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North Dakota: Long Way to Go on Long-Term Care

PHOTO: North Dakota ranks 33rd in the nation for long-term care services and support for older adults, family caregivers, and people with disabilities. Photo credit: Nate Grigg / Flickr.
PHOTO: North Dakota ranks 33rd in the nation for long-term care services and support for older adults, family caregivers, and people with disabilities. Photo credit: Nate Grigg / Flickr.
June 24, 2014

BISMARK, N.D. - With the state's aging population, long-term care is growing in importance, and a new report shows North Dakota has room for improvement.

North Dakota is ranked 33rd in the nation for services and support that help older adults and people with disabilities live independently. Josh Askvig, the associate state director for advocacy with AARP North Dakota, says while the state received high marks for quality of care it received less than stellar ratings in affordability and choice.

"I think the biggest takeaway from this report is we're paying for an awful lot of nursing home care when there are more affordable options available," says Askvig. "You're seeing a lot of people staying in nursing homes for a long time when they would prefer, and should be able, to stay at home with the appropriate public policies in place to allow them to do that."

Called Raising Expectations, the 2014 scorecard was issued by AARP, along with the Commonwealth Fund and the Scan Foundation.

Askvig says one policy that would help improve long-term care in North Dakota would be to balance out the percentage of Medicaid that goes to home and community-based care.

"Right now in North Dakota, for every dollar spent on long-term care, about 85 cents of that goes to a nursing home while only 15 cents goes to a home setting. We'd like to see that closer to 50-50," says Askvig, "where you then have a real option to stay at home."

Askvig notes another critical issue is providing more support for family caregivers, something lawmakers will consider in the next legislative session with a proposal called the Care Act.

"The Care Act would help those family caregivers who are the backbone of our society in long-term care," says Askvig. "It would enable an individual to designate a family caregiver, and would ensure that the family caregiver is notified when the patient is leaving the hospital. It would also flag any medical tasks they would have to perform at home."

Askvig says the number one concern of North Dakotans as they age is how to safely stay in their homes.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND