Utahns living in nursing homes are there because they need round-the-clock medical care. Most are getting the attention they need, according to a new report, but those who aren't can face life-threatening situations.
Utah has the youngest population in the nation, but the second lowest death rate, so the number of older residents is growing fast. Reports like this one that indicate how well Utah's 88 nursing homes are run and how safe and well-cared-for their resident are should be of concern to state policy makers.
By 2030 the percentage of Utahns age 85 or older will be nearly twice what it was in the year 2000. The percentage of the population age 65 and older will jump from 8.5 percent to 13.2 percent; those 60 and older will make up 17.1 percent in 2030, up from 11.3 percent in 2000. While Utah likely will remain one of the "youngest" states, the increase in older Utahns will mean a growing need for specialized living arrangements for aging residents.
The report was compiled by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica. The data is available on its Nursing Home Inspect tool, http://projects.propublica.org/nursing-homes.
ProPublica investigative reporters looked at publicly available inspection reports and created a cellphone app with nursing homes and their inspection reports listed by state. It also provides information and links to federal fines and other sanctions taken against the homes.
Utah nursing homes were shown to have some of the fewest serious deficiencies per home. The state also has some of the country's lowest average fines, at $2,500, compared to the highest, in Washington, at $90,000. The Beehive State also has among the lowest number of payment suspensions, meaning when Medicaid and Medicare administrators refuse to pay for new patient admissions at those facilities.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains that "Serious health or disabling conditions usually lead to residence in a nursing home because of the grave difficulties of home management of the patient. This outcome is all the more likely when social, financial, and housing resources are limited."
Living in a nursing home is most common at the highest ages. In 1985, according to the National Nursing Home Survey, at ages 65 and over, the percent of the population in nursing homes was only 5 percent, but for ages 85 and over, the figure was 22 percent.
Keeping our senior Utahns healthy and happy should be of prime importance.