Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Of caregiving and budgets

It’s a very sorry state of affairs when California needs to cut essential services to seniors and their families to help balance the budget.

Earlier this month the Los Angeles Times ran a news story about governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to shut down state supported day health programs, many designed especially for elderly or individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.

Anyone who has cared for an individual with Alzheimer’s knows what a daunting task this is. Not only is there a constant need to anticipate the desires of the person in your care, but there is a constant need for safety supervision.

Usually, quality of life is only a phrase in someone else’s vocabulary – not even a consideration when you’re just trying to get through the day. There are behavioral challenges and wandering issues; nighttime awakenings and daytime confusion. All in all, families who provide this care deserve every bit of support that we, as a society, can give them.

One of the program directors involved estimates that families facing the loss of day programs will have little choice but to seek nursing home care for their loved one, usually at the state’s expense.

What seems like a savings of $385.8 million could, estimates Debra Cherry, end up costing the state many times more if nursing home care is needed for these individuals.

That’s the economic reality. The personal reality is much more heartbreaking and, well, personal.

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