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Center on Aging studying state’s needs for long-term health care

by Carolyn Pennington - November 28, 2006

The Center on Aging at the Health Center is conducting an assessment of the state's present and future needs for long-term health care.

With an annual price tag of $2 billion, long-term care is the state's second largest expense after education.

Yet the need for these services has not been evaluated in at least 20 years. The need is expected to grow, as Connecticut's one million baby boomers age.

Long-term care is generally defined as the range of services - including medical and non-medical care - for people who are ill or disabled, or who rely on others for help with the routine needs of daily living, such as eating, bathing, and dressing.

Care is provided in a variety of settings, including the home, community, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and hospitals.

The needs assessment was authorized by the state legislature, in consultation with the Connecticut Commission on Aging, the Long-Term Care Advisory Council, and the Long-Term Care Planning Committee.

Two UConn assistant professors of medicine, Julie Robison and Cynthia Gruman, are the principal investigators.

This year, the oldest of the nation's 78 million baby boomers turn 60 - that's about 7,920 each day.

More than 600,000 Connecticut residents are now 60 or older, and it is estimated that when baby boomers begin turning 65, one in five Americans will be 65 or older.

The size of the older population is expected to double over the next 30 years, growing to 70 million by 2030.

"Any Health Center research that could delay disability and the need to place individuals in an institution by even a modest 5 percent would result in savings to the state of more than $95 million," says Dr. George Kuchel, director of the Center on Aging.

The primary goals of the needs assessment are to document the public and private inventory of long-term care services and support programs currently being provided; assess which segments of the population are receiving services; project the number of persons who will require long-term care services over the next 30 years; and recommend changes to existing programs to better serve residents and families needing long-term care.

Assistant professors Julie Robison, seated, and Cynthia Gruman of the Center on Aging are heading a study of the state's present and future needs for long-term health care.
Assistant professors Julie Robison, seated, and Cynthia Gruman of the Center on Aging are heading a study of the state’s present and future needs for long-term health care.
Photo by Frank Barton

"This is a tremendous opportunity to gather information that will ultimately lead to more long-term care options - and more independent lives - for present and future generations of Connecticut residents," says Julia Evans Starr, executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Aging.

To compile the survey information, the Center on Aging is conducting a comprehensive review of both Connecticut and national data.

A survey has been sent to 20,000 residents and long-term care providers across the state.

The questionnaire will take most people about 10 to 15 minutes to complete.

"We really hope people will take the time to fill out the survey," says Gruman.

"The more responses we get, the more accurate our assessment and the more appropriate recommendations we'll be able to make."

The Connecticut Long Term Care Ombudsman Program provided $80,000 in additional funding that will allow the Center on Aging staff to conduct in-person surveys with about 300 residents of nursing homes, residential care homes, and assisted living facilities.

"We will document the long-term care needs, desires, and expectations of Connecticut's residents," says Robison.

"We'll analyze the current system by highlighting its strengths and weaknesses, and make recommendations for the future."

A web site has been set up so people can fill out the survey online.

For more information, contact Martha Porter at 860-679-4275, or email.

Preliminary findings will be available in January to inform the upcoming legislative session.  

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