Study ranks West Virginia near bottom in senior service quality

West Virginia ranks near the bottom in senior quality of care in a new AARP survey

A new study comparing U.S. states in quality of senior support services ranks West Virginia extremely low. These findings cannot be encouraging for West Virginia elders who face the need for long-term care services and health supports, or for their families that want the best for their loved ones as they age and become more vulnerable.

Above all, West Virginians want safe home- and community-based care settings for their elders, free from in-home or nursing-home abuse and neglect.

The AARP Scorecard

AARP, The Commonwealth Fund and The SCAN Foundation joined forces on Raising Expectations 2014: A State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers. The study looks at quality of services that help seniors and people with disabilities "perform activities of daily living that would be difficult or impossible for them to perform on their own."

Its executive summary points out that as baby boomers reach older age, the quality of long-term services and supports or LTSS varies widely among the states. The survey looks at five dimensions of state LTSS systems:

  • Affordability and access
  • Setting and provider choice
  • Quality of care and of life
  • Family-caregiver support
  • Effective transitions

State rankings

West Virginia ranks in the bottom quartile at 46th place overall (sixth from the bottom of 51 states, including D.C.). The state is in the bottom quartile for every dimension of care except setting and provider choice, for which it ranks in the third quartile.

Interestingly, the top five states are Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska, but the executive summary emphasizes that these states also have room for improvement. Rounding out the bottom five states after West Virginia are Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Indiana.

Specific concerns

One major concern in the executive summary is the impression that antipsychotic, sedating medications seem to be replacing physical restraints in long-term care facilities, creating instead inappropriate "chemical restraint."

Another observation is that in the better states, patients with low care needs have more living choices in the community, as compared with the lowest ranked states in which residents with low levels of need end up in institutionalized more often.

Similarly, the top states likely provide better care within nursing homes, preventing the need for transition to hospitalization more often, as compared to the bottom five states in which hospitalization of nursing home residents happens at more than double the rate.

Broadly, in the bottom five states "burdensome transitions at end of life," meaning moving an extremely vulnerable and sick senior between care settings, is much more common, as is the length of nursing-home stays overall.

West Virginia concerns

The AARP summary concludes with the irony that the state in which a senior lives likely means a very different journey through the end-of-life years. For West Virginians, the poor ranking of their state should be a wake-up call. Public advocacy and family creativity both are needed to try to make senior services safer, but the reality is that some seniors will be neglected, even abused within the state system.

Any West Virginian whose loved one was harmed in a nursing home or in another senior care setting should speak with a personal injury attorney with specific experience in elder abuse cases. Legal counsel can launch a private investigation into the matter, advise the family and senior about potential legal remedies and file a lawsuit if necessary to recover appropriate money damages for injuries from negligent and harmful care.

Keywords: West Virginia, AARP, survey, quality of care, study, state, senior support services, long-term care, nursing-home abuse, nursing-home neglect, LTSS, restraint, choice, hospitalization, elder abuse