NPR continued their great series about the care of the disabled including this one discussing the growth in population of young people as nursing home residents. Young people ages 31 to 64 now make up 14 percent of the nursing home population, an analysis of federal data from the Department of Health and Human Services by NPR’s Investigative Unit found. That’s up from 10 percent just 10 years ago. In the past 10 years, adults ages 31 to 64 have been the fastest-growing population in nursing homes.
According to a study by the AARP Public Policy Institute, the cost of attendant care is about a third the cost of providing care in a nursing home or institution. So as states face record budget gaps, the programs that help people live at home are cut. Nancy Miller, at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, thinks that may be one reason the percentage of 31- to 64-year-olds is growing in nursing homes. Miller, an associate professor in the school’s department of public policy, has been studying why young people enter nursing homes and published several reports documenting these data. She has found that it’s also this same group going into nursing homes at higher rates. It’s a trend she has found in almost every state over the past 10 years.
Pat McMurry, who runs a nursing home outside Atlanta, agrees that it’s the availability and funding of state programs that has caused the growth of working-age people in nursing homes.
"I’ve been in this business for almost 50 years now," McMurry said. "And traditionally, nursing homes were the little old men or the little old ladies that either outlived their relatives or had some kind of a fall or a fracture. Now we’re seeing a transition to a younger population, either for psychiatric issues, which once upon a time were addressed in psychiatric state hospitals, which a lot of those have closed. So this is really the only means available that are financially reimbursed."
More than 60 percent of what states spend on long-term care for the elderly and disabled goes to pay for people to live in a nursing home. The amount spent on home-based care has grown slowly, but not enough to meet the need. Nationwide, there are some 400,000 people on state waiting lists for home-based care, double the number 10 years ago.
The Community Choice Act would end the "institutional bias" in Medicaid and make it mandatory for states to pay for home-based care, just like it is a requirement to pay for nursing home care now. A pilot program was included in the recent health care overhaul, but it’s voluntary for states. The larger bill has stalled in Congress. The Congressional Budget Office estimates it would only cost $5 billion a year, and would be offset by the cost savings of caring for people at home.
See article from The Washington Post about young quadriplegics in nursing homes.