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AARP Makes Case for Investments to Save Long-Term Care Costs

Wyoming currently spends $138 million per year for long-term care costs, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. (Pixabay)
Wyoming currently spends $138 million per year for long-term care costs, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. (Pixabay)
January 15, 2019

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — As Wyoming lawmakers work to create a state budget with smaller revenues from oil and gas production, advocates for people 50 and over are making the case that up-front investments in home and community-based services for aging residents will save the state millions in nursing-home costs.

Tom Lacock, associate state director of AARP Wyoming, said programs that offer assistance with cleaning, cooking and light medical care are critical for residents who want to age in their own homes.

"There's a significant population of folks who are able to live at home if they have just a little bit of extra help, and that's what these services do,” Lacock said. “Generally speaking, they're far less expensive than putting someone into a nursing home."

Wyoming spends an average of $88,000 a year per person for nursing-home care, compared with just $1,500 a year for home and community-based services. The state currently is on the hook for $138 million per year for long-term care costs, and according to the Wyoming Department of Health, that number could rise above $300 million by 2030.

Still, Lacock said he understands lawmakers face a daunting task of prioritizing programs under current budget constraints. He said investing $750,000 in three key areas – the Wyoming Home Services Program, the National Family Caregiver Support program, and the state's Senior Centers – will help the state get out in front of shifting demographics.

Wyoming's population of residents age 85 and over is projected to grow by 227 percent by 2050.

"It's a good spend in terms of keeping state budgets in line,” he said. “And it also helps us take care of those who have, frankly, taken care of us for so many years."

The federal National Family Caregiver Support program helps family members who provide in-home care, through counseling and light chores so caregivers can get out of the house for work or to run errands.

Wyoming has not invested in the program's local match since 2013, leaving many counties unable to bring federal tax dollars back to the state.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY