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Legislators need to fully fund senior long-term care

| March 30, 2023 12:00 AM

Please keep two important points in mind as Montana’s 2023 Legislature nears its conclusion.

First, making sure that we have community-based services for seniors will not eliminate the needs of those who require a higher level of care like assisted living or skilled nursing care.

Despite a once-in-a-generation surplus, Governor Gianforte has failed to propose additional investments in services that would help older Montanans age at home. Without these services, many in their 80s and 90s will lose their self sufficiency and independence much sooner than they otherwise might. To support elders in their homes, Montana needs to up its investments in the communities!

These elders will need moderate caregiving assistance, many will need help with housekeeping and yard work, they will need help with medication management, they will need help with transportation, nutrition and exercise or physical therapy. All of these needs will necessitate case management. And we will need to be able to pay a workforce competitive wages or there won’t be any help or respite for family caregivers who may be themselves stressed and frail and aged.

Second, this is not an either-or choice between supporting the needs of Montanans who want to age at home and the desperate need to fully fund providers of senior long-term care.

Imagine a 200 lb. gentleman with advancing dementia, mildly combative, who struggles with mobility and incontinence. This is no longer going to be manageable for the gentleman’s 100 lb., increasingly frail wife.

Montana needs to boost ALL levels of support for a rapidly growing cohort of our neighbors. In less than three years, the first group of Montana’s baby boomers will turn 80. We need leadership and not foot dragging and finger pointing in Helena. Montana lost 11 nursing homes last year and dozens more sit on the brink of insolvency as things stand.

Call your senators and representatives at 406-444-4800 and leave a message to fully fund senior long-term care by adding the necessary $25 million to HB 2 or HB 649 to fully fund provider rates across the board for both nursing homes and community-based caregivers.

Legislators passed and the Governor signed bills to spend $1 billion, most of it going into the pockets of our wealthiest citizens who earn over $500,000 a year. We can certainly afford to do the right thing for our seniors.

Delores Plumage

Harlem, Mont.