St. Petersburg, Fla. – Florida ranks 43rd in the U.S. in helping older Floridians and their families to live independently at home and in their communities, according to a new AARP scorecard issued today. AARP Florida’s state director said state leaders should accelerate the pace of change and focus especially on programs paid for with state tax dollars that help families keep their disabled and frail older loved ones living at home and in their communities.
The report was one of a nationwide series of state scorecards issued by AARP for all 50 states and the District of Columbia this week, with support from the nation’s leading organizations behind quality long-term care, The Commonwealth Fund and SCAN Foundation.
Raising Expectations 2014: A State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers – an update of the inaugural 2011 Scorecard – ranks each state overall and within 26 performance indicators along five key dimensions: affordability and access; choice of setting and provider; quality of life and quality of care; support for family caregivers; and, effective transitions. New indicators this year include length of stay in nursing homes and use of anti-psychotic drugs by nursing homes, raising serious concerns about the quality of institutional care.
“More than nine of 10 Floridians 50+ want to live independently, at home, as they grow older. And millions do, with the help of unpaid family caregivers,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP’s Florida state director. “Florida made some modest steps in the right direction in the 2014 legislative session by increasing support through the new statewide managed long-term care initiative and through better funding for Community Care for the Elderly and related programs.”
“But a ranking of 43rd is poor performance for a state with a higher proportion of 65+ residents than any other state,” said Johnson, noting that state economists predict Florida’s 75+ population will grow more than four times faster than the overall population between 1980 and 2030. “Florida’s leaders need to pick up the pace of change. At AARP, we call on voters to ask candidates for all state offices this year how they plan to address this important issue.”
Today, unpaid family caregivers provide the bulk of care for older Floridians. In Florida, nearly 2.8 million family caregivers help their aging parents, spouses and other loved ones stay at home by providing assistance with bathing and dressing, transportation, finances, complex medical tasks like wound care and injections, and more. The value of this unpaid care totals about $29 billion, according to a 2011 AARP report based on 2009 data.
“When it comes to helping older or disabled Floridians to live in the setting of their choice, this silent army of family caregivers assumes the lion’s share of responsibility,” explains Johnson. “Many juggle full-time jobs with their caregiving duties; others provide 24/7 care for their loved ones. With every task they undertake, these family caregivers save the state money by keeping their loved ones out of costly nursing homes – most often paid for by Medicaid. They have earned some basic support.”
According to the state Scorecard, Florida ranks 40th in the nation on a combination of factors representing support for family caregivers.
That’s why AARP fought in the 2014 Legislature to increase funding for Community Care for the Elderly and other related programs, which help support family caregivers and helps frail older Floridians remain in their homes and communities as long as possible. The state Legislature modestly increased funding for these programs in a year in which a growing state economy produced a state surplus of more than $1 billion.
Florida performed even more poorly on quality of care and quality of life indicators, attaining a ranking of 43rd in the nation. Florida ranked dead last in the nation on the percentage of adults 18+ with disabilities saying they were satisfied or very satisfied with their lives.
Another area of concern for AARP is the state’s ranking of 40th in the proportion of Medicaid (which combines federal and state dollars) and state funding going to help families and their loved ones to live in their homes and communities, compared to an institutional setting such as a nursing home. Some 23.5 percent of state and Medicaid funding went to support families in home- and community-based care, well below the national average of 31.4 percent and far below the highest-ranking state’s share, which was 65.4 percent.
“This Scorecard gives us a snapshot of how well Florida serves our older residents, those with disabilities, and family caregivers – and shows us where we must sharpen our focus to better assist hardworking Floridians,” concluded Johnson. “Now is the time for policymakers to act.”
Of the 26 Scorecard indicators, 13 may be improved through state policy changes, pointing to the importance of AARP’s multi-state advocacy campaign, launched this year, to help older Americans live independently, at home, and the family caregivers that support them. Currently, AARP volunteers and staff in 42 states are advocating as part of the campaign, including AARP Florida.
Long-term care (also called long-term services and supports) is a diverse set of services designed to help older people and those with disabilities; services can be provided in a person’s home, in a community setting such as an adult day center, or in a group residential facility like a nursing home.
The full state Scorecard, along with an interactive map of state rankings and information, is available at www.longtermscorecard.org.
# # #
About AARP: AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of nearly 38 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services. Learn more at www.aarp.org.