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Reversing the State's Dismal Care Record

Strong Secretariat Key to Reversing State’s Dismal Care Record

The report, Raising Expectations: A State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers, examined performance in four areas: affordability and access; choice of setting and provider; quality of life and quality of care; and support for family caregivers. It assessed each state’s performance as a whole and on 25 individual indicators. The review included adult day health services, assisted living, nursing homes, home and respite care.

Though, Minnesota, Washington and Oregon rank in the top three, the study shows that all states need to vastly improve in all areas studied.

“While there is definite room for improvement in all areas, Massachusetts ranks too close to the bottom when it comes to the cost of care and an overreliance on institutional care,” said Deborah Banda, director of AARP Massachusetts.

Although Massachusetts ranked 17th overall for affordability and access, the state scored extremely low (46th) in two key indicators within that measurement: median annual nursing home private pay and median annual home care private pay costs as a percentage of median household income. Despite its middle-of-the-pack ranking for overall affordability, Massachusetts is ranked as one of the most expensive states in the nation for those paying for nursing home care.
The state ranked in 14th place for choice of setting and provider, but scored 40th place for the percentage of new Medicaid long-term services and supports users first receiving services in community.

The state’s worst rankings among the four overall dimensions came in quality of life and quality of care (34th) and support for family caregivers (39th). In both, improvement is needed across the board, from adults with disabilities getting needed support in the community (27th) and being satisfied with life (38th) to the use of physical restraints in long-stay nursing homes (35th) and intervention for pressure sores in home health plans for at risk patients (40th).

“This Scorecard is a critical first step toward creating a much more person- and family-centered system of care that delivers services honoring each individual’s dignity and choices,” said Bruce Chernof, president and CEO of The SCAN Foundation.

HHS Secretary Dr. JudyAnn Bigby told the Boston Globe that the state wants to create more community-based group homes for seniors. That’s a proclamation we have heard for years. When the Executive Office of Elder Affairs was a strong secretariat, that office came up with very creative housing ideas that ultimately were cut during budget negotiations.

Bigby also acknowledged the need to pull together the fragmented long-term care network. Yet, this is another long-claimed declaration of hollow words. The obvious lip service teeters on insult, given the seriousness of the issue.

A few years ago, advocates made a plea to Gov. Patrick to restore EOEA to a full secretariat. Nothing came of it. The time to remedy the situation is way overdue. A strong secretariat and an empathetic legislature is the only way to catapult Massachusetts to the top of the national list — to reclaim our state’s standing as a place that supports frail aging residents and their caregivers to live with dignity, and security.

Sondra Shapiro is the executive editor of the Fifty Plus Advocate, the statewide mature market newspaper.

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