Minnesota / Independence leads list of baby boomers’ old-age wishes: Study urges fresh options to support in-home care

Posted in the Pioneer PressBYLINE: Jeremy Olson, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.Feb. 20–Minnesota’s baby boomers want exactly what the state’s long-term care system lacks: technology and creative programs that will help them remain independent and at home in their frail and elderly years.That is one of the main conclusions of a study and survey being released today by Ecumen, a Shoreview-based provider of nursing homes and community services for the elderly.Executives with the organization hope the results will inspire lawmakers and caregivers to try new approaches and programs before the massive boomer generation reaches retirement age.Nine of 10 boomers in the survey said they want to live in their own homes rather than in rental apartments or nursing facilities. Most of the 564 survey respondents, ages 42 to 60, said they would pay more for a long-term care system that provides better community services.Boomers are saying, ‘Give us some more options,’ ‘ said Eric Schubert, Ecumen’s communications director. ‘ ‘Help us live where we want to live, how we want to live.’ ‘What that population wants and what it needs may actually be one and the same. The nation’s reliance on institutional care for the frail and elderly is bringing many state Medicaid programs to the breaking point. Minnesota spends nearly $1 billion per year just for nursing home care, but that figure is expected to reach $20 billion by 2050.’It’s not rocket science to figure out that within about 10 years this is going to overtake the state budget if we don’t start taking some steps now,’ said Rep. Joe Atkins, D-Inver Grove Heights. He is a member of the Minnesota 2020 caucus that is focused on solutions in long-term care.Ecumen officials said Minnesota could start finding solutions by copying successful programs in other states. Vermont has received special permission from the federal government to spend Medicaid dollars on community supports for seniors living at home.Atkins has co-authored a bipartisan bill that would help Minnesota seniors acquire available technology to help them live independently at home. QuietCare, for example, is a system of sensors that gauges people’s health and daily activity and relays that information to family members or caregivers.While the move toward independent living would save the state money and give baby boomers what they want, some policymakers worry it won’t be sustainable.The Ecumen survey didn’t address whether children or other relatives of the aging baby boom population are ready and willing to accept the role of at-home caregivers, said Bob DeBoer, director of policy development for the Citizens League, a civic group that is hosting a public event today to release the Ecumen survey results.If the system spends more money on relatives providing at-home care, ‘will that really make a difference in this culture?’ he asked. ‘Will people do it? We don’t even know the answer to that.’While the survey showed boomers are actively planning for retirement, it also shows many are disinterested in long-term care insurance products and confused about who actually pays for nursing care at home or in group homes.The survey results will hopefully inform the baby boomer generation and start conversations about lapses in long-term care so the boomers can use the group’s size and clout to encourage change, said Kathryn Roberts, Ecumen’s president and chief executive.