NASW Promotes Improvements for Long-Term Care

In recent months, NASW has worked to support efforts to improve long-term care services, including participating in conferences, Capitol Hill briefings and meetings with organizations that promote quality care.

"Many aspects of long-term care are integrally related to social work practice," explained NASW Aging Practice Associate Chris Herman. "We continue to advocate policies and research that recognize and advance our professional values."

In October, Herman attended a conference offered by NCCNHR: The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (formerly the National Citizen's Coalition for Nursing Home Reform) on quality care.

NASW was a sponsor of the conference and displayed materials. The event was attended by social workers, ombudsmen, consumer advocates, nursing home residents and others. A number of social workers presented sessions at the conference.

"This organization advocates access, consumer choice and quality of care," Herman said. "Its work ties in with other projects NASW is involved with to promote transitions in care from nursing homes to communities."

Major issues addressed at the conference included poor housing options for people transitioning back to communities as well as a lack of trained personnel who can support these transitions.

In November, Herman and NASW Policy Adviser Rita Webb participated in a NCCNHR event to present research on racial disparities in nursing homes. The research was supported by the Commonwealth Fund and an article led by David Barton Smith was published in the September/October issue of Health Affairs.

The research explored disparities between facilities and found that segregation in nursing homes mirrors geographic segregation in communities.

Herman said that one problem people face when selecting a nursing home is a lack of easy access to data on nursing home quality.

Herman also noted that it is important to have high-quality care available in all communities.

On Nov. 27, Herman attended a briefing on Capitol Hill hosted by the Senate Special Commission on Aging, Sen. Herbert Kohl (D-Wis.) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.). The briefing was also sponsored by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), of which NASW is a member.

The briefing offered data from an Evercare/NAC study of the economic and psychosocial impacts of caregiving in the U.S. The report, Family Caregivers: What They Spend, What They Sacrifice (PDF), found that the average family caregiver spent about 10 percent of his or her annual income on caregiving and that the lowest-income caregivers had the highest financial caregiving burden.

NASW is a member of the Lifespan Respite Task Force, and NASW's Government Relations Department has been working to promote respite legislation in Congress. The legislation would help families and caregivers receive planned or short-term relief from caregiving needs. A funding bill that would have included $2 million for respite was vetoed by President Bush in December, and the House failed to override the veto.

"The passage of the act, which assures respite policy through fiscal year 2011, was a major victory for the respite care community, and we will continue to advocate funding in the upcoming year," explained NASW Senior Government Relations Associate Asua Ofosu.

And in December, the final report of the National Commission for Quality Long-Term Care was released. The report includes financing principles developed by the Leadership Council on Aging Organizations; NASW provided input into the development of these principles. NASW is part of LCOA's committees on long-term care and health.

The commissionincluded social workers Jeanette Takamura, dean of the Columbia University School of Social Work, and Monsignor Charles Fahey of the Milbank Memorial Fund.

The report warns of a coming crisis in long-term care. It offers recommended next steps in the areas of quality, workforce and technology, in addition to the financing principles.