Virginia needs better senior living centers and more senior healthcare workers, study finds

Posted at 3:25 PM, Jun 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-06 15:25:31-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia’s ranking nationwide for overall senior health has improved since the start of the pandemic, according to a new report.

UnitedHealth Foundation just released the America’s Health Rankings 2022 Senior Report.

The comprehensive look at our senior health in the nation at each state level includes 62 measures of our health from more than 21 different data sources.

Virginia ranked 16th nationwide for the overall health of its senior citizens compared. Virginia ranked 25 in 2019.

Dr. Rhonda Randall, Vice President and chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare Employer and Individual, said Virginia’s improvement comes at the expense of other states.

“I think part of that is due to the fact that in some specific outcomes, particularly around behavioral health, where Virginia stayed pretty much the same as it was before the pandemic,” she explained. “A lot of other states got worse. So, it wasn't necessarily that Virginia improved, but Virginia held steady where there was a significant worsening in our nation.”

Researchers ranked Virginia 11 for its low rate of food insecurity among our seniors.

The Commonwealth ranked 15 in the nation for a low prevalence of insufficient sleep.

But Dr. Randall highlighted several issues where Virginia could improve.

Overall, Virginia reported too many preventable hospitalizations compared to the rest of the nation. About 61 percent of Virginia’s facilities have lower than a four- or five-star rating meaning a low prevalence of quality nursing homes in Virginia.

Staffing remains an issue here, too.

“Virginia is ranked 28th in the nation for the number of home health care workers. So, some of those things can be a call to action. Virginia has about 38 home health care workers for every 1,000 people over the age of 65. On a national average, it's 58 home health care workers for every 1,000 people over the age of 65,” Randall said.

Seniors dying from suicides and drug overdoses are also up.

“The other significant things that went up, unfortunately, on a national level — we saw significant increases in drug deaths and drug overdoses among seniors,” Randall said. "This is particularly non-prescription opioids. That's very concerning. It increased among all age groups. I think people might think that seniors are exempt from that, when in fact, they were the population were increased the most.”

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