A nurse is helping an elderly woman on a walker.

AARP report: States’ care for seniors “painfully inadquate”. Major gaps in RI – Herb Weiss

By Herb Weiss, contributing writer

Last week, the Washington, DC-based AARP released its latest Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) Scorecard, calling care provided to seniors and persons with disabilities during the last three years after the COVID-19 pandemic “painfully inadequate.”  This nine-page report detailed state specific data, finds major gaps in providing care in every state, including Rhode Island, especially in these categories:  “Housing for Older Adults”, “Home Care Costs” and “Home Health Aide Supply”. 

The LTSS Scorecard, consisting of 50 indicators, focused on: affordability and access; choice of setting and provider; safety and quality; support for family caregivers; and community integration, using data from a variety of publicly available sources, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, American Community Survey, and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many benefits of accessing the data

According to AARP, this Scorecard can be a roadmap for improving the LTSS systems and the lives of those who rely on assistance.  Many others will benefit by reviewing this data, too. Federal, state, and local policy makers can identify priorities and ensure resources are allocated equitably. Aging advocates can glean public data and hold government officials accountable. Family caregivers can identify needed resources and become actively involved in policy discussions and advocacy. Seniors relying on long-term care programs and services can learn to inspire culture change and demand available tools. Finally, employers can improve workplace policies and practices to assist caregivers and healthcare groups so they can explore public-private partnerships and alliances. 

Like the findings reported in AARP’s LTSS Scorecard in 2020, Rhode Island ranked 12th in the country in 2023, but this year’s Scorecard reveals that the state has made some progress in improving care options for older Rhode Islanders, specifically the enrollment in the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), as well as the availability of Adult Day Services.

“The pandemic reinforced the need to strengthen long-term care for countless loved ones across the country, including here in Rhode Island,” said AARP Rhode Island State Director Catherine Taylor in a Sept. 28th statement announcing the release of the 2023 LTSS Scorecard. 

“AARP’s Scorecard shows that there are many roads to meet the needs of all Rhode Islanders who deserve the very best care, including the 121,000 family caregivers in our state. The overwhelming majority — 87% — of Rhode Islanders age 45+ would prefer to receive care for themselves or loved ones at home with caregiver assistance. Yet, our low rankings in Housing for Older Adults (51st), Home Care Costs (43rd) and Home Health Aide Supply (41st) underscore how difficult it is for them to age the way they choose. It’s time to accelerate our efforts, for the sake of saving more lives,” she says.  

RI is dead last in housing

“In particular, Rhode Island’s dismal ranking for Housing for Older Adults – dead last – points to the urgent need to increase the supply of affordable, accessible housing. We can do that by passing legislation early in 2024 to strengthen homeowners’ ability to build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to allow them to age in place, support a family member, or house a caregiver,” Taylor said.

A national snapshot of the LTSS Scorecard’s 2023 Data

According to Scorecard, 12 states, including Rhode Island, have enacted paid family leave laws and 18 states have paid sick day laws, which can be used to assist caregivers. AARP’s latest Scorecard also reported that only 6 states provide a tax credit for family caregivers’ out-of-pocket expenses. Rhode Island does not provide a tax credit – nor is it among the 7 states that have statewide laws protecting caregivers from discrimination in the workplace that ensure they are not unfairly treated due to caregiving duties outside of work.

Meanwhile, it was reported that dozens of states experienced declines in the number of care choices that help support family caregivers. For instance, 16 states, including Rhode Island, had declines of 10% or more in access to home health aides since 2019. 

Regarding Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS), the LTSS Scorecard reported that 11 states, including Rhode Island, had state policies that improve presumptive eligibility for Medicaid HCBS at the time of data collection, making it possible for people to go home to receive care after being in the hospital – rather than having to be admitted to a nursing home while their eligibility for Medicaid payments is being determined.

The research indicated that many states also have large numbers of people with low care needs living in nursing homes, indicating a lack of HCBS access and services. More than 20% of nursing home residents in Rhode Island have low needs – compared to 9% nationally.

Data confirms Major Workforce Crisis in nursing facilities across US

As to nursing homes and institutional care, the AARP’s 2023 Scorecard confirmed that a  major workforce crisis exists in facilities across the country. Across all states, wages for direct care workers are lower than wages for comparable occupations, with shortfalls ranging from $1.56 to $5.03 per hour. In Rhode Island, wages are $1.79 lower than other entry level jobs.   

