AARP Report Discusses State of Long-term Support Services

The changing demographics of the United States are well-known: the country is getting older. This certainly holds true in Chicago and throughout Illinois. The aging of the Baby Boomer generation and increasing longevity (due to advances in medicine) have made individuals in their 70s and 80s the fastest growing group of community members. It is incumbent upon society to take these demographics into account–particularly policymakers. Understanding the best course of action on any number of fronts–health care, taxes, transportation, accessibility, and more–requires an understanding of the actual make-up of the country.

It is from that perspective that the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) recently published its annual report- Across the States 2012: Profiles of Long Term Services and Supports.

The full report can be accessed here.

AARP Report
This year represents the eighteenth that the AARP has issued this helpful reference guide. The goal, according to the organization is to “help inform policy discussions among public and private sector leaders in long-term services and supports throughout the United States.”

It is helpful to look at state specific information, but there were many trends picked up in the overall comparisons that may have implications down the road. For example, despite the focus on the availability of public and private support, family aid remains the most popular manner of aid to seniors. The estimated value of caregiving provided by family members is $450 billion a year–dwarfing the cost of care provided even by Medicaid (4 times larger).

In addition, the costs of care in nursing homes is often two or three times as high as care at home or in community-based settings. However, public funding for at-home or community-based care was still half that of nursing home payments.

Illinois-Specific Information
The report offers some interesting information on support services available in Illinois and how that compares with the rest of the country. Interestingly, we are near the bottom of the pack when it comes to total amount of family caregivers. We have about 129 caregivers per 1,000 community members. The national average is 137 caregivers, placing us 38th in the country. We rank 7th when it comes to total Medicaid expenditures. Yet our participation in at-home and community based services as a percentage of that spending is low. Only 34% of the payments are for those services, placing us in the bottom-third nationwide. We are even worse as a percentage of total long-term care and support payments for nursing home alternatives–ranking 46th.

Interestingly, the lower percentage of payments does not translate directly into lower numbers of individuals using at-home or community based support. In fact, we have some of the largest percentage of the total population using at home services either for disability or age related issues. In other words, the payment percentages seem low but the participation is high.

It is helpful to look at the full report to get specific details about the type of support services provided in Illinois and how that compares with other states. These sorts of analyses may prove useful in coming years as debates about how to care for our growing senior population makes more and more headlines.

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