Elderly Care: Pennsylvania

stuart shapiroFor seniors faced with a choice as to where to live so that they can age the most gracefully, Pennsylvania probably shouldn’t be in the running. Even though the state is home to more seniors than the national average, it came in at No. 42 and no. 46 for affordability and long-term care accessibility.

However, according to Pennsylvania’s Department of Aging’s spokeswoman, Christina Reese, things aren’t all bad in the region. Reese believes that Pennsylvania is actually working on setting up initiatives that will ultimately enhance services for their seniors. Indeed, just recently, there was an announcement from the Department of Aging and Department of Public Welfare that the Balancing Incentive program has donated $94m in federal funding for this. So with this additional funding, there is likely to be better services for the elderly in Pennsylvania.

First, close to 1,800 extra elderly Pennsylvanians will be able to access in-home/community-based care. Second, Gov. Tom Corbett launched a program to evaluate Pennsylvania’s long-term care system and ways to improve it. Financing programs seems to still be a large issue though, as Ray Landis, AARP Pennsylvania’s advocacy manager pointed out: “our long-term services are among the most expensive in the country in Pennsylvania.”

Another issue for seniors in Pennsylvania is the low Medicaid reimbursement rates. According to President of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, Dr. Stuart Shapiro, this is part of what is “jeopardizing access to care. [Thus] it is imperative that legislators make senior care a priority in the state budget.”

What thus ends up happening is that the seniors in the region are being cared for by their families – over 1.8 million people fall into the unpaid caregiver bracket. These are unpaid caregivers. Were they to get paid, it would be at a cost of around $20bn per year! Long-term care is simply too expensive for most middle income families to be able to afford. As state director of AARP Pennsylvania, Bill Johnston-Walsh said: “When it comes to helping older Pennsylvanians live in the setting of their choice, this silent army of family caregivers assumes the lion’s share of responsibility. 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.”

There needs to be more help from the state of Pennsylvania for seniors. Greater access and easier affordability for care, needs to be provided by the state.