Daines: Montana not equipped to deal with growing senior population

BILLINGS – While the number of seniors in Montana continues to grow, the number of nursing home facilities in the state have decreased, a trend seen in many rural areas across the country.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines of Montana talked about some of the challenges within the industry at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill.

“Twenty years ago in Montana, we had over 100 nursing homes serving this patient population,” said Daines, a Republican. “Today, we have just over 70.”

More than 3,700 Montanans receive care in a nursing home.

Meanwhile, Daines said that in the last 10 years Montana’s senior population has grown 40 percent.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the committee discussed things that can be done to help the state and country’s aging populations, including ramping up efforts to make telemedicine more accessible to those living in rural communities.

Another topic of conversation was having more transparency and more training for those working in facilities to make sure that their patients are receiving the best possible care.

Daines referenced a case in Lewistown, where a state-run nursing home, the Montana Mental Health Nursing Care Center, was cited for failing to protect patients from abuse.

“Last year, a state-run nursing home in Montana was cited for failing to protect patients from verbal, physical, and sexually abusive behaviors of fellow patients,” said Daines. “According to reports, on 13 occasions, officials were not notified of incidents that included abuse in the facility’s wing which houses dementia patients.”

Daines went on to say that during an investigation, one employee reported not receiving the proper training to handle and manage resident behavior. He said he never wants to see an incident like this happen again.

The facility was fined over $250,000 following an investigation.