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OPINION

JUST PLAIN TALK: Florida man strikes again

Buz Livingston
Buz Livingston

Every time I cross the Chattahoochee River coming home, I’m glad to see the Florida state line. Florida’s population continues to boom, and it’s a good place to be, but to steal a line from Woody Guthrie it helps to have the do-re-mi.

Even though Florida’s over-65 population is 30% higher than the U.S. average, according to a recent AARP study the Sunshine State is dead last for long-term care service and support. The study, in conjunction with The Commonwealth Fund and The SCAN Foundation, looked at five broad categories: Affordability and Access; Choice of Setting and Provider; Support for Family Caregivers; Effective Transitions (hospitals to nursing homes and successful discharges into the community) and Quality of Life and Care.

Of all 50 states, Florida was in the bottom half for all five categories. Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida state director, blames part of the problem on the state’s “overreliance on nursing homes.” Nursing homes aren’t particularly healthy places. A General Accounting Office study found that over 80% had infection protection and control deficiencies. It’s no surprise nursing homes were Petri dishes for coronavirus. In addition to health problems, Florida nursing homes are more expensive than the national average.

Thanks to Alabama, Florida dodged the bottom spot for Choice of Setting and Provider. Florida scores low because the state has insufficient home health and personal care aides. Plus, it’s difficult to age in place with limited public transportation.

In Support for Family Caregivers, Florida doesn’t provide more than the federally minimum requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Susan Reinhard, director of AARP’s Public Policy Institute and head of the most recent study, hopes recently approved legislation in Tallahassee allowing nurse practitioners more autonomy could help people who need long-term care but live at home. The study warns that Florida is dead last for the percentage of nursing home residents with burdensome end of life transitions. When it comes to the quality of life and care, Florida has some good news with substantial improvement regarding antipsychotics for nursing home residents. But the state ranked 35 for pressure sores in nursing home patients.

Long-term care insurance can mitigate costs but many people struggle to fund retirement and can’t afford additional costs after they stop working. If you are like me and want to live in Florida for the rest of your days, plan for potentially higher living costs as you age. Reinhard points out there are things you can do without spending money. Have a residence that’s accessible and maintain connections to the community and your friends.

Take care of your health. I’m convinced my dad’s reluctance to follow doctor’s orders regarding rehab affected his quality of life, but that’s how he rolled. She adds, “Do as much prevention as you can”.

Despite the AARP’s scorecard, quality care is possible in Florida, but expect higher costs, see Woodie Guthrie’s words.

You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP can help figure out what you need. For specific recommendations, visit livingstonfinancial.net or come by the office in Redfish Village, 2050 Scenic 30A, M-1 Suite 230