies and the federal government.

“It makes all the difference in the world,” Schnell said of the eight hours a week that her husband John, a former cement company technician, is at a care facility. “It gives me a little bit of a chance to relax. I can just rest, not feel the full weight of responsibility.”

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