I got back last night from two days in St. Paul, Minn, where I worked with a few dozen deeply commited people who are looking for concrete solutions to the challenges of long-term care.

The program was sponsored by the Citizen’s League, and it brought together nursing home executives, retired physicans, lobbyists, state officials, advocates for the elderly and the disabled, care professionals, and ordinary citizens. We spent the first day identifying critical long-term care problems, and the second developing solutions.

Among them: improving educational materials for those needing care and their families, creating healthy menus for those with disabilities, and a medical contact card that would include, among other things, advance directive information. The most far-reaching of the ideas: expanding safety net alternatives to traditional nursing homes.

This was the second in a series of three August workshops the League is running. Next week, it will look at long-term care financing issues. Soon, all these ideas will be refined by the Citizen’s League staff, published on their website and, perhaps, soon come to fruition.

Before I headed back to Washington, I joined Kathryn Roberts, CEO of Ecumen, a big provider of nursing home, assisted living, and home care services, for an interview on Minnesota Public Radio. To listen, click here

This two-day workshop gave me the chance to meet some wonderful people and to learn a lot about long-term care in Minnesota. It was also the perfect antidote to the often nasty and rarely productive health care “town meetings” we’ve all be subjected to over the past few weeks. These are by no means easy issues, but with the right setting and a willingness to listen rather shout, it is remarkable how much we can accomplish.

It would be wonderful if other communities copied what the Citizen’s League is trying to do.