While Alabama has made some progress in the amount of money it provides to keep ailing seniors out of nursing facilities and inside their own homes with adequate healthcare, the state still sits near the bottom in providing long-term eldercare, according to a report card from the AARP.
In “Raising Expectations: A State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers,” only Kentucky ranks lower in its long-term care offerings for seniors and people with disabilities.
The scorecard bases the rankings on data collected to support five categories: Affordability and accessibility; quality of life and quality of care; support for family caregivers; and effective transitions. Minnesota is the top-ranked state for its long-term care offerings.
This is the second such scorecard released by AARP. The first was in 2011. Alabama ranked 50 out of 51 in that report as well. The state has shown some improvement in two categories this time around and declined in two other areas, but much of the data indicates no change in the three years since the first scorecard was published.
For the 2014 scorecard, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska sit at the top of the list alongside Minnesota. Indiana, Tennessee and Mississippi join Kentucky and Alabama at the bottom of the list.
Neal Morrison, executive director of the Alabama Department of Senior Services, said the scorecard does not accurately reflect the level of care the state provides.
“I don’t know where they are getting their information,” Morrison said. “But it is outdated.”
Morrison said Alabama and its Medicaid program have made strides in giving the choice to sick elderly who chose to remain home and receive medical care rather than move into a nursing home. He also said the state goes above and beyond educating caregivers and seniors about the many programs and benefits the state provides for long-term care.
“The world has changed so much in the last few years, it just doesn’t make sense to use data from 2009,” Morrison said.
Enid Kassner, vice president for Livable Communities/Long-Term Services and Supports for the AARP Public Policy Institute, said the data collected for each state is the most recent available. Some of the data dates back to 2009, while some information is from 2013.
She said the scorecard may not make the state look good, but it could provide a roadmap for improvement. “This is not to condemn a state,” Kassner said. “We never say a state is the best. Many states are making improvements.”
According to the scorecard, if Alabama improved to the success rate of the top-ranked state, it would mean about 3,000 fewer people moving into nursing homes and that the state would offer Medicaid to about 37,000 more elderly and disabled residents.
That is important because now most elderly people want the choice to stay at home and receive medical treatment, Kassner said. Also important is affordability of services, which she said remains a challenge for most states.
Morrison said that in the last three years the state has saved $4 million and provided for 8,000 residents through an elderly and disabled persons program that assists people who wish to remain in their own places instead of going to a nursing home.
Morrison also touted the state’s efforts to provide education and information to the elderly, disabled and caregivers on services offered. He said there are 13 resource centers around Alabama that provide information about everything from nursing homes in a specific area to where to sign up for the hot meals program.
There are some areas in the scorecard that show what Alabama is doing right, or at least moving in the right direction. The cost of private pay nursing home care and private pay home healthcare ranks lower than that of many states when compared to the median state income.
The state also ranks 35 out of 51 in the percentage of adults with disabilities in the community who are satisfied or very satisfied with life. The state also shows lower numbers compared with other states of nursing home patients with bedsores.
Morrison said there was definitely room for improvement in the state and that his office will continue to provide more services for seniors and those with disabilities.
To read the full scorecard, click here.