Helping the nation's elderly pay for care

Question Of The Month

October 30, 2004

Q: Whether it's nursing home care, support for an assisted-living facility or in-home help from a nurse or aid, most people will need some help in their later years. Do you feel you will be able to find and afford the help you need (for yourself or for older relatives)? Is the government doing what it should to see that such services are available and help all Americans afford them?

I strongly feel that the government, and the society as a whole, are not doing what they should to see that the services the elderly need are available or affordable.

As a nurse who is certified in gerontology and has worked with the elderly in many settings, it has been my experience that only the very wealthy can afford the services they need. The very poor can qualify for Medicaid, which limits them to specific services. And middle-class America loses out again.

As a baby boomer, I can understand why this generation does not want to grow old; it is not a pretty picture.

The reimbursements to nursing homes for residents supported by Medicare and Medicaid are not enough to pay for all the services they need. Further, the reimbursement process is far too complicated and the manpower needed to meet the regulations for care for the elderly is unrealistic given the nursing shortage.

The facilities that prosper are those whose residents mostly pay for services privately - i.e., the wealthy. There is no real help available for those who need assisted-living facilities. The program that is supposed to provide such support is a joke.

We are living in a society that has let our elderly down. If this is the picture now, it will only get worse with the amount of the baby boomers entering their golden years.

Medical technology has advanced to allow people to live longer than ever before. Legislation and programs have not kept up with that advancement.

As a geriatric nurse and someone who loves the senior population, I see future generations taking care of their own at home without government support.

I see a Medicare system failing and a Social Security system that will not be adequate.

I see medications and health care only getting more expensive without enough government programs to help people meet the costs.

I see medicine advancing technology to provide care that will allow people to live longer only if they can afford it, which may very well cost more than they ever dreamed - only to live longer at a quality of life that is undesirable.

Donna Haneschlager

Baltimore

Do I believe that the federal government is doing what it can and should for all other Americans?

No, I do not, and one of the major reasons is all the largely wasted billions we are spending and will continue to spend in ever-greater amounts over the next decade on imperialist wars of aggression and military adventurism abroad under the guise of homeland security.

The huge amounts of funds spent on Baghdad and Kabul would be better used for Baltimore and other such American cities.

Charity begins at home, but you would never know it from the bills that Congress passes and the president signs.

Blaine Taylor

Towson

In Central Maryland, the population over age 65 will double between 2005 and 2030. The number of senior citizens living in poverty will increase accordingly.

Day care services took prominence as baby boomers entered the work force; soon, community-based supports for the aging boomers will become our critical need.

And ensuring the physical, emotional and social well-being of our senior population will be the emerging challenge for the children of these families, and for our communities.

Families will be financially unable to "take care of their own." Thus the burden of addressing these concerns must be shared by the community.

Government, private philanthropy and community leaders must recognize the need for senior services, and institute plans to make these services available, accessible and affordable.

The tragedy of neglecting an impending crisis in human services can be seen all too often. The decline of community mental health resources has left many of the chronically mentally ill alone on our streets. The paucity of community-based services for juveniles, and the concomitant problems that result, have been chronicled in The Sun.

Sadly, unless we acknowledge that more must be done - now, and in the years to come - senior citizens and their families will be left without resources.

A. Thomas Grazio

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.

I do not see why the government should be held accountable for the way some elderly people are placed.

I say this because I see a lot of elderly people gamble away their Social Security checks with very little concern as to their placement if they no longer can care for themselves.

I'm not saying all elderly people gamble, but a lot of them do.

Elderly people should be mindful of their spending and stop blaming the government when they find themselves where they don't want to be.

Audrey Knofski

Baltimore

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