July 28, 2013

Letters to the editor: Report on aging raises key issues

Regarding "A special report: The challenge of our age," July 21:

click image to enlarge

Mary Sweet, 81, who lives in Camden, has her blood pressure checked by Barbara Weaver, one of the people who provide her care. A reader says that a special report on aging points up the need for more state investment in training home care aides such as Weaver.

2013 File Photo/Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Kudos to Kelley Bouchard and Tom Bell of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and Paul Koenig of the Kennebec Journal for doing such a great job in reporting the struggle of the burgeoning population of Maine's elderly and the Department of Health and Human Services' failure to implement an effective plan of action to meet the present and future challenge.

Shame on Gov. LePage and the Democratic-led Legislature, who have failed to acknowledge the problem in their State of the State speeches or to take any identifiable action to deal with the crisis.

Could it be that the governor and the legislators are denying that they, too, could outlive their own resources and wind up in the solitary confinement on limited rations like so many Mainers are dealing with today?

It is my hope that in the next session, someone will step up to the plate, acknowledge the problem and propose some common-sense solutions to deal with this crisis while reducing the cost for expensive nursing-home and hospital care.

The first line of defense would be for the state to invest in more funding to create good-paying job training and employment for homemaker/home health aides.

They work under the supervision of a medical management team. Their mission is to visit the home two to three times a week to do light housekeeping, cooking, shopping, supervision of nutrition and medications and report progress or lack thereof to the medical management team.

Preventing hunger leading to pneumonia, monitoring blood pressure to prevent heart attack or strokes, supervising meds to avoid overdoses are just a few of the activities to prevent hospitalization or nursing-home care.

Cost? In the neighborhood of $10,000 a year for three visits a week.

It's time for the governor and Legislature to stop denying their own mortality before it is too late for them to do anything about it.

Patrick Eisenhart

Augusta

Kudos to the Press Herald for bringing to light the challenges of aging in Maine.

As your first installment in this series rightly points out, both the increasing numbers of seniors in our state and the complex issues that they face present a vexing but not insurmountable challenge for Maine. But as you also correctly note, a critical step in addressing it is to focus collective attention on it in a serious and sustained way.

At the John T. Gorman Foundation, we have made helping more Maine seniors age in place one of our core priorities over the next several years.

In large part, we've done so because we believe that it's the right thing to do. Supporting the ability of people to age with dignity is the least that we owe Mainers who have given so much to our state.

But we've also done this because we agree with the assertion that this is an issue which, if unaddressed today, can potentially overwhelm our state and local resources in the future.

We hope that the concerns raised in this series will help prompt a serious statewide discussion among those in the public, private and nonprofit sectors, and help advance new ideas and investments that will enable Maine to do better job at helping those who have helped so many of us.

We pledge to do our part to work with other partners to promote more thoughtful and effective approaches for addressing this important issue at the policy level and in our local communities.

(Continued on page 2)

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