By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR – Championing the cause of improving access to home and community-based services for seniors and people with disabilities, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) held a long-term care roundtable discussion April 23 at the Information Center.
Dingell has championed bi-partisan legislation in the U.S. House, the Money Follows the Person Program, which gives states grants to help Medicare beneficiaries voluntarily transition from institutionalized, long-term care facilities to home care and community-based care settings. The program is funded through Sept. 30, and Dingell hopes to pass, before year end, the EMPOWER Care Act, which would provide funding for the act for the next five years.
MFP has shown to have a successful track record, as 88,000 people successfully transitioned from institutions to community settings, which have proven to be more cost effective than institutionalized care.
Dingell spoke of the urgency of funding programs for the nation’s aging population.
“I don’t think people realize how serious this is,” she said. “We don’t have the caretakers.”
Michael Karson, president and CEO of the Area Agency on Aging 1B, said there is an urgent need for grants that will provide training for caretakers.
Paula Cunningham, state director of AARP Michigan, said providing home and community-based services can keep people out of institutions longer.
“Providing assistance with the daily activities of living – help with things like shopping, laundry, bathing and cooking meals – can be the difference that allows someone to remain in their own home, which is where the vast majority of people would prefer to age,” Cunningham said.
Dohn Hoyle, director of Public Policy at The Arc Michigan, agreed.
“People with disabilities and those of us gaining disabilities with age want to live in our own homes and enjoy the better quality of life that provides,” he said.
Ed DeAngelo, president and CEO of the Information Center, said having a full range of services available to seniors and people with disabilities is critical.
“People need different combinations of services and supports at different points in their life,” he said. “We appreciate Congresswoman Dingell raising awareness of this important issue.”
Dingell said more needs to be done to help ensure that people can receive community-based care, and said states need the stability to implement such efforts.
“If there is one thing I am taking away from this discussion, it is that we need to be doing more to create opportunities for people to receive community care, not less,” she said. “Seniors and individuals with disabilities deserve the peace of mind that these important provisions will be there for the long term.”
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)