PA Nursing Homes are Unprepared for Dementia Care Crisis

The state gets a near-failing grade from experts and advocates based on its lack of preparedness for the coming boom in dementia care.

Pennsylvania nursing homes will not be ready to handle an expected upsurge of dementia cases, according to an article in About 100,000 elderly Pennsylvanians currently live with some form of dementia, and another 280,000 with Alzheimer’s disease, a leading cause of dementia. As the historically large generation of baby boomers continues to age, the number of Pennsylvanians 65 and over suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s is expected to escalate (the article projects 320,000 Alzheimer’s cases by 2025), meaning the high demand for dementia-specific care will also skyrocket.

Unfortunately, PA nursing homes are unprepared for dementia care crisis on top of their existing dementia care needs, based on current deficiencies of room, specialists, and trained staff:

  • Accommodation Shortage: Currently less than a third of PA licensed personal care homes and assisted living facilities have dedicated dementia units, and less than a quarter of PA’s nursing homes have Alzheimer’s accommodations, which amounts only to a maximum capacity of 17,000 dementia patients.
  • Lack of Specialists: There are only about 1500 board-certified geriatric psychiatrists for the entirety of the American elderly population, of which over six million have Alzheimer’s.
  • A Critical Dearth of Trained Staff: Even prior to the recent staff shortages brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, nursing homes have suffered from low staffing and high turnover.

Remedying the current deficiencies—such as creating more dementia-dedicated spaces and ensuring adequate staffing—would require overcoming tough challenges largely economic in nature, such as the following:

  • Lack of Program Funding: A state plan seeking to form a response to the impact of PA’s growing dementia crisis on state programs like Medicaid, commissioned seven years ago by Gov. Tom Corbett, has stagnated due to inadequate funding.
  • Pushback against Wage Increases for Workers: While raising pay could help attract and retain direct care workers, the recent balking of nursing homes (several corporate-owned) at Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal requiring homes to increase staffing levels suggests a likely resistance from many such homes.

Without some kind of improvement of the above deficiencies, and considering the coming crisis in dementia care, the future of care for elderly persons with dementia in Pennsylvania is dangerously likely to fall into one of two undesirable categories: “under-supervised” care and care managed by family members, who will stare down staggering costs. But carrying out a plan as comprehensive as the one drawn by Corbett in 2013 will requires an “enormous coalition,” the article suggests, one involving not just the government, but public and private sectors together.

Ensuring the Safety of Your Loved One

Pennsylvania and New Jersey nursing homes are at all times required to secure the physical, mental, and psycho/social well-being of their residents by meeting certain health and safety requirements and providing adequate care. To meet these standards, the Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing home where your loved one lives must be equipped to avoid the kind of substandard care that amounts to nursing home neglect or abuse. This includes ensuring adequate, quality staffing. Should you have concerns about a Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home during COVID-19, or if you suspect neglect, abuse, or fraud has occurred at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one lives, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.