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Caregiver support in SD likely to receive legislative focus next year

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Thursday, November 30, 2023   

South Dakota's next legislative session is right around the corner, and lawmakers are expected to take a close look at recommendations for enhancing resources for long-term care services.

Ideas for bolstering care infrastructure come from an interim committee that's been studying the issue.

It also coincides with the latest Long-Term Care Scorecard from AARP, which places South Dakota 36th in the nation.

It says the Legislature has made progress in helping the state's 80-thousand unpaid caregivers, but more work is needed.

Associate State Director of Advocacy for AARP South Dakota Erik Nelson took part in working groups for the committee, and said there are opportunities for meaningful action.

"More and more people want to age in their home, age in their communities," said Nelson, "and the programs and services that we can offer and fund to allow that to happen, it's going to be very important."

One recommendation is to establish new reimbursement rates for home and community-based services. And AARP calls for expanding the nursing home and in-home care workforce, with improved recruitment and higher pay.

State Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt - R-Sioux Falls, the assistant majority leader in the House - expects lawmakers to have an appetite for additional support, but cautions there might be some funding challenges.

Karla Abbott, associate professor of nursing at Augustana University and an AARP volunteer, had to provide long-distance care for her father prior to his passing.

She said she hopes to see broader awareness around South Dakota as more people are thrust into these roles.

"Whether it's formal or informal, we need to have more caregiver conferences," said Abbott, "places where they bring in a speaker to maybe talk even about health care, Medicare, or options for when your family member gets too sick for you to care for them."

Last session, the Legislature increased funding for adult day services.

Meanwhile, the latest AARP scorecard notes many states have large numbers of people with low care needs living in nursing homes, indicating a lack of home and community-level services.

The national rate for this situation is 9%. South Dakota's is much higher, at 22%.



Disclosure: AARP South Dakota contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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