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WA Ranks High on Long-Term Care Scorecard

GRAPHIC: A new survey ranks Washington second in the nation for long-term care services and support, but nursing home employee turnover and overall affordability of care remain two areas of concern. Photo courtesy AARP.
GRAPHIC: A new survey ranks Washington second in the nation for long-term care services and support, but nursing home employee turnover and overall affordability of care remain two areas of concern. Photo courtesy AARP.
June 19, 2014

SEATTLE - The system of long-term services and support that allows people to remain in their homes as they age is in good shape in Washington, despite constant state budget pressures which advocates warn could change it.

While a new scorecard from the AARP ranks Washington second in the nation with high marks for giving people choices in care settings and providers, a closer look at the rankings finds a few areas of concern, including affordability of care.

Ingrid McDonald, advocacy director for AARP Washington, says only 66 out of 1,000 people in the state have long-term care insurance to help with those costs.

"The average cost of nursing home care is two-and-a-half times the median income for people 65 and older, and the cost of home-care per year is about 90 percent of the median income for older people," says McDonald. "Trying to pay for these things out-of-pocket is extremely difficult for most people, and very quickly, their money runs out."

She says long-term care cost is a key topic of the Legislature's Joint Committee on Aging and Disability, which is meeting this summer.

Washington ranks 38th in the survey for supporting family caregivers. While the state has a Family Caregiver Support Program, McDonald says it isn't well-funded and reaches only one percent of those who are caring for loved ones at home.

Overall, the scorecard ranks states' performance on 26 measures, from staff turnover in nursing homes to Medicaid funding. Dr. Bruce Chernof, president and CEO of the SCAN Foundation, a survey partner, says it points to the need for addressing concerns quickly, as baby boomers hit retirement age.

"We need to build and invest in a better system now," says Chernof. "The status quo is by far the most expensive and least person-centered alternative out there, so anything we can do to advance the rate of change is really important."

The scorecard also examined people's quality of care and quality of life. Other states that ranked in the top five are Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA