Kansas’ efforts to address the ever-burgeoning needs of its aged and disabled populations rank 17th best in the nation, according to a scorecard released Thursday by AARP.
“Seventeenth — that places us in the second quartile of states, or somewhere toward the middle of the road,” says Maren Turner, director of AARP Kansas. “Kansas can do better than that. I mean, who wants to receive middle-of the-road services? Most people don’t.”
Kansas ranked 18th in a similar report last year. It came in ninth in 2011.
The latest rankings are based on data tied to 26 performance indicators spread across five categories:
• Affordability and access.
• Choice of settings and providers.
• Quality of life and care.
• Support for family caregivers.
• Effective transitions between home- and institutional-based care.
“Kansas is the top quartile of states for affordability and access, and choice of setting,” Turner says. “We’re somewhere in the middle on quality. But on support for caregivers and effective transitions, we’re in the third quartile.”
Turner said she is especially troubled that Kansas ranked 39th in the percentage of nursing home residents receiving antipsychotic medication and had the 44th highest percentage of “low-need” nursing home residents who could be living in community-based settings and the 46th highest rate of nursing home-worker turnover.
“That’s not good,” Turner says. “When (nursing home) staff turnover is up, it means quality of care is down.”
The highest-ranked states were Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska. The lowest were Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Indiana.
Turner says the findings underscore AARP Kansas’ support for proposed legislation to require nursing homes to hire more staff.
“We know that when the staff-to-resident ratio is higher, you’re going to have fewer problems with people being given antipsychotic medications,” she says. “And the (staff) turnover rate will be lower because no one shift is going to be overburdened.”
Introduced in 2014 and 2013, the legislation has not passed.
Next year, Turner says, AARP Kansas will introduce the CARE Act, a bill aimed at relieving some of the “stress and worry” that family members experience when caring for an elder.
The measure, she says, would require hospitals to record the name of the family caregiver when a loved one is admitted, notify the caregiver when their loved one is to be moved or discharged, and provide the caregiver with written instructions for caring for the loved one at home.
The report ranked Kansas’ support for caregivers 35th in the nation.
Kansas’ nursing home costs were found to be among the lowest in the nation. Only two states – Oklahoma and Utah – and the District of Columbia had lower costs.
The study’s authors noted, however, that in the five states where nursing home costs were found to be the least expensive, they still “would consume 171 percent of an older household’s median income.”
Dave Ranney is senior writer/editor with KHI News Service, an editorially independent reporting program of the Kansas Health Institute.