AARP respondents say they want more options for long-term care in Oklahoma

Monday, February 7th 2005, 6:15 am
By: News On 6

(AP) Most older Oklahomans would rather receive long-term care in their homes than go to nursing homes, according to a recent survey.

A survey by the American Association of Retired Persons polled their members on a variety of long-term health care issues.

The survey also found that nearly all AARP members want violent criminals to be cared for in separate nursing facilities and staff should have to pass background checks.

Survey respondents also said they would like to see more adult day care centers.

Sean Voskuhl, AARP Oklahoma's associate state director, said the survey was clear that Oklahomans want more options for long-term care. AARP is a nonprofit membership organization for people ages 50 and older. The Oklahoma chapter has 401,714 members.

``We spent about $452 million in 2004 on nursing home care and only about 3 percent want to go there,'' Voskuhl said. ``Maybe we need to make some policy decisions to redirect funding for home and community-based care to allow people to stay in their homes. Clearly, that's what seniors are wanting.''

Between 2002 and 2020, the number of Oklahomans reaching age 65 will increase by 42.8 percent. The largest wave of retirements among will occur about 2020.

Right now, about 37 percent of Medicaid funding goes to home and community-based services. Oklahoma is among the top states with available nursing home beds for residents 65 and older, but it's also one of the lowest states for nursing home occupancy rates, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute.

The Long Term Care Authority, based in Tulsa, advocates finance policy changes to make home- and community-based care an entitlement equal to that of nursing home care.

About 53 percent of Oklahoma AARP members would be more than likely to vote for a candidate who supported maintaining and expanding home and community-based health care and long-term services, the survey found.

``Institutional care was the only option several years ago, but people are living longer,'' Voskuhl said. ``A lot of folks are in better shape and just need someone to check on them, do some chores or give them rides to the doctor. This could also be a cost savings.''

The AARP survey of legislative issues was conducted from Oct. 22 to Nov. 19 through the mail. Out of the 2,000 randomly selected members, 1,146 participated for a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

Although most of the members would prefer long-term care in their homes, many will have to spend time in a nursing home.

About 46 percent of people who will turn 65 during the next 20 years will spend some time in a nursing home, the survey said.

Gov. Brad Henry recently proposed a host of nursing home reforms, among them conducting more thorough background checks on staff members, funding additional inspectors and posting sex-offender registries in homes.

Voskuhl said that requiring background checks of all nursing home employees had been an AARP goal for at least two years.

``It's been one of our top legislative priorities,'' he said. ``We want to make sure our most fragile family members and residents have protection.''