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Seeking The Best Place For Long-Term Care? Head North

Updated at 1:00 p.m.

If you think there’s a demand now for long-term care services, just wait 20 years. By the time baby boomers hit their 70s and 80s, there will be a huge surge in need.

And, according to a report released today, in many places there isn’t nearly enough to help to go around. The report aims for first time to comprehensively measure the availability of accessible, affordable and quality long term care to the elderly and disabled — as well as support for caregivers — in each of the 50 states and D.C.  And it found a wide variation. Consider these facts:

  • The percent of nursing home residents in physical restraints is under 1 percent in Kansas, but nearly 8 percent in California.
  • The cost of nursing homes averages 166 percent of median household income in Utah and the District of Columbia and 444 percent in Alaska.
  • For every 1,000 residents, Minnesota has 108 home health and personal care aides, compared to 13 per thousand in Kentucky.

“This report will help states make and sustain targeted improvements so that people can live and age with dignity in their own homes and communities,” said Susan Reinhard, senior vice president at AARP, one of the organizations — along with the Commonwealth Fund and The SCAN Foundation — responsible for the study.

It ranked states on 25 categories such as hospitalization of nursing home residents, percent of patients getting home and community based services and cost of nursing home care relative to state’s average household income.

“Measurement is key to improvement,” said Bruce Chernof, president and CEO of the SCAN Foundation. “This scorecard is a groundbreaking opportunity to begin that discussion.”

Minnesota ranked first for overall performance. Mississippi ranked last.

Patti Cullen, CEO of Care Providers, an association of long- term care providers in Minnesota, said she wasn’t surprised by the state’s top rating. “Both the public sector policies and private sector responses over the past decade have resulted in a solid infrastructure for seniors which gives them many choices along the spectrum of care,” she said.

While state efforts to provide long term services can vary based on their Medicaid spending, Reinhard said there are low-cost ways that states can improve their performance, such as allowing personal care aides to have more flexibility to help patients with more activities of daily living. “Its not all about the money,” she said.

Note: The Scan Foundation supports some of KHN’s aging coverage.