Social services and elder care: We can’t afford not to pay for them.

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The Kentucky General Assembly faces tough choices as it builds our commonwealth’s budget. Social services, which are already stretched thin, should not be on the chopping block.

We have a moral imperative to care for the frail, sick and less fortunate in our society.
However, some might argue that caregiving should be the domain of the private sector, not the public one. In our experience at ElderServe, it takes a village — of both sectors. We are grateful for the incredible support from individual donors and corporate supporters. Grants also help, but with increasing needs, competition is stiff. Recently, a foundation told us that they received $7 million in funding requests, but had only $1.5 million to give. 

None of these funding sources allow us to provide home care or adult day care for free — two services less costly than assisted living and nursing homes. Instead, we rely on Medicaid, the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency and the VA to pay for these services. 

Social service funding has broader implications for our society, starting with our economy.

As recently as 2014, 13.4 percent of caregivers work full time, according to a Gallup-Healthways poll, and caregivers working full-time miss 72 percent more days of work than noncaregivers. By one estimate, caregiver absenteeism costs the U.S. economy $27 billion in lost productivity.

The need for caregivers will only increase. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the population 85 and older could grow from 6 million in 2014 to 20 million by 2060. In 2010, there were more than seven potential caregivers for every senior. The Urban Institute projects that ratio to drop to 4-to-1 by 2030.

Meanwhile, unemployment remains low and many businesses say they have difficulty finding workers to fill positions.

Spiraling healthcare costs are another challenge for the United States, and the medical community focuses on prevention and management as means of control.

For example, studies have shown that caregivers are at greater risk for depression and heart disease and report feeling less healthy than the general population does. Programs like ElderServe’s HomeCare provide respite, allowing caregivers time to care for themselves. KIPDA, which has a waiting list for home care services, is our HomeCare program’s largest source of revenue. 

KIPDA also helps fund for our Senior Center in Louisville’s underserved Russell neighborhood, which focuses on wellness. 

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By David Disponett on 01/15/2018 11:00 AM
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