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Caring for Seniors

How Social Services Are Letting the Aging Population Fall Through the Cracks

Casey M. Eden

Eden Life Care

The pandemic has revealed how the aging population in the United States isn’t getting the care it needs, but there are steps we can take to right this problem.

Just like communicating with parents and grandparents living in care facilities shouldn’t be hard, there should be no barriers to providing long-term care for those who have cared for us.

The journey my family has gone through this year has strengthened my understanding of the need we have as a nation to ensure low cost, long-term care for our growing aging population. We are coming together as a nation to thank and honor our frontline healthcare heroes in their fight against COVID-19. We also need to demand the resources to care for all aging Americans.

In October, my grandfather decided it was time to move away from his wife of 72 years into a living facility that provides the 24-hour care he needs. Since then, my family has watched as visiting hours were cancelled during the pandemic, and as we learned what bills were and were not covered by insurance. Both Colorado schoolteachers, my grandparents have Medicare-backed health insurance that provided robust care during their retirement years. As they enter long-term care however, they fall into the huge segment of the United States population who can’t afford the cost of the daily care they need, but don’t yet qualify for Medicaid. For my grandparents now split between a nursing home and our family home in Colorado, covering the costs of both living situations on a monthly pension just doesn’t add up.

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As a family, navigating the cost of care while trying to understand the complex state and federal health and long-term care requirements, as well as our state’s Medicaid application process, was overwhelming. As COVID-19 ravaged our hometown and separated our family members, we struggled with applying for additional Medicaid coverage while the nursing home bills piled up. While waiting for help from a Medicaid office which had closed due to COVID-19, my grandmother received increasing payment notices and phone calls. While we received help from my grandfather’s nursing home administrative staff, we still struggled. And not everyone has help.

In this country, seniors who depend on Medicaid for long-term care receive widely different benefits depending on the state where they live. As a country, we need to invest in a more equitable, robust, and caring system that promotes fair access across the entire United States. For pre-Medicaid seniors, we must work together to improve and expand access to home and community-based services and benefits for our aging family members. We also need more affordable housing options for seniors, regardless of the level of in-home care they need. By providing more transitional housing options, we can cut down on the cost of more expensive nursing home care.

I truly believe that we, as a nation, have to do better in caring for our aging loved ones. I hope you will join me in supporting the “I am Loved” campaign by demanding national Medicaid and long-term care reform. We must make it easier to understand and affordable for all. Cost should not be a barrier to health for seniors and being truly loved means, as a country, we take care of those who cared for us.

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