AARP says of the 50 states, Kentucky places 49th when it comes to helping residents age in place

More than nine in 10 Americans want to live at home or with a relative — rather than in a nursing home — for as long as possible.

But experts predict that more than half the population, after turning 65, will develop a disability so severe they’ll need assistance.

Whether and how they’ll get that assistance depends greatly on where they live. Some states are better at providing the services and support necessary to help older adults and those with disabilities who want to continue living in the community, and their family caregivers.

Washington is the state that does it best, according to a scorecard compiled by the AARP Public Policy Institute, the Commonwealth Fund and the SCAN Foundation. The Evergreen State ranked consistently high in four of five areas in which states provide support for people needing long-term assistance or their family caregivers.

That’s because Washington officials have made support for home and community-based care a state priority, policy experts say.

The state has provided a wide range of options — including adult day care, assisted living and adult foster care — to meet the needs of its growing older population.

By 2030, 21 percent of Washington’s population is expected to be age 65-plus, compared with 15 percent now.

Susan Reinhard, AARP senior vice president and director of the AARP Public Policy Institute, says states are making progress in providing long-term support, but “with 10,000 people turning 65 every day, it’s imperative that we pick up the pace of change.”

Here are some lessons states can learn from Washington about helping people age in place. Kentucky placed 49th in the AARP survey.

  • Offer control over who provides personal care. While most states allow the person receiving personal care to decide whom to hire for such tasks as bathing, dressing and meal preparation, Washington provides more discretion. There, 53 of 1,000 people with disabilities direct their own care; nationwide, the average is about 27 per 1,000.
  • Answer calls for help more quickly. No matter what state agency a consumer calls for information or resources such as personal care services, adult day programs or home health care options, they will get help through Washington’s No Wrong Door program. Although most states have a similar program, policy experts say Washington provides high quality training to staff so you get your questions answered. That means agencies not only direct callers to the right place, but there is also a coordinated approach to determining eligibility for public assistance.
  • Rebalance Medicaid spending so more people can age at home or in the community. Washington State directs 65 percent of its Medicaid long-term care spending to home- and community-based services rather than to nursing homes. Nationwide, the average is 41 percent. Providing services at home and in the community has led to $4.4 billion in savings for the state and federal government over the past 18 years, according to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Those savings are reinvested to develop additional long-term care resources.