A long-term care crisis is looming. The demographics of the country are changing such that the Baby Boomer generation is getting older. They are now beginning to retire, and each year more and more of them will be in need of long-term elder care in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. However, there is a problem-the number of nursing homes and assisted living facilities is actually shrinking. Nationwide, over the last six years the total number of nursing homes have decreased by 350. This decline comes at a time when thousands more seniors have entered the ranks of those needing extra elder care. The New York Times reported last week on these developments and the way that shifting care priorities might be the main solution to address the looming problem.
As our Illinois elder abuse lawyers know, it is unlikely that new construction will be able to keep up with the pace of the aging population. It is hard to image that enough new buildings (and beds) will be created to ensure that all those who need a space, have it. Instead, the entire senior care model needs to be re-examined. As the Times story suggests, the re-examination will likely take the form of managed at-home caregiving options. Our elder care attorneys have long been a proponent of quality at-home care. Not only is it more cost-effective, but, when done right, it usually maximizes the senior’s quality of life.
For example, New York is already changing the way it allocates Medicaid funds for long-term care, expecting to shift upwards of 80,000 participants into at-home programs over the next three years. The head of the Medicaid program explained the benefit of the shift. He noted, “It used to be that if you needed some kind of long-term care, the only way you could get that service was in a nursing home…that means we were institutionalizing service for people, many of whom didn’t need 24-hour nursing care.”
Now, those relying on these programs for long-term senior care are getting more tailored help. A large part of the push is being led by Washington as federal leaders look for ways to trim growing medical care and senior care costs. The fact that these at-home care options are both more cost effective and of better quality make them particularly attractive for policymakers.
Each Chicago elder abuse attorney at our firm applauds the steps taken by those looking for ways to allow seniors to “age in place.” Nursing home care at many of the poorest facilities is rampant with mistreatment. Anything that can be done to spare the seniors living there of the hardship that this negligence brings is a step forward. However, it will remain important to keep a close eye on the care that is provided by the at-home caregivers as well. These living arrangements come with their own potential for mistreatment and abuse that must be guarded against. We encourage all local residents to consistently check up on loved ones who are being cared for at home to ensure that their experience is a positive one void of neglect.
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