Leap Day Rally Urges Beacon Hill to Invest in Home Care

Hundreds of elder advocates converged at Beacon Hill on Feb. 29, to urge that lawmakers support services for the Commonwealth’s growing 65-plus

Speaking to an audience of roughly 300 seniors at the Elder Leap Day Rally, Mass Home Care Director Al Norman noted the 65-plus population in Massachusetts is projected to grow by 46% over the next 25 years. Some 70% of those elders will need long-term services, and Norman identified access to home care as key to ensuring the Bay State is ready for the age boom.

Leap Day Rally
Al Norman of Mass Home Care speaks to senior advocates and their caregivers during the Elder Leap Day Rally at Beacon Hill. PHOTO COURTESY ANNA TSE

“Seniors strongly prefer care at home, and we could save hundreds of millions of dollars by lowering our nursing facility costs,” said Norman. “We need to step up our investment in home care now, as the Baby Boomers start to hit 70.”

The Elder Leap Day rally was organized in part by Mass Home Care, a nonprofit that represents senior-serving agencies statewide. More than a dozen officials and advocates spoke during the rally, with several calling for expanded eligibility to the state home care program.

The state home care program is currently available for frail elders making less than $27,014. Advocates are asking that eligibility be expanded to roughly $35,000, so that more middle-income individuals can afford to receive necessary services and avoid costly nursing home placements.

Speaking after the rally, Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services Director John O’Neill said the current requirements are outdated, adding they unfairly penalize middle income families.

“No family should be forced to put a loved one in a nursing home because they are unable to access our state’s network of in-home supports,” he said.

Common home care services include personal care, transportation, Meals-on-Wheels, and home safety adaptations.

Speaking afterward, Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services Assistant Director Mary Ann Dalton said proactive home care can help older adults maintain independence and avoid medical crises that require more expensive forms of care.

“Forcing elders into nursing homes is a bad deal for taxpayers,” she said. “Decreasing nursing home use by expanding access to home care services will save the Commonwealth $6.3 billion by 2030.”

During his comments, Norman noted that no governor had mentioned an elder initiative during the State of the State address since Mitt Romney in 2008. He urged legislators to make older adults more of a priority, saying the Commonwealth must invest in elders to prepare for the coming age boom.

“We prepare for hurricanes in advance,” he said. “We need to prepare now or be blown away by our own demographics.”

SOURCE: Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services