A society should be judged by how we treat our people at the “bookends” of life, as children and as elders.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Al Norman this morning. Al has been an elder advocate for the last 35 years, working with the Massachusetts legislature to create community-first, patient-centered policies for our senior citizens.
Here’s some of what we talked about and what I’d fight for if elected:
Elders have a right to age in place. We need legislation that stops the one-way conveyor belt from hospitals to rehab facilities to nursing homes. There is a law on the books currently that directs hospitals to counsel patients about their home care options as they prepare to leave the hospital. The legislature should work to ensure that law is enforced. Nursing homes should be the last resort, not the first.
Spouses must be allowed to be care givers. Right now in Massachusetts, spouses are not eligible to be paid as personal care attendants. This makes no sense at all, especially when we consider that paying a spouse to care for their loved one will also help stabilize the family economically. Tied to this, of course, is that we must ensure that all home care aides make at least $15 per hour.
Elders deserve economic security. A recent study by the University of Massachusetts measured the Elder Economic Security index. That’s basically the funds elders need to be able to stay in their homes while meeting their individual needs. Sixty-one percent of elderly individuals in Massachusetts live below the index cut off line. That means that they don’t have an income that will allow them to meet their basic needs and age in place independently. In fact, because of our relatively high cost of living, Massachusetts is the second worst state in the nation, second only to Mississippi. This report triggered a legislative elder security commission which made a number of important recommendations, all of which I support. They include: lifting the age cap on the Earned Income Tax Credit and ensuring access to a number of critical government programs like LIHEAP (the low-income heating program).
Elders deserve both life and death with dignity. Elders must be supported in their efforts to make plans around things like health care proxies. We also must let elders dictate the end of their life, if they choose. And the legislature should ensure that their are adequate fail-safes in the legislation so that people do not in any way feel coerced into making a decision and/or feel that they have no other options.