With only days left in the formal legislative session on Beacon Hill, Old Colony Elder Services’ (OCES), the regional elder services agency serving seniors and individuals with disabilities throughout Brockton and the 22 surrounding communities, say lawmakers have not addressed the home care needs of many seniors and people with disabilities.
According to Mass Home Care Executive Director Al Norman, the state’s home care program had nearly 2,000 elders on a waiting list as the new fiscal year began July 1st.
“We are hoping that members of the General Court will not accept home care waiting lists as a fact of life,” Norman said. “We’ve asked the Ways & Means Committees not to break for reelection campaigns until they address the growing problem of home care shortfalls.”
If no additional funds are forthcoming, Norman predicted the waiting list of 2,000 elders today could reach 4,000 or 5,000 by next June.
“This is a serious concern. Old Colony Elder Services currently has 80 people on its wait list for home care services and we expect this number to reach 200 by next June,” said Diana DiGiorgi, Executive Director of OCES.
Per Mass Home Care approximately $6.7 million is needed in FY 2013 to eliminate the current waiting list. Norman said that many of these elders are eligible for nursing facility care. “It’s easier to place someone in a nursing facility in Massachusetts than it is to keep them at home. Instead of being a ‘community first’ state, we continue to push ‘institutions first’ on our aging and disabled populations.”
Governor Deval Patrick recently filed a supplemental budget that could have been the vehicle for home care funding, Norman noted, but the Governor asked for no relief for these programs.
Mass Home Care is also pushing a one sentence piece of legislation, H4186, that would allow disabled people with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive deficits to get a personal care attendant (PCA). Currently, only people who need physical assistance with care are allowed into the PCA program. H4186 would allow people with cueing and supervision needs to receive care, and avoid costly nursing facility placement. A person suffering from Alzheimer’s would be able to get PCA services at home under the bill.
“People should not be penalized because they have the ‘wrong’ disease,” Norman explained. “If our goal is to keep people at home, then this bill should have passed months ago.”
According to Mass Home Care, 70 percent of states that have a PCA program allow people with cueing and supervision needs to receive care at home. H4186 is currently in the House Third Reading along with 600 other bills.
“Somewhere in between discussions on criminal sentencing and health care reform,” Norman concluded, “we hope that lawmakers will remember than nearly one in five people in the Commonwealth are over the age of 60—-and their greatest wish is to simply live out their lives at home, with dignity and independence. We continue to waste millions of taxpayers’ dollars annually on unnecessary institutional care.”
Incorporated in 1974, Old Colony Elder Services is a private, non-profit corporation designated as one of 27 Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. OCES offers a number of programs to serve seniors, individuals with disabilities, their families and caregivers such as Family Caregiver Support; Adult Family Care; Supportive Housing; Nutrition; Money Management; Protective Services and Home Care.
OCES serves elders, individuals with disabilities, their families and caregivers in 23 communities in Southeastern Massachusetts: Abington, Avon, Bridgewater, Brockton, Carver, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, Easton, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Kingston, Lakeville, Marshfield, Middleboro, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton, Rockland, Stoughton, Wareham, West Bridgewater and Whitman.
The organization’s mission is to provide services that support the dignity and independence of elders by helping them maximize their quality of life; live safely and in good health; and, prevent unnecessary or premature institutionalization. For more information call (508) 584-1561 or visit the website at www.oldcolonyelderservices.org.