Oklahoma's baby boomers want nursing home upgrades

Tuesday, October 28th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- As the baby boomer generation gets ready for retirement, older Oklahomans are demanding changes in eldercare, a survey shows.

The survey, conducted for the American Association of Retired Persons, showed the vast majority Oklahomans over 50 want tighter regulation of nursing homes, increased staffing levels and strict requirements for reporting abuse and neglect.

The telephone poll of 800 older Oklahomans was taken by the Virginia-based Woelfel Research, Inc., and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Marjean Mitchell, AARP volunteer, said the results make it clear older Oklahomans recognize the need for long-term care reform.

"Without stronger safeguards, the challenge of long-term care in Oklahoma will only grow as the baby boomer generation prepares for retirement," Mitchell said.

Ninety-five percent of those responding to the survey favored strengthening the enforcement of quality standards at nursing homes.

Ninety-three percent opposed changing reporting requirements so that nursing homes would no longer have to immediately report cases of abuse and neglect. The same percentage wanted to keep the right to take nursing homes to court in abuse and neglect cases.

By similar percentages, those surveyed said it was vital for the state to closely monitor how nursing homes spend public funds and to provide the proper amount of hands-on care to clients.

Not surprisingly, more than nine in 10 of those polled preferred staying in their homes or in residential care centers over going to nursing homes.

"I've never met anyone who wanted to go to a nursing home," said Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, who has sponsored legislation to improve elder care.

Since it is a reality that people wind up in nursing homes because of incapacitating conditions, policy makers must work to improve their quality of life, Hamilton said.

Among other things, the AARP is supporting restoration of increased nursing home staffing levels that were postponed because of a lack of funding, background checks for nontechnical workers and additional training for dementia care and pain management.

Ester Houser, state long-term care ombudsman, said there had been improvements in regulation of nursing homes after changes at the scandal-plagued state Department of Health.

However, there is much room for improvement at nursing homes in safeguarding an increasingly vulnerable clientele, Houser said.