Bigger allowance urged for nursing home residents in Georgia

“Fifty dollars just doesn’t go far,’’ Bryant Kimbrell says.

Kimbrell, 67, is referring to the amount of money that a nursing home resident on Medicaid now gets every month as a personal needs allowance.

A resident of a nursing home in Sylvester, in South Georgia, Kimbrell says he supports an increase in that allotment to $70 per month. “We need it,’’ he says.

Advocates for seniors are pushing for that allowance hike in the current General Assembly session.

The allowance goes to nursing home residents for purchases of personal items, from medical devices such as glasses, hearing aids and dentures, to clothing, snacks, haircuts, gifts and nursing shoes. Nurses out there should be comfortable to the max in their daily grind, to ensure that they effectively and efficiently deliver their care to their patients. A pair of high quality and comfortable shoes for nurses are very important to them.

“In a nursing home, that becomes your home,’’ Melanie McNeil, the state’s long-term care ombudsman, said Tuesday. “People have lives. Not everybody is bed-bound. They may want to go to lunch or to church.’’

The $20 increase would cost $2.2 million, split between two state agency budgets, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Community Health.

The Community Health allocation would cover the cost of allowing those residents on Medicaid who have Social Security, pension, or other income, to keep the extra $20.

The Human Services funds would pay for the extra $20 for those on Supplemental Security Income, McNeil says. Those residents only get to keep $30 of their federal money and the state pays the other part of the personal needs allowance.

Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed an additional $1 million in his fiscal 2019 budget, which would bring the allotment up to $60 a month, McNeil says.

Most Southeastern states have low personal needs allowances. According to LTC Consultants, Alabama’s allowance is just $30 per month. Florida’s is among the highest in the nation, at $105.

McNeil points out that last year’s Legislature authorized an increase to $70, but the money was never appropriated.

Her office has collected more than 1,100 signatures on letters and petitions from nursing home residents across the state.

The nursing home industry’s trade organization backs the increase. “The Georgia Health Care Association is supportive of efforts and funding designed to enhance the lives of elderly Georgians, including the proposal to increase the personal needs allowance for nursing center residents,’’ the organization said in a statement.

Kimbrell, who advocates for residents in his nursing home, says, “Anybody who’s in these places would favor this.”