"We can't afford to double the number of nursing home beds. That would break the bank," Applebaum said.
To further strain the system, steady increases in disability numbers are also anticipated for younger age groups.
"Given the population growth, Ohio must invest in home- and community-based services in this budget," said Jane Taylor, AARP Ohio state director. "A lack of action now creates a spending imbalance we can't afford in the future."
AARP Ohio continues to push for reform, testifying at state budget hearings and lobbying legislators and the governor's office to shift more money toward keeping people in their homes as long as possible. It also has provided background information and talking points to its members and encouraged them to speak on the issue to their local lawmakers.
Bonnie Dingess, director of long-term care programs for the District 7 Area Agency on Aging in southern Ohio, encourages older people and their families to plan for long-term care.
"Many folks come to us when they're in a state of crisis," Dingess said. It's easier to start with a lower level of services at home and ramp up later as needed, she said.
All 12 of Ohio's area agencies on aging offer free, in-home assessments. Call your local agency, or 1-866-243-5678 toll-free, or go to ohioaging.org, to learn more.The assessments include full medical and financial reviews, said social worker Linda Oiler of District 7. Using that information, she can educate people on all the programs available to them.
Older residents in 72 of Ohio's 88 counties benefit from dedicated tax programs covering everything from meals to transportation. And not all require Medicaid-level income eligibility.
For those who do qualify for Medicaid, PASSPORT is the state's biggest home care program, with nearly 32,000 people enrolled.
For Edith and Carl Meyers, the program allows the couple, married for 64 years, to stay together. When aides arrive to bathe and dress Edith, Carl can run errands, knowing his wife is comfortable, with her belongings within reach."There's just something about being home," Carl Meyers said. "It's good therapy. It makes you feel better."
Sarah Hollander is a freelance writer living in Cleveland, Ohio.