May 28, 2024

Series on long-term care affordability, staffing, equity a ‘wake-up call,’ industry advocate says

McKnights Senior Living

A special report published last week by CNHI News and the Associated Press that focused on several “issues and complications” in assisted living and other forms of long-term care is a “wake-up call for America,” according to one industry advocate. 

As part of its “High Cost of Long-Term Care” special report focusing on affordability, staffing and equity in the long-term care industry, the media outlets analyzed data from the 2020 National Post-acute and Long-term Care Study, finding that Black people are underrepresented in residential care communities nationally by nearly 50%. Blacks account for 9% of older adults in the nation, but only 4.9% of the residential care community population — they make up 16% or nursing homes residents.

In contrast, the data showed that whites make up 75% of the older adult population, and 88% of residents in residential care communities. 

Linda Couch, LeadingAge senior vice president of policy and advocacy, was quoted in the series as saying the process of paying for long-term care is “as opaque as it can be.”

“Because we don’t have a comprehensive and cohesive long-term care financing system in this country, we are left with this patchwork,” Couch was quoted as saying. 

The media outlets also quoted NCAL Executive Director LaShuan Bethea about the need for research to fully understand whether fewer Black people accessing assisted living are truly missing out on care or are finding that care in other ways.

“It’s really important to do the work … trying to understand: What does this mean when Black and brown people can’t access assisted living, knowing what it brings in terms of quality and outcomes?” Bethea was quoted as saying.

Workforce crisis

The package also focused on workforce challenges in senior living and other long-term care settings. 

Citing data from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, the media outlets stated that overall demand for workers in longer-term services and support settings is projected to increase by 42% between 2021 and 2036, and demand for direct care workers is expected to grow 41%.

Argentum has stated that the assisted living industry will need more than 3 million workers by 2040, with more than 20 million workers needed across long-term care settings in that time. 

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