Tennessee residents over the age of 50 show widespread support for policies that support family caregivers, help people age in place, improve remote health care and ensure quality in long-term care facilities, according to new research.
An AARP phone survey of about 1,000 state voters conducted in late 2021 revealed deep concerns about these issues — many amplified by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For long-term care, 81% of respondents said they would rather stay home with some form of support than move to a retirement home. To that end, a large majority of Tennessee voters favor more services and funding to make it possible to live in the community for as long as possible, according to AARP.
The survey results also reflect an awareness of the impact that unpaid family care can have on those caring for loved ones and the need for more lasting supports. About half of Tennessee caregivers age 50 and older are also employed. Nearly three in four respondents say their responsibilities have caused emotional stress. And one in three say they have experienced financial hardship as a result of providing care, with transportation being by far the most commonly cited expense.
While 37% of caregivers spent more time caring for loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic, 61% said the role was also more emotionally draining than usual. Women are more likely to have ever been a caregiver (53%) than men (35%) and report more stress than male caregivers.
Acknowledging the challenges of caregiving, 81% of Tennessee voters polled say they support policies that require employers to grant limited unpaid leave to caregiver employees and prohibit their firing for taking time off. 73% were in favor of paid leave for family carers. The AARP survey shows that most Tennessians over the age of 50 support proposals that increase funding for programs that provide respite care so caregivers can take a break from their responsibilities.
The quality of care in nursing homes emerged as an important issue almost universally, with 97% of respondents considering it extremely or very important that residents of facilities receive such care. About three-quarters strongly believe in having a task force to assess and make recommendations on quality of care, reports AARP. Another 89% favor more money for the ombudsman program that investigates complaints in long-term care facilities, and 90% of Tennessee voters think long-term care facility workers should receive a living wage. These policies received more support among Democrats than among Republicans or independents.
The AARP Tennessee poll also touched on views on technology, finding that about half (53%) of respondents felt extremely or very comfortable with technology and a quarter ( 24%) feel quite comfortable. Comfort with technology varied by age. While 66% of people aged 50-64 feel extremely or very comfortable with technology, only 39% of people aged 65 and over feel the same way. Yet most seniors are active online, with eight in ten respondents saying they have internet access at home.
When it comes to technology and health care, the AARP survey found bipartisan support for policies of virtual visits to nursing homes, telehealth services for medical care, and funding technology for ensure the security of patient information.
The AARP research was conducted from October 20 to November 9, 2021. The sample, provided by Aristotle International, consisted of voters over the age of 50 registered to vote in Tennessee. Landlines and cell phones were used to contact 1,001 people and the data was weighted by age and gender.
Mehegan, Laura. Tennessee Long Term Care Survey 2021. Washington, DC: AARP Research, March 2022. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00527.001