Increased home-based services would give the elderly needed flexibility.

Nearly every resident of Maine would like to retire comfortably in the sanctity of their home. However, this is not an option for many Mainers. Maine has the oldest population in the nation and the cost of care for it is continuing to grow. The price of independence is high when you need access to health care, and are concerned with the cost of food, fuel and transportation.

These concerns are driving many out of their own homes.

Many of our elderly or disabled do not need the full services provided by nursing homes. Home-based care provides basic nursing and home-making tasks by professional caregivers who go to the individual’s home for a few hours a day. This service provides the extra little help that can keep people comfortably and safely in their own homes for a much longer time.

Last year, the Legislature established a Blue Ribbon Commission to determine how to provide quality, cost-effective care for our elderly and disabled. The commission concluded that with an improved system that focused on home-based care, not only would residents have a greater sense of independence, but they would be able to stay out of nursing homes and other facilities as long as possible. This system would provide better home-based care for community members and cause a lesser financial strain on health care services in our state.

These findings of the Blue Ribbon Commission became LD 400, which supports critical, cost-effective services that make it possible for Maine’s elderly and disabled to stay where they want to be, in their homes.

For example, LD 400 supports the Priority Social Services Program, which includes services such as Meals on Wheels and transportation for cancer treatment and dialysis. LD 400 supports services for Maine families providing care for their loved ones at home. Many times, all a family caregiver needs is a little help – it can make a world of difference.

This legislation also supports Maine’s Aging and Disability Resource Centers, which provide information and referrals for the elderly and adults with physical disabilities and their families.

These centers provide a vital link to help consumers connect with the services they need. Most critically, LD 400 merges all existing programs under one umbrella, thus creating a seamless system where, ideally, a consumer won’t know when they move from one program to another as they require additional services.

Enabling more residents to receive a greater amount of services in their homes, as called for in LD 400, allows for individual choice and flexibility within the long-term care system.

With the current system, 19 percent of consumers eligible for home-based care are not receiving care because of staffing shortages. Due to lack of funding and support, the number of home care providers is decreasing, causing some residents to be forced into nursing facilities which run at a much higher cost to the state and to the taxpayers.

The system detailed in LD 400 would provide greater help to the elderly and disabled along with help to family members who want to ensure quality, affordable care for their loved ones. It will allow people to stay where they want to be, in their homes, longer, and at a far lower cost.

This solution is good for our seniors and disabled citizens, good for those who care for them, and good for the state.

Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, is the sponsor of LD 400.

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