One critical piece of federal legislation affecting senior citizens across the country is the Older Americans Act. Perhaps the most significant budgetary portion of the Act is spending for Meals on Wheels programs. The idea behind the program is simple: seniors living in their own home receive daily visits from program volunteers who provide meals and check on the elderly community member.
New research into the value of these programs provides quantitative backing for what most already know colloquially: these programs are a tremendous benefit for seniors. In fact, the data suggests that they may actually save more money than they cost. That is because the program is a significant factor in keeping overall long-term care costs down.
As published in the journal Health Services Research and summarized in a Health Day story, a team of researchers examined the actual effect of expanded use of Meals on Wheels programs in the state which take advantage of the benefits outlined in the Older Americans Act.
Essentially, the academics explained that there was a statistically significant connection of lower nursing home residents in states with expansive Meals on Wheels programs. The study involved analysis of 16,000 nursing homes over a nine year period (2000 to 2009). What they found was that “low service” nursing home resident enrollment declined in those states which most utilized the alternative senior support program. The “low service” refers to residents who need less assistance and do not depend on the full scope of skilled care available at traditional nursing homes.
Of course, this makes intuitive sense, as programs like Meals on Wheels simply shift some basic caregiving functions out of the nursing home context, allowing seniors to remain in their own home longer than they otherwise would. This shift has significant cost advantages for federal budgets as well, because nursing home payments are far higher than those necessary to provide extra in-home support.
One of the study’s authors explained that “Despite efforts to re-balance long-term care, there are still many nursing home residents who have the functional capacity to live in a less restrictive environment.”
By taking advantage of these alternatives–mostly supported by Medicaid programs–seniors are able to stay at home longer, saving money and likely improving their quality of life at the same time. For help understanding how the New York Medicaid program works and to get more information on long-term senior care issues in our state, be sure to visit an elder law attorney to share your situation and learn more.
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