Best and worst states for senior care and services

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Best and worst states for senior care and services
Best and worst states for senior care and services

South Dakota is the best state to grow old, and West Virginia is the worst, according to a new ranking by senior living ratings site Caring.com. The website considered financial, healthcare and quality-of-life factors in making the list.

Iowa and Minnesota ranked second- and third-best.

“The states that were at the top weren't necessarily the cheapest. They were reasonably priced,” Dayna Steele, Caring.com's chief caring expert and the author of “Surviving Alzheimer's with Friends, Facebook and a Really Big Glass of Wine,” told McKnight's Senior Living. “But what really moved them up the list was the quality of services that were available. They had a good amount of services and services that were rated pretty highly.”

The San Mateo, CA-based company, part of Bankrate, determined its list by using data from Genworth's 2015 Cost of Care Survey; the 2014 State Long-Term Services and Supports Scorecard by the AARP, the Commonwealth Fund and the SCAN Foundation; the 2015 State of American Well-Being by Gallup-Healthways; and more than 100,000 consumer reviews of senior living communities on Caring.com.

In addition to West Virginia, New Jersey and New York were at the bottom of the rankings, hampered by costs deemed to be very high and quality scores that were below average.

Two popular retirement destinations, Arizona and Florida, came in at the 17th and 31st spots, respectively. Florida, Steele said, is “a great place to retire, but it was the quality of healthcare that started to drive Florida down. Arizona? Great place to retire, but the cost of living is higher, which is what brought them down the list.”

Caring.com didn't release the list to encourage retirees to move, Steele said. Rather, the company hopes to prompt planning and conversations among people of all ages, she said; younger adults need to start saving for life in retirement, and families need to talk about the needs of their older adult members.

“Everybody knows this is coming,” Steele said. “Be prepared for it so you can relax in your so-called golden years knowing that you have a plan and you've saved for it.”

Steele has advice for senior living communities, which stand to benefit from that planning: “Do what you say you're going to do and offer a quality product and you'll see yourself rise in the rankings next year.”

Also, she said, visit ratings sites and look on social media to see what residents and families are saying about your community. “If you're seeing a lot of negative remarks, chances are, you've got a problem, and you need to fix it. And when you fix it, you rise in the ratings,” Steele said.

Addressing issues is vital, because the most important goal for senior living communities is to provide “top-notch” care and services for residents, Katie Roper, Caring.com's vice president of sales, told McKnight's Senior Living. “There are fantastic and terrible places just about anywhere you go,” she said. State rankings are “talking about the forest, but what's really important is the trees.”

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