The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District and local group Advocates for Aging Care have launched a survey to help identify the state of senior services in Champaign County.
Champaign County is currently short more than 300 skilled nursing home beds, according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
The survey will help local hospitals, the public health district and county officials identify which resources and issues are most affecting local seniors and their caregivers. After the results of the survey come in, the county will work with an outside consultant to create a business plan to address the most pressing issues.
Over 1,000 nursing homes have closed in the U.S. between 2015 and 2022, according to the American Health Care Association. Many of the closures can be attributed to a growing national trend of “flipping” nursing homes — driven by the ownership shift from small, non-profits to for-profit corporations.
Champaign is no different, Cathy Emanuel, the founder of Advocates for Aging Care, said in an interview. The local group of activists is focused on improving the quantity and quality of Champaign County’s senior services.
Senior residents often can’t find the skilled nursing they need, Emanuel said. That has made it impossible for many seniors to stay in Champaign and forced them into nursing homes in neighboring counties and states.
“People are having to stay in the hospital longer than they should because we can’t get them placed in an appropriate skilled nursing bed,” Emanuel said. “You’ll get put on waiting lists or have to go to Bloomington or Springfield.”
In total, Champaign County has lost 463 nursing home beds since 2019 after Illinois-based nursing home operator William “Avi” Rothner closed his three skilled nursing facilities, according to 2021 Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) counts of beds in the facilities.
Champaign County is well below the average number of skilled nursing beds in counties throughout the state, Emanuel said of state public health calculations.
“Overall for the state, there’s 17% excess of skilled nursing beds,” she said. “In our community, there’s a 40% deficit.”
National data shows that beds are disappearing while the need for senior care is growing. This problem will only multiply because of the rapid projected growth of U.S. residents ages 65 and older — from 56 million in 2020 to 81 million by 2040.
This comes after CU-CitizenAccess reported on the state of eldercare in Champaign County, including the closure of independent living apartments for seniors, how county officials ignored warnings about a nursing home operator who closed three local facilities and how facilities that remain open are short-staffed.