Image of male nurse pushing senior woman in a wheelchair in nursing facility

A government-sanctioned report predicts Connecticut residents will demand about 6,000 fewer nursing home beds by 2040, but the state’s leading provider group says operators are already preparing for changing consumer demands.

Connecticut’s SNF decrease could be repeated across the East Coast over time. Social service officials commissioned the report from Mercer Human Services Consulting, which projects a 67.6% increase in demand for Medicaid-funded, in-home care between now and 2040 in Connecticut. More alarmingly for skilled nursing providers, the projections also show declining interest in nursing home care could necessitate thousands fewer beds.

The state has already begun restructuring its government-supported nursing home services, with “rebalancing efforts” and closures driving the number of open beds from 3,791 in 2017 to just over 3,100 this year. Some of that shift has come through the controversial Money Follows the Person program, which received an additional $726,400 in funding from the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) and has moved 5,700 people to community settings since 2008.

Despite consumers desire to age in place, providers counter that many seniors will need more intense care. Studies have shown that nursing homes beat community settings for the treatment of certain conditions, including dementia.

Matthew V. Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities and Connecticut Center For Assisted Living, noted that specialized nursing home services can meet the complex needs of a growing population of those over 85 years old, as well as thse with Alzheimer’s disease. He said nursing homes are demonstrating that medical interventions in that environment can prevent avoidable hospital admissions and better address isolation and depression.

“These reports should never be interpreted to present one form of care over another form of care,” Barrett told McKnight’s. “It’s not a home care versus nursing home care equation. Both care models are going to be needed to address the needs of our seniors now and into the future.”

Barrett said nursing home industry leaders have been responsive to the change in dynamics occurring over the last decades, diversifying models of care to include home care, assisted living and community based services. About 85% of the state’s 24,853 beds are occupied, he added.

Barrett cautioned that the report only looked at formal caregiver roles and facilities, and didn’t assess how many families would be able to provide home care.

“For these reasons,” he said, “reports of this type should never be used as a basis to withhold state-level resources that skilled nursing home providers need now to provide high quality care.”