It can be fun to consider those state rankings that pop up periodically to show how Indiana stacks up in this or that category. They are all instructive. Some give us bragging rights to claim we are better than our nearby states. Some are wake-up calls, letting us know we have some work to do in a certain area.
And some should set off alarm bells loud and clear from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River. Into that category belongs the American Association of Retired Persons' latest report card on providing long-term services and supports for seniors and people with disabilities. Indiana ranks 51st — that's dead last, behind all other states and the District of Columbia.
The survey looks at whether states are adequately providing the kind of help that can make the difference between maintaining a high-quality of life at home and having to move to a nursing home. It considers performances in five main categories: affordability and access; choice of setting and provider; quality of life and quality of care; support for family caregivers; and effective transitions between nursing homes, hospitals and homes.
Indiana ranked 50th or worse in three out of five of the main categories — it was 37th in the quality category and 33rd in effective transitions).
It offers no comfort to observe, as some apologists have, that the quality of care has actually not deteriorated here in the last few years — other states are merely making progress while Indiana isn't.
And it's not enough to say that the state government should be embarrassed to let this happen while it maintains a $2 billion surplus. State action is clearly warranted. As we have noted more than once here, at-home care is both more effective and less expensive than nursing home care, but the state is so invested in nursing homes that it can't bring itself to do the sensible thing. It created an at-home program but then chose not to fund it.
Work is needed in the private sector, too, not to mention a coordinated effort to merge public and private initiatives into a coherent policy aimed at giving some of the state's most vulnerable citizens a better shot at decent lives.
The AARP report doesn't tell us what to do, but it's a warning that we need to start and start right now.
We should all be ashamed.