Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Waiting Lists Lengthening For Elder Care Services

Somerville Journal - Somerville, MA

There are more than 2,000 households across the state that have a disabled elderly person who is not receiving home care support.

According to Mass Home Care, which represents the 27 agencies that operate the home care program locally, the waiting list to get into home care has reached 2,002 people. This includes both the basic home care program (1,593 people waiting) and the Enhanced Community Options Program (409 waiting).

Mass Home Care projects that budget cuts enacted by the General Court and the governor will result in as many as 5,000 to 6,000 seniors waiting to get home care by the close of the fiscal year June 30.

“Families will be struggling to figure out how to take care of mom or dad this Thanksgiving,” said Mass Home Care executive director Al Norman, who said the 2010 fiscal year will go down as the worst on record for cuts since the home care program began in 1974. “The irony is that nursing home doors are wide open in most parts of the state, but the door to home care is closed.”

Norman said community programs like home care are a wise investment for the state, because home care has helped drive down institutional services by 20 percent since the year 2000, and two people can be helped at home for the cost of one nursing home placement. The state’s Medicaid program is required to provide care to the disabled in the “least restrictive setting appropriate to their needs,” but Mass Home Care said the community programs are some of the first to be cut.

Along with home care cuts, the administration has recently slashed rates to the adult foster care program — a residential alternative to nursing homes — and reduced access to the personal care attendant program. The group adult foster care program has also been pared back. Cuts to these three community services total $11 million. The home care cuts totaled more than $16 million, for a total of at least $27 million in lost services.

“It will take us years to get back what we have lost,” said Norman. “We are hurting some of the most vulnerable people in the commonwealth. These are people who will show up sooner or later in our institutions, costing the taxpayers much more in the long-term. Not only is this policy forcing people to be unnecessarily segregated from their community, but it’s fiscally short-sighted.”

While these programs are struggling for every penny, the commonwealth provides $1.2 billion in corporate excise tax breaks.

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