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AR Long-term Care Has a Long Way to Go

PHOTO: Arkansas is receiving failing marks in providing long-term care, and according to the AARP, the state could save money and make people happier by helping them stay in their own homes. Photo credit: Martin Dixon / AARP.
PHOTO: Arkansas is receiving failing marks in providing long-term care, and according to the AARP, the state could save money and make people happier by helping them stay in their own homes. Photo credit: Martin Dixon / AARP.
June 19, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - When it comes to long-term care, a newly-released state-by-state scorecard on long-term care services shows Arkansas doing a poor job supporting families and caregivers, coming in at 40th place out of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Released by the AARP, the national state-by-state survey measures the effects of state policy on the ability of older Americans to live independently. The report argues helping the elderly stay in their homes instead of sending them to nursing homes could save a significant amount of money, and make people happier.

Herb Sanderson, associate state director for advocacy at AARP Arkansas, says the state could save at least $77 million per year by helping keep people in their own homes. He says one key component is doing more to support the family members who provide the bulk of long-term care.

"Family members do a great job, and it makes financial sense and common sense to help people stay in their own homes," says Sanderson. "There is a whole variety of things that need to happen, and they need to happen soon."

While he gives credit to the Department of Human Services for taking steps which are now beginning to work, Sanderson adds the state should do more to inform residents, provide better incentives and more support for in-home care givers. He suggests more respite services to give exhausted family members some relief from day-to-day caregiving, and says a big issue is helping folks transition back out of a nursing home after a short spell of ill health.

"They may have a fall, they may have pneumonia or something that may require them to have a temporary stay," says Sanderson. "But we don't need to have people in there that get better and improve."

Sanderson says overall Arkansas is not spending tax dollars "as wisely as it could," given that it's cheaper, and people are happier, if they can stay in their own homes. But he notes a number of other states have started to make that shift, and Arkansas can follow their example.

"What we need to do is look at these other states and learn from them," says Sanderson. "There are road maps out there; we just need to look at them and follow them."

Sanderson stresses the state is running out of time because of the ever-increasing age of the overall population.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - AR