HJ/EDEnterprise Dispatch, Feb. 6, 2006

Trouble predicted for long-term care

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

The long term care industry is about to collide with the “pig in the python,” said Bill Ward, administrator of Dassel Lakeside Community Home.

Ward presented a slide show Thursday, Jan. 26 to the Cokato Dassel Rotary at Daniel’s Restaurant in Cokato about how the nursing home business is changing.

He pointed out how in 2000 there were 500,445 people between the ages of 65 and 84 years old in Minnesota. By 2030 there will be an estimated 1,030,750 in that age group, Ward said.

The bulge in the population looks like the bulge in a python’s midsection after it swallows a pig, he said.

Ward next pointed out several “collisions” the long term care industry will have with the “pig in the python.”

The number of certified beds is declining, he said. In 1995, the state had 47,000 beds. In 2005, it had 36,000. The decline will continue to 25,000 beds, even though more people than ever will need them. Admissions will increase 50 percent in 10 years, Ward said.

Dassel Lakeside has been following the state trend too. Its number of certified beds declined to 58 from 64, he said.

Lakeside’s population has changed, though. Previously, almost all of the people who went to Lakeside intended to live there. Now, many people go to Lakeside to recover and then leave after a short-term stay. “That’s a success story,” Ward said about those who leave.

Another collision is the labor shortage. The state currently has 800 nurses aide positions open. Registered nurses are so few, Lakeside had to advertise for four months to get an RN, Ward said.

Ward told how one of Lakeside’s care providers left to get a $4 an hour increase in wages at a nursing home that was the same distance from her residence as Lakeside is.

“People believe the care they expect is being compromised by profits,” Ward said.

The opposite is true, though. Nursing homes are “eating themselves” not to spend money, he said. The average nursing home in the state has a profit margin that is less than half of 1 percent. Rural nursing homes, such as Lakeside, have 14 to 15 days of cash on hand. Nursing homes in the Twin Cities have four days, Ward said.

“The nursing home industry in Minnesota is bankrupt,” Ward said.

Home care has been suggested as a solution, but it is more expensive than long-term care in a nursing home. Community care costs $19 an hour, while nursing home care costs $6.13 an hour. Annually, home care costs $138,000 per patient while nursing home care costs $53,700, he said.

At the conclusion of his presentation, he commented about the report cards the state department of health released recently about each nursing home’s quality measures. Lakeside received 22 stars out of a possible 40.

“We are not a building. We are not statistics. We are a team,” Ward said. “There’s a lot of heart there.”

Most of the Lakeside residents are not from Dassel, but from the region, he said.

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