By Nathan Lamb
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries and letters to the Editor of The Somerville Times belong solely to the authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville Times, its staff or publishers)
February is budget season at Beacon Hill, and that has advocates from across the Commonwealth converging at the Statehouse for Elder Lobby Day on February 27.
Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) will be there backing several proposals for Home Care and other community-based supports. As an elder services agency, we know that the vast majority of older adults prefer to live in their homes as long as possible, and we also know it’s crucial that lawmakers hear from constituents about how important these programs are.
Elder Lobby Day is organized by Mass Home Care, which represents a statewide network of non-profit agencies that offer community-based supports for older adults, their caregivers, and families.
SCES will be at Elder Lobby Day to support the following budget requests from Mass Home Care:
Additional Funding for Home Care, a vital program that provides basic in-home supports. It also helps older adults avoid unwanted and expensive nursing home placements, saving MassHealth $920 million since FY2000. But the program had wait lists for part of FY17, due to budget reasons. The Home Care budget should be increased to meet growing demand.
Elder Protective Services investigates and resolves reports of abuse and neglect. PS reports have risen steadily in recent years, and new regulations require caseworkers to continue investigations, even if the older adult refuses to participate. While this program is in line to receive a modest budget increase, we’re concerned it will be insufficient to offset increased demand.
Elder Nutrition supports Meals on Wheels and congregate meals sites. This line item was essentially level-funded in the governor’s budget, and Mass Home Care predicts a 3% increase is needed to keep pace with demand.
Notice a theme? Keeping up with growing demand is already a challenge for elder services agencies, one that will only grow more acute as our senior population continues to grow.
The 65-plus population of Massachusetts is projected to grow by 46% over the next 20 years. Elder services are a cost-effective and caring way of making our communities safer and more accessible for older adults.
We think that’s a wise investment. If you agree, please contact your delegation and tell them you support elder services.
Elder Lobby Day will take place at the Nurses Hall of the Statehouse from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Monday, February 27.
Nathan Lamb is Director of Outreach and Community Relations at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES), a non-profit agency that supports the independence and wellbeing of older people in Somerville and Cambridge. For more information about SCES, 617-628-2601, visit eldercare.org or follow SCES on Facebook and Twitter.