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Sequestration impacting seniors ability to stay in own homes

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Government services make it possible for seniors to continue to live at home.  This makes good economic sense for the government because community-based services are generally less expensive.  It makes sense for the senior because they are able to continue to live independently and preserve their autonomy. 

But, those services have been trimmed to the tune of $80 billion this year due to sequestration according to a CNN Money article.  Those trimmed costs have included transportation options, companion programs (help with light household duties such as meal preparation, housecleaning and personal hygiene) and hot meal programs thereby putting many seniors at risk of being forced into care.

A November 2013 survey by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4A) found that only 60 percent of Washington state’s Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) have been able to offset some of the federal funding cuts.  As the social and health safety nets are cut, 90 percent of nutrition services, 60 percent of transportation and 60 percent of information and referral services have been reduced.  Even those services that have found ways to offset the costs expect that in 2014, those alternative funding sources will have dried up.  The affect for aging Americans may be catastrophic as support for those services is likely to impact the health outcomes of the most vulnerable and ultimately force them into institutional care at vastly more expense to all of us.

Unless Congress alters its present course, sequestration will continue to make cuts to these programs for the next eight years.  Among the surveys key findings is that three-quarters of AAAs have already experienced an inability to meet current population needs in their communities.  That number is expected to jump to nearly 85 percent if funding cuts continue.

The community-based services save Medicare and Medicaid dollars but they also support the millions of unpaid family caregivers whose dependence upon the programs enable their loved ones to avoid costly institutional care.  Further cuts will increase the burden of family members who already provide an estimated $450 billion worth of care to parents and other family members.

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