Another state is taking the ax too much needed elder care services. The Worcester.com reported today that Massachusetts has slashed funding for a senior care service program that helps keep elderly people out of nursing homes. The decision will increase the wait list for seniors who receive basic help such as home-delivered meals, personal care and housecleaning so they can continue to live independently.
Like most other states, Massachusetts’ elderly population has grown in recent years. The state says its highest priority is to keep services for its most vulnerable seniors with urgent care needs. It’s trying to do that by maintaining level funding.
That’s understandable but also short-sighted. Leaving seniors who have little or no one available to help them with basic needs will result in more nursing home admissions, which will cost the state much more than home health services.
If you think it doesn’t or won’t affect you because neither you nor a family member uses elder care services, or because you don’t live in Massachusetts, think again. Other states are trying to contain Medicaid expenses, so funds to services that might benefit your family are vulnerable. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s is rushing to privatize Medicaid in January despite urgent pleas from advocacy groups and lawmakers from both political parties to slow the pace of his reforms.
Medicare and Medicaid expenses do need to be addressed, but the problem can’t be fixed long-term if the primarily solution is to cut services to elderly and disabled people who have no other options. Agree or not, higher taxes will have to be part of the solution if our workforce is to remain productive.
Why? Most senior citizens are someone’s parent, aunt, uncle or other close relative. When elderly and disabled people don’t get the meals, medicine and other critical home care services they need they require more attention which often causes a relative to miss work, leave early, or not focus on the job they should be doing. If you are the co-worker, it may mean you have to do the work your colleague was expected to. If you are the employer, overall productivity suffers.
Yes, the worker might be replaced, but doing so costs the employer time and talent, which equates to lost money. According to The MetLife Study of Care giving Costs to Working Caregivers, nearly 10 million people over the age of 50 care for a parent. Couple that with the fact that about 6 million Americans are over the age of 85, employers should expect that a higher percentage of their workforce will be caregivers.
When I began taking care of my mother nearly 13 years ago I was single and about to enter my peak earning years. If my mother didn’t go to an adult day care program and have transportation services to take her to and from the center, I would never have been able to successfully oversee her care, make it to work on time or concentrate on what I was doing when I was there.
Still, there were missed opportunities and every career decision that I’ve made since my mother came to live with me has been influenced by concerns for her safety and medical needs. My last employment relocation literally hinged on having available home and adult day services, as well as reliable door-to-door transportation services as opposed to just curbside service.
I think families should help aging relatives and not leave it all to the taxpayers. But our taxes should support effective elder care services too because doing so is as much as an investment in our future as any tax dollars invested in business and infrastructure. To siphon funds from services that elderly people and their families count on is not just wrong it is dangerous to our nation’s economic prosperity.
- Elder Care: Balancing a Loved One’s Needs With Your Own (everydayhealth.com)