The shortcomings of senior care in Minnesota

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The recent state takeover of a Minneapolis nursing home is an extreme example of mismanagement and neglect, and hopefully an outlier in the type of care our seniors are receiving.

In case you missed the news, last Friday, the Minnesota Department of Health assumed control of the Camden Care Center in response to what it called the facility’s extreme safety and security violations. For more on the story, read the department’s press release.

Putting this case aside, it’s important to broaden the discussion about nursing care. Even well-managed long-term care centers face a number of challenges that will only grow as Minnesota’s population ages, especially in rural communities.

The MDH predicts that by 2030, about one in every four Minnesotans will be 65 and older. Most of the senior community resides in rural Minnesota. With a growing elderly population, the quality of Minnesota’s senior care greatly affects the state’s overall wellness and success.

These facts present Minnesota with challenges and opportunity. We must expand ways to keep people living in their homes or communities longer, since nursing homes face constantly rising expenses, limited federal reimbursements and a state budget that is under growing pressure to meet a wide variety Minnesota needs.

One example of better managing resources to keep people out of nursing homes is providing better access to food. The United Health Foundation reports that Minnesota senior citizens’ food insecurity increased slightly to 8.6% in the past year. This grim reality is made worse by recent cuts to the Older American Act, which funds senior programming and caregiver support. Minnesota lost $500,000 in OAA funds, causing many senior food programs, including both community meals and home delivery, to shut down throughout the state.

Rural areas encounter added costs to meet senior needs including transportation challenges, lack of density and inconsistent access to care facilities.

Yet, finding the proper combination of increased public funding, health care reform, resource management, and fair labor standards could provide a major employment opportunity in rural areas, as communities health care facility tend to be solid job creators.

The future of Minnesota depends on properly sustaining its aging population, especially in rural areas. Progress is only possible with a cultural shift toward a more supportive perspective of the older population’s place in society. With persistent advocacy for Minnesota’s elderly, future policy changes could prioritize senior care by increasing government funding and promoting supportive communities to keep up with changing demographics.

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