Lower Hudson Valley News reported yesterday on a proposed move by a few counties to cut nursing home service within the next year. The plans to get the counties out of the nursing home business are being offered as a budget-saving effort. Administrators in Rockland, Orange, and Ulster counties have all proposed defunding county nursing homes, a move that may have serious effects on many New York long-term care plans. The county officials explain that the costs of the home are currently unsustainable, especially considering that state lawmakers recently imposed a two percent property tax levy cap. The tax cap makes it difficult for county officials to meet the rising obligations of these homes.
Our New York elder law attorney knows that these closings come at a difficult time, considering that the population in need of these services will only rise in the coming years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the over-65 population is growing faster than the population as a whole. In addition, the over-90 population has tripled in the past few decades. These trends will undoubtedly continue, especially as medical advances prolong the lives of many community members. As a result, the need for assisted-living facilities is on the rise, meaning these county home closures may present complications for seniors living in these areas.
It is important to note that these facilities cannot be closed without state permission. All those currently in these nursing homes will need to be placed in new homes before the facility will receive that state permission. The seniors who live in the homes currently may have to move to facilities in distant cities–often away from friends and family members. In addition, the seniors may be forced to relocate into for-profit homes. These profit-driven nursing facilities have frequently been found to provide less than ideal care for residents, with increased rates of care deficiencies resulting in preventable harm to residents. It goes without saying that most elders would prefer to avoid living in locations where their quality of life may be diminished.
These concerns are leading some local policymakers to fight the effort to close the county nursing homes. For example, Harriet Cornell, the Rockland Legislature Chairwoman, said that closing these nursing homes “is the wrong thing for Rockford, given the demographics.” She cited stats which reveal that 20% of the population will be over sixty years old in the coming decade. Ms. Cornell is spearheading the “Aging in Place” initiative which is looking into ways to help seniors stay in their own homes instead of moving into nursing facilities. Part of the initiative involves encouraging seniors to visit with New York elder law attorneys to plan ahead for these senior care issues.
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