“Why Should I Care?” That is a question we sometimes get when talking to groups about the need for more public funding for home and community-based services to help keep older adults out of nursing homes. Those who ask usually have adequate resources, perhaps a pension, maybe retiree health care. They say they have the money to pay for supports as they age. Thus the question: “Why should I care?” And why should our state legislators care?
There are many sound reasons for supporting greater funding for home and community-based services. The first is obvious: It’s the right thing to do. Survey after survey reports that older adults want to remain in the communities where they have lived for years. They have connections in those neighborhoods – their friends live there; they go to church there. They have a sense of independence.
There are more practical reasons to support in-home services, however. Frankly, it saves money. Frequently, older adults do not need the complete range of services provided in a nursing home. Perhaps, they need only home-delivered meals or assistance with bathing or using the bathroom. Without this kind of help, their health is likely to decline until a nursing home is the only safe option. If, however, admission to a skilled nursing facility can be delayed or avoided altogether, the older adult benefits, her family benefits and taxpayers benefit.
Over 80 percent of nursing home beds are paid for with Medicare or Medicaid funds. Even for individuals who might at one time have had the ability to pay for in-home care, Medicaid often kicks in to help pay for nursing home care once their assets are exhausted. A Medicaid bed in a nursing home costs the state on average 10 times what home care costs. In FY 2016, more than 425 people could not wait any longer for in-home services and went into a nursing home. That costs the state a whopping $8.8 million, instead of the more reasonable $842,000 that home care would have cost.
A third reason is the most practical of all. The network of agencies that provides support to older adults includes both public and private organizations. Like health care, home care depends on both private and public pay to stay in business. Nearly 70 percent of individuals over the age of 65 will need care at some point. That means you or a family member may need a home care provider as you get older. Without a wide array of providers in the marketplace, both public and private, you may not be able to find what you need when you need it.
Right now, 7,000 people throughout Georgia are on the waiting list for in-home services. Included in that total are 541 who live in the coastal region, which includes Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long and McIntosh counties. All of us should care about reducing that number through increased funding for supports for older adults. It’s both the smart thing to do and the right thing to do.
Kathy Floyd, executive director of GCOA
Dionne Lovett, director of CRCAAA