Nationally, more than 50% of nursing staff in nursing facilities leave their job within a year (53.9% turnover rate). However, in Rhode Island, the rate is slightly better than the average, at 49.3% – with Montana, Vermont, and New Mexico experiencing the highest averages in staffing turnover.  

Staffing disparities are also a significant challenge, say researchers, noting that residents of nursing facilities with high admissions of Black residents receive almost 200 fewer hours of care per year compared to residents of facilities with high admissions of white residents. 

According to the LTSS Scorecard, only 22% of nursing facility residents live in a facility with a 5-star rating in the US – with less than the national average, about 20.2%, of Rhode Island residents living in a 5-star facility. Gaps in workforce and equity result in persistent problems in care, say the researchers. One measure, pressure sores, can be life-threatening as they can lead to bone or joint infections, cancer, and sepsis. In this measure, 10% of facility residents nationwide experienced a pressure sore.

Finally, this year’s Scorecard announced that there is progress being made to create innovative and effective alternatives to traditional nursing facility models. Specifically, the researchers say that 10 states, including Rhode Island, made strides in nursing home innovations, such as by utilizing Green House® Nursing Home availability and policies, which includes small facilities, private rooms, and other best practices.

AARP’s 2023 LTSS Scorecard identified recommendations that can fix the nation’s delivery of long-term care programs and services to enable seniors to age in place in their communities. It called for increasing support to the nation’s 48 million family caregivers, “who are the backbone of the long-term care system, providing over $600 billion in unpaid care, such as with paid leave, tax credits, and other mechanisms to address health and financial needs.”

AARP Rhode Island continues to call on the Rhode Island General Assembly to support the state’s 121,000 family caregivers by advocating for enhancements to the state’s Temporary Caregivers Insurance program.

Recommendations on enhancing Long-Term Services and Supports

The Scorecard’s recommendations also called for investing in states’ Home and Community-based Care Infrastructure, by increasing support and training for home health aides and home visits, supporting the ability to access and use medical devices and equipment, and updating key Medicaid regulations and payment models.  

To tackle the workforce crisis, a recommendation suggests that it is crucial to support both nursing facility and in-home workforce by improving recruitment and training, increasing pay, and expanding the ability of trained nurses, aides, community health workers and other paraprofessionals to take on some aspects of care. States can choose to enact and enforce staffing and related care standards.

A recommendation also calls on States to expand the use of innovative, effective models for nursing homes can improve both quality of care and quality of life, such as with smaller facilities and private rooms and to address inequities by investing to close the staggering gaps in access to quality care and facilities and staffing shortages.

(Editor’s Note:  During the pandemic, then Governor Gina Raimondo allocated $5 million towards 2 changes in nursing homes – making all rooms private and providing non-shared, private bathrooms – for all residents – efforts to follow up on this effort have not resulted in what happened to that initiative according to the RI Department of Health).

Another recommendation urges states to create multisector plans for aging and building of coalitions and age-friendly health systems, to help seniors to age in place at home by having affordable and accessible housing and transportation, improved community design, and comprehensive emergency preparedness plans.

Researchers also suggested the advancing innovation in cities, counties, and states by supporting comprehensive state- and community-wide aging plans and piloting new approaches and programs, like Green House® Nursing Homes and presumptive eligibility, that can then be scaled.

Finally, Climate Change is increasing national disasters, and the LTSS Scorecard recommends that every state have a sound emergency preparedness plan to support nursing home residentsin particular, in times of crisis – including natural disaster.

“AARP’s LTSS Scorecard shows some progress and innovation, but there’s still a long way to go before we have systems that allow people to age well, and independently, for as long as possible and support the nation’s 48 million family caregivers. It’s also clear some emerging issues deserve more attention – from whether nursing homes are prepared to confront natural disasters, to whether they have plans in place to maintain and grow their workforces,” says Susan Reinhard, Senior Vice President, AARP Public Policy Institute.

The LTSS Scorecard is a charitable project made possible by a grant from AARP Foundation, with support from The SCAN FoundationThe Commonwealth Fund, and The John A. Hartford Foundation, and has been updated every three years since 2011.

To view the full Scorecard and state-by-state information visit 

To view the Scorecard for specifically Rhode Island, go to:

To view Previous Scorecards (2011, 2014, 2017 and 2020) go to


Herb Weiss, LRI -12, is a Pawtucket-based writer who has covered aging, health care and medical issues for over 43 years.  To purchase his books, Taking Charge: Collected Stories on Aging Boldly and a sequel, compiling weekly published articles, go to