CommunityHealthLife

Silver Tsunami set to hit Hidalgo County nursing homes

As Baby Boomers become seniors, chronic underfunding destabilizing local providers

(AUSTIN, Texas) — As Baby Boomers reach retirement, a perfect storm is set to hit Hidalgo County nursing homes: A surge in the number of aging Texans, known as the Silver Tsunami, is projected to effect long term care services across the state.

That could leave Hidalgo County’s 19 long term care facilities — already deprived of adequate funding for years — a frayed safety net for area seniors to depend on in the future unless lawmakers take action to improve the quality of Texas nursing homes.

More than 10 percent of Hidalgo County’s population is over 65, and that number is growing. The number of Texans over 65 is expected to more than double by 2030, and by 2050, is projected to increase by more than 262 percent.

The perfect storm is intensified by the increasingly complex medical conditions of aging Texans needing nursing home care, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other dementia. According to data from the Alzheimer’s Association 2018 Texas Facts and Figures, over 380,000 of the state’s residents have already developed Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. In Texas, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death, and its prevalence is expected to increase by almost 30 percent by 2025. This will place an enormous strain on an industry that is already reeling from a workforce crisis, with more than 97 percent turnover for certified nurse aides.

The Texas Health Care Association recently released a report detailing the causes and effects of the approaching storm, and urged lawmakers to take action to support the state’s long term care industry and the quality of care delivered.

“Texans respect and value seniors,” said Kevin Warren, president and CEO of the Texas Health Care Association. “But Texas’ history of chronically underfunding long term care is producing barriers to quality care and is setting up serious consequences as a Silver Tsunami of Baby Boomers looms on the horizon.”

Warren warns that the influx of Baby Boomers approaching retirement age will produce an unsustainable burden for family caregivers who provide unpaid care to loved ones. According to the Texas Demographic Center, the number of Texans between 45 and 65 years old — the very people most likely to be called on to care for a loved one — is projected to grow at a slower rate than those over 65. This asymmetrical pattern means the people who will be caring for senior Texans will increasingly be seniors themselves.

Texas nursing homes are challenged with one of the lowest nursing home Medicaid reimbursement rates in the nation. In fact, the state’s Medicaid rate falls almost $10,000 short of the cost of care per Medicaid resident on an annual basis. More than two-thirds of all residents in Texas nursing homes rely on Medicaid to cover their costs after depleting their assets.

The shortfall leaves nursing home operators unable to raise wages to hire and retain staff, who can quit and easily find another job with higher pay or less stress in other service industries or health care sectors.

Founded in 1950, the Texas Health Care Association (THCA) is the largest long term care association in Texas. THCA’s membership is comprised of several hundred licensed nonprofit and for-profit skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), specialized rehabilitation facilities and assisted living facilities in Texas. These facilities provide comprehensive, around-the-clock nursing care for chronically ill or short-term residents of all ages, along with rehabilitative and specialized medical programs. THCA also represents more than 190 long term care businesses that provide products and services to the state’s approximately 2,850 nursing homes and assisted living facilities. 

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