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FL Flubs Long-Term Care: Report

Florida can do a better job of caring for its elderly and disabled residents and the loved ones who care for them, a new report says.

The state ranked 43rd nationwide in a new AARP scorecard on long-term care released today, which measured criteria from affordability and access to choice of setting and providers. In particular, Florida placed dead last or near the bottom regarding quality of life and quality of care regarding adults with disabilities.

It’s also disheartening, state AARP leaders say, to see Florida’s low performance (40th) in support it provides for family caregivers. An estimated 2.8 million Floridians oversee the daily health of an aging parent or spouse.

“Many juggle full-time jobs with their caregiving duties; others provide 24/7 care for their loved ones,” Jeff Johnson, AARP’s Florida state director, said in a written statement. “With every task they undertake, these family caregivers help keep their loved ones out of costly nursing homes – most often paid for by Medicaid. They have earned some basic support.”

This is just the second time AARP, with the Commonwealth Fund, has issued a report focusing on long-term care, but it comes at a time when the nation’s population is growing older and will need more care.

It’s an enormous financial burden for many, as the government’s Medicare program for seniors doesn’t cover long-term care. And assistance via the state/federal Medicaid program includes long waiting lists in Florida. Ideally, the elderly age independently, or in a home- or community-based setting such as a nursing home or assisted living facility, said Susan Reinhard, AARP senior vice president for public policy.

“So if you’re in a nursing home, you get the care for your pneumonia or for an infection that you may have, rather than getting shipped right to a hospital,” she said. “Because just the mere transfer to the hospital, for someone with dementia, can be very disruptive and they may not return even to the state that they were in to begin with.  There’s lots of research around that.”

The scorecard ranks states in 26 different categories. Florida performed among the 10 best states in three, including the percentage of new nursing home patients who stay 100 days or more, or the percentage of people who successfully transfer from a nursing home back into the community. To see a full breakdown, visit longtermscorecard.org.