PBS: Six Tips to Avoid Long-Term Care Crisis

The U.S. may be largely unprepared today for the long-term care crisis ahead, but there are many ideas as to potential solutions proposed by contributors last week to a PBS segment on Six Tips for Averting America’s Long Term Care Crisis. 

Compiling perspectives from thought leaders spanning think tanks such as the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution as well as AARP and the American Geriatrics Society, among others, PBS published a list of six ways to improve the outlook for the millions of baby boomers who will ultimately require on average, three years of long term care in America. 

Among the solutions: Change the financing, focus on the poor, and taking cues from Finland, making access to care a human right. 


“We need to grow a long-term care system based on multiple principles, and one principle I believe—which is an integral part of the Finnish model—is that long-term care is a basic right,” says Dr. Laura Gitlin, professor and founding director of the Center for Innovative Care in Aging at Johns Hopkins. “Finland has a government-sponsored approach to long-term care, and it’s included in their equivalent of a Bill of Rights. They’re coming up with all different ways of operationalizing that basic principle. And I believe we need to start with that premise in the United States: long-term care is a basic right.”

On the financing front, funding should be combined, not separated, toward long term care initiatives, says Dr. Mark McClellan, senior fellow and director of the Health Care Innovation and Value Initiative at the Brookings Institution.

“One important way to make long-term care work better in the United States is to move our financing away from silos, where we have separate funding for Medicaid, separate funding for out-of-pocket costs, separate funding for acute health care costs,” McClellan says. “We need to put it together and let people control how that money is spent on their behalf.”


Existing initiatives such as “Money Follows the Person,” and one integrated care approach in Minnesota are working in this vein, he says, with an eye toward more sustainable costs. 

The multimedia segment broaches the topic of chronic conditions and costs, which average $72,000 per year for nursing home care, according to the data cited. 

“What’s the U.S. doing to prepare? Virtually nothing. The federal government has no plan in place, and things are bleaker still on the personal front,” PBS writes.

“…But look close enough and the news becomes a little brighter. In communities throughout the country, residents are pulling together to help each other save money, stay active and live in their own homes longer. On the international stage, places like Finland and Taiwan have found success, too.”

View the segment and article at PBS.org

Written by Elizabeth Ecker