In what might reflect the growing need for home care services, the number of home care workers has increased 9.3% compared to last year, new data shows.
The jump might also be explained by home care becoming “an increasingly accessible option for today’s seniors,” says the the newest edition of United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Senior Report: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities.
Hospice care, which can be delivered in a home setting, is also on the rise. Hospice care increased from 47.5% to 50.6% of decedents aged 65 and older, while hospital deaths decreased from 25% to 22.8% of decedents, according to the report.
In addition, preventable hospitalizations dropped 8.6%, from 64.9% of discharges for Medicare beneficiaries last year to 59.3 percent of discharges in 2015, data show.
“Progress in key metrics such as preventable hospitalizations and hospice care shows that more seniors are aging comfortably and receiving preferred types of support – a trend that reflects seniors’ well-being at each step of the aging process and benefits our health care system,” says Reed Tuckson, M.D., senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation, in a statement. “We are excited to be making progress toward strong, personalized care for all seniors and look forward to seeing continued momentum in this area.”
Rising from fourth place last year to be named the No. 1 healthiest state for seniors is Vermont, the report finds.
Vermont boasts low intensive care unit (ICU) use and ready availability of home-delivered meals. The top-ranked state also has high Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollment, “demonstrating that seniors are aware of and using the program,” the report says.
However, the state still has areas in which to improve, including a high prevalence of chronic drinking, low hospice care use and high prevalence of falls.
“It is heartening to see seniors’ health is improving, but our societal challenge remains finding ways to encourage more seniors to be more active,” says Rhonda Randall, D.O., senior adviser to United Health Foundation, and chief medical officer and executive vice president, UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions. “Strong community support is an essential part of promoting positive health among seniors. We must work together – across states, communities and our own families – to encourage all seniors to find ways to be as active as they’re able to be.”
New Hampshire ranks second. Minnesota fell to third after being ranked first for two years in a row, while Hawaii and Utah round out the top five states, respectively. Louisiana ranks 50th as the least healthy state for older adults, preceded by Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
View the report here.
Written by Cassandra Dowell