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Response to Pres. Clinton's plan to improve nursing homes 7-98


While acknowledging a report that said nursing home care is improving, President Clinton Tuesday (July 21) called for a series of actions to improve quality in and inspections of nursing homes.

Researchers at Miami’s Scripps Gerontology Center say the issues go deeper.

1-It’s hard to do more with less federal funding. Even with a burgeoning senior population in years to come, "The heyday of federal funding for aging programs has come and gone," says Suzanne Kunkel, director of Scripps. "The Older Americans Act has had the same amount, $1 billion, funded annually since 1980--without increases." Family and friends have always been at the heart of helping older people: they traditionally have provided 80 percent of home care for elders. There’s good news in local funding through tax levies, and community agencies helping fill the void in programs like home meal delivery and personal home care.

Kunkel can be reached at (513) 529-2645 or

2- The federal focus is wrong, says Robert Applebaum. As more people choose home care and assisted living, the nursing home occupancy rate is down across the United States. Nursing homes are also being used more for short stays than long stays. "Yet 90 percent of public money for long-term care goes for nursing home care," says the researcher.

"We’re spending most of the public money on the least appealing choice," he says.

Policy needs to shift away from institutionalized care, says Applebaum.

He is available at (513) 529-2632 or


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