As Election Day draws near, a ballot initiative in Maine to provide universal home care is shining a spotlight on the inadequacies of the nation’s long-term care system.
The essential problem: Although most older adults want to live at home when their health starts to decline or they become frail, programs that help them do so are narrow in scope, fragmented and poorly funded.
Medicare’s home care benefits are limited to seniors and adults with disabilities who are homebound and need skilled services intermittently. State Medicaid programs vary widely but are generally restricted to people at the lower end of the income ladder. Long-term care insurance is expensive and covers only a small slice of the older population.
That leaves millions of middle-class families struggling to figure out what to do when an older relative develops a serious chronic illness, such as heart failure, or suffers an acute medical crisis, such as a stroke.
“We’re about to have the largest older population we’ve ever had, which is going to need exponentially more care than has ever been needed before. And we’re not prepared,” said Ai-jen Poo, co-director of Caring Across Generations, an organization working to expand long-term care services across the U.S.
– Kaiser Health News