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A new study out of Brown University offers food for thought. It shows that one way to keep people out of nursing homes — so they can age in place, at home — is for states to offer more home-delivered meals.

The report revealed that states that invest the most in home-based meals, like Meals On Wheels, have fewer nursing home admissions for “low-care” residents. Low-care means a person lives in a nursing home yet doesn’t require many of the services offered. In 2009, 12.6 percent of nursing home residents were classified as “low-care.” (The number in that category has dropped from 17.9 percent in 2000, thanks in part to government-funded home- and community-based programs.)

So, with help like meals, others may be able to avoid the expensive, long-term care route. And few people want to take that path. An AARP study in 2010 found that 88 percent of Americans age 65+ would like to grow old at home.

Brown University researchers analyzed statistics from 2000-2009 that included 16,030 nursing homes nationwide, state spending on the Older Americans Act (OAA) — the majority of OAA spending is on home-delivered meals — and public health and nursing home data compiled by Brown’s Shaping Long-Term Care in America project.

In fiscal 2010, 868,000 people received these meals. The following statistic is a lot to digest, but shows the dramatic impact government-subsidized meal programs can have: for every $25 a year per person above the national average that states spend on home-delivered meals, they could shave their percentage of low-care residents compared to the national average by one percentage point.

Does your parent, neighbor, family friend get home-delivered meals? Do you think it is making a difference? Helping to keep them out of a nursing home? I’d love to hear from you!

Photo by Michael Seth courtesy of Creative Commons

Follow Sally Abrahms at www.sallyabrahms.com and on Twitter.

Photo courtesy of MealsonWheels.org via the Latrobe City Council.

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