An Echo Press Editorial: Let's not ignore the health care needs of the elderly

From the editorial: Seniors are being denied care at alarming rates in communities that were able to meet demand just a few years ago.

EP Echo Press Editorial

In a 1977 speech, former Vice President Hubert Humphrey delivered a memorable quote:

“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

Those words should be pondered when government entities have to make decisions about spending taxpayers’ dollars or how they balance the budget.

Right now is an especially troubling time for the elderly and how they are being cared for in the twilight of their lives. According to the Long-Term Care Imperative, seniors are being denied care at alarming rates in communities that were able to meet demand just a few years ago.

The LTCI is a partnership of Minnesota's two senior care provider associations – Care Providers of Minnesota and LeadingAge Minnesota. LTCI members employ 80,000 professional caregivers in Minnesota, meeting the needs of seniors in all the places seniors call home – including short-term care, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing homes.


They’re faced with a big challenge: Every week, nursing homes and assisted living communities throughout the state are forced to tell seniors and their families that there just isn’t enough room for them because there isn’t enough staff available, LTCI said on its website. The choices for seniors are unacceptable — find care hours away, stay in the hospital longer than needed, or face declining health due to lack of services and care.

The situation becomes more stark by the year. The LTCI estimates that in the next five years, Minnesota will have 50,000 more residents who are age 80 or older than there are today. The LTCI poses a daunting question: If we can’t take care of today’s seniors, what about tomorrow’s seniors?

Several factors are in play. The staffing shortage in senior care is a crisis, affecting seniors and families in every corner of the state. Less than three years after the pandemic, which impacted seniors the most, there is a growing shortage of caregivers to support them.

Nearly 20,000 caregiver positions are vacant in senior living.

Also, senior caregivers, who make only about $17 per hour aren’t making the wages they need to support their families.

Now, just this week, the Long-Term Care Initiative released the results of a recent survey of long-term care settings in the state that revealed access to senior care continues to deteriorate across the state.

This brand new data was used in testimony during the Human Services Finance Omnibus conference committee last week.

From the survey:


  • Every day, 450 referrals are denied by nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Each denial represents a senior's attempt to receive the care they need in the community they call home.
  • In March of 2023, there were 13,952 admission referrals denied in Minnesota’s long-term care settings.
  • Admission referrals denied by nursing homes have increased by nearly 44% since October. This means that more seniors are being turned away from long-term care settings, driven by the lack of available staff.
  • More long-term care settings are closing or are considering closing, a devastating move for the seniors, families and communities that rely on their services.
  • 12.2% of greater Minnesota nursing homes and 5.9% of 7-county metro nursing homes are considering closure.
  • 10.1% of greater Minnesota assisted living settings and 3.2% of 7-county metro assisted living settings are considering closure.
  • The ongoing lack of adequate state funding to support higher wages for caregivers has pushed nursing homes and assisted living settings deeper into financial distress.
  • Nearly 40% of assisted living facilities and 75% of nursing facilities report not having enough licensed staff.
  • Nearly 100% of all nursing facilities and over 80% of assisted living facilities that are considering sale or closure reported “little to no” interest in vacant positions.

Clearly this is a problem that needs to be confronted and addressed now. Let’s not ignore the health needs of our sick and elderly.

The Alexandria Echo Press Editorial Board consists of Editor Al Edenloff and Publisher Diane Drew.
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