AARP report: First State lagging in long-term services for aging adults and caregivers
A new national scorecard puts Delaware in the bottom half of states when it comes to the long-term services and support it provides for older adults, adults with disabilities - and their family caregivers.
The First State ranked 29th according to the report produced by AARP, The Commonwealth Fund, and the SCAN Foundation.
Delaware is considered especially weak in support for family caregivers – where it places 40th in the nation.
AARP Delaware Advocacy Director Shelia Grant says her group has specifically focused on this area recently. It was a driving force behind the state passing the CARE Act last year. That requires hospitals to communicate more clearly with caregivers and offer demonstrations of medical tasks they’ll need to perform after discharge
But Grant says that’s just a first step for Delaware where a 2014 survey found at any given time 123,000 people are serving as family caregivers for aging loved ones or family members with disabilities.
“They are really making the system work. They’re the key," said Grant. "We’re not paying them and they are keeping people out of institutions and keeping people cared for."
Grant adds there are some ways Delaware can improve quickly.
One example she offered is changing state law to give nurses aides more latitude in what they can do when they are hired to assist caregivers
“If you were to take a parent into live with you, for instance, who needed care during the day and you are still working, and you hired help to come in to take care of mom or dad, and they needed medication during the day, that aide would not be allowed according to state law to give those medications," said Grant. "Even if you gave permission, and put them in a bottle and said ‘Give this to Mom at lunchtime,’ they wouldn’t be allowed to do that.
Grant says lifting state limitations on advanced practice nurses could also help, potentially allowing those nurses to set up practices in underserved areas like Sussex County and lower Kent County.
Grant says AARP is also advocating for more workplace flexibility, and would like the state to focus on making respite care available.
“So [family caregivers] can take vacations. The rest of us with paid work get vacation days and vacation weeks during the year, but family caregivers are on all the time,” said Grant.
The scorecard also finds Delaware lagging in affordability and access to these long-term services and choice of setting and provider.
The report says the pace of improvement here and nationwide must accelerate – pointing to the fact Baby Boomers will begin to turn 80 in less than 10 years, increasing the demand for these services.
AARP officials say there's a 50-50 chance a person turning 65 today will eventually need long-term care.