State support for long-term care services for Kentucky seniors and the disabled ranks at the very bottom in a new national report card issued Thursday (June 19) by a trio of organizations, including the AARP. The survey measures the effects of state policy on the ability of older Americans to live independently.
Cathy Allgood Murphy, director of advocacy with AARP Kentucky, says the commonwealth funnels 81 percent of its long-term care money into nursing homes at the expense of home and community-based services. Allgood Murphy says that's way too much.
"They get all the money and it's all for institutional care, even though everyone says keeping those needing long-term care at home is cheaper and results in a better quality of life," she says.
The state-by-state assessment focused on key factors such as the choice of setting, the quality of care and the support provided to family caregivers.
Allgood Murphy says in Kentucky, 730,000 family caregivers provide the majority of daily care on an unpaid basis. She says the state needs to provide these typically unpaid, family caregivers a respite so they can avoid burnout, which often leads to the unwanted decision of having to put a loved one in a nursing home.
"It could be as little as somebody coming in and getting the person up in the morning so that the caregiver can get up and go to work," says Allgood Murphy. "Maybe they use a wheelchair and they can't bathe themselves or dress themselves, but once they're up they can take care of themselves during the day."
Kentucky ranked 51st overall on the national scorecard, which covered all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It was last in affordability and access, and 50th in the choice of setting and providers as well as in quality of life and quality of care. The report warns of a "looming disaster on the horizon" due to aging baby boomers and the lack of a national solution on long-term care.
Bruce Chernof, president and CEO of the SCAN Foundation which advocates for older adults, says Kentucky needs to invest in a better caregiving system now.
"The status quo is by far the most expensive and least person-centered alternative out there," says Chernof, "so anything we can do to advance the rate of change is really important."
AARP is pushing the commonwealth to increase Kentuckians' autonomy and independence by allowing them to choose their own case manager, and make their own decisions about the services they need and when.