Capitol Correspondence - 03.11.19

Rural Nursing Home Consolidations Place Residents Far Away from Family Members – Relevant to People with Disabilities

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ANCOR is sharing this article by the New York Times because while the article does not mention people with disabilities specifically, some people with intellectual / developmental disabilities (I/DD) live in nursing homes while they are on waiting lists to receive Medicaid supports that would help them live in the community with their family and friends. As such, this issue could be relevant to them, particularly since disability supports in more rural areas such as the ones described in the article experience a frontline staff workforce crisis that reduce their ability to meet demand.

As written by the NYT:

“More than 440 rural nursing homes have closed or merged over the last decade, according to the Cowles Research Group, which tracks long-term care, and each closure scattered patients like seeds in the wind. Instead of finding new care in their homes and communities, many end up at different nursing homes far from their families.

In remote communities like Mobridge, an old railroad town of 3,500 people, there are few choices for an aging population. Home health aides can be scarce and unaffordable to hire around the clock. The few senior-citizen apartments have waiting lists. Adult children have long since moved away to bigger cities.


The relocations can be traumatic for older residents, and the separation creates agonizing complications for families. Relatives say they have to cut back visits to one day a week. They spend hours on the road to see their spouses and parents.


Thirty-six rural nursing homes across the country have been forced to close in the last decade because they failed to meet health and safety standards. But far more have collapsed for financial reasons, including changing health care policies that now encourage people to choose independent and assisted living or stay in their own homes with help from caregivers.

Some nursing homes cannot find people to do the low-paying work of caring for frail residents. Others are losing money as their occupancy rates fall and more of their patients’ long-term care is covered by Medicaid, which in many states does not pay enough to keep the lights on.


On paper, South Dakota and other rural states still have enough long-term care beds for people who need round-the-clock care. The problem is where they are. When a nursing home closes in a small town, the available beds are often so far away that elderly spouses cannot make the drive, and the transferred residents become cut off from the friends, church groups and relatives they have known all their lives.”

To make a policy connection to this issue, ANCOR is a lead advocate for the renewal of the Money Follows the Person (MFP) grant program, which helps people with disabilities and chronic conditions voluntarily move into the community. Please ask your members of Congress to support bills renewing the program.