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Seniorgram: Sending a Message on Senior Issues

Advocate to meet the needs of elders or the numbers won’t add up

Roseann MartocciaRoseann Martoccia, Executive DirectorPeople over the age of 60 will be 22% of the state’s population by 2020. At of the end of 2016, Massachusetts citizens 60 and older outnumbered those residents age 19 and under. While people of all ages use long-term services and supports (LTSS) to live independently in the setting of their choice, almost half of the people in Massachusetts using LTSS are elders. The population in our state is projected to age rapidly, with the rate of growth for those 65+ to increase by 46% over the next 20 years. These numbers are dramatic and will increase the need for LTSS and the demand on the workforce. In addition, people with disabilities and chronic conditions are living longer.

The Administration’s plan (known as House 1) for the FY18 budget is now making its way through the legislative process in the House and Senate. In the current year (FY17), the legislature appropriated $3.7 million to end Home Care waiting lists. The enrollment in Home Care and in Enhanced Community Options and the reports of Elder Protective Services continue to increase to meet demand. All consumers enrolled in Enhanced Community Options are living at home and meet the clinical criteria for nursing facility placement.

Based on the demographics, we know the demand for home- and community-based services will increase in the years ahead. We need to fund accounts adequately to meet the need and use this cost-effective method to support elders and family caregivers. The Home Care regulations have been updated effective January 2017. There has been an expansion of the definition of dementia allowing for persons over 60 as well as those under 60 with a physician’s documented diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, a related disorder, or other dementia. In addition, persons over 60 who meet eligibility requirements but exceed the income eligibility can avail themselves of services on a sliding fee basis. Both of these changes are positive, but appropriations must keep pace in the following areas:

  • Home Care, Enhanced Community Options, and Care Management: House 1 provides no funding to accommodate the expected 2.5% growth in enrollment and the expanded eligibility for enrollment of persons over income.
  • Elder Protective Services: An 8% increase in Protective Services reports and activities are anticipated, and there is a waiting list for Money Management services (bill paying and Rep Payee services) along with the need for additional guardianship slots. None of these are funded in House 1.
  • Enough Pay to Stay: The workforce needed to keep pace with the number of elders needing care and oversight at home is not adequately funded. This new initiative is a top priority and essential to have the capacity to care for those needing LTSS.

Contact your legislators to ask them to support changes to House 1 to support the needs of a growing demographic of elders and people with disabilities.