Dmytro Zinkevych via shutterstock

HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut officials say the trend of aging in place continues to grow in popularity and shows no signs of slowing, according to a recent report by Mercer Human Services Consulting.

The report shows that over the next 20 years there will be a major increase in demand for long-term care in the home. The demand for these in-home services will increase from 67.6 percent in 2017 to 82.3 percent by 2040.

Over the same period, the report projects a drop in demand for nursing home care, with a reduction in demand of nearly 6,000 beds.

However, the nursing home industry is not surprised nor unprepared.

Matthew V. Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities and Connecticut Center For Assisted Living, said the report’s finding are consistent with the state’s Long Term Care Plan updated earlier in 2019. 

He said nursing home industry leaders have been responsive to the change in dynamics occurring over the last decades, diversifying models of care to include home care, assisted living and community based services, while developing specialized nursing home services to meet the challenging health care needs of Connecticut’s rapidly aging population, especially in the area of dementia care. 

Barrett urged careful review of the report’s findings highlighting the projected dramatic increases in the population over the age of eighty-five and a marked increase in the number of residents presenting with Alzheimer’s disease and other complex health care issues.

“These reports should never be interpreted to present one form of care over another form of care,” Barrett said. “It’s not home care versus nursing home care equation. Both care models are going to be needed to address the needs of our seniors now and into the future.”

The report, according to the Department of Social Services, reinforces the role of Medicaid services in boosting the proportion of enrollees receiving home and community-based services since 2011. These programs and initiatives include Money Follows the Person, Community First Choice, the Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders, hospital discharge planning, diversion of people from nursing homes, and pre-admission screening.

“We envision this report as a tool to help policymakers, municipal officials, the nursing home industry, labor representatives, and families and advocates understand how changes are anticipated to affect the entire system,” DSS Commissioner-Elect Deidre S. Gifford said.  “The report covers each of the 169 cities and towns with a four-page analysis, including current and projected supply and demand for long-term care services and staff.  The result is what we hope will be a helpful snapshot of what each town can expect for long-term care patterns in the future—and a guide to help the state best focus services for our Medicaid members.”

New initiatives adopted this year by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont are supportive of the trend in the report. The new initiatives include funding of $239,100 for housing vouchers, funding of $800,000 in fiscal 2020 and $500,000 in fiscal 2021 to support development of predictive modeling to support discharge of older adults from nursing homes to community settings; and $726,400 for additional staffing for the Money Follows the Person program, which has helped more than 5,700 people move from nursing homes to community homes since 2008.

In 2017, Connecticut had 3,791 open nursing home beds, according to the report. As a result of the state’s rebalancing efforts and the impact of nursing home closures, that figure is now over 3,000.

“Connecticut has been moving in the right direction on long-term care for a number of years and this report indicates we must continue to adapt,” Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw said. “We currently have an array of effective home and community-based services that promote both personal choice and our commitment to continually improving care. While high-quality, skilled nursing facilities will continue to be a vital part of our continuum of care, it’s becoming more apparent that consumers often prefer to receive services in their homes when they can.”

McCaw added: “As the paradigm shifts, we will make certain state government can be flexible to shift with it.”