KENNEBUNK — I am writing to express my support for Question 1, an initiative to provide home health care for all Maine seniors and people with disabilities. I have come to believe that the one-on-one involvement available with home care is much better than the experience of institutional care.

When my mother was diagnosed with Alzeimer’s disease, my siblings and I cared for her in her own home. One of us was always there to lovingly and promptly meet her needs, including toileting, feeding, bathing, grooming and medicating. If she was sad, we could comfort her; if she was bored, we could engage her in an activity.

Caring for my mom was challenging. My sisters and I worked and still had children at home. Luckily, my mom qualified for supportive services paid for by the state, and we were able to hire a caregiver who was a tremendous help.

When my aunt’s health began to fail, my siblings and I cared for her in much the same way we had cared for my mom. In time, my aunt lost the ability to walk and we could no longer provide the care she needed. Because the cost of hiring a caretaker was prohibitive, we had to place her in a nursing home.

Little did we realize the facility was shorthanded. There were some evenings when only one certified nursing asistant was responsible for 20 residents. When a resident rang the bell for help, it could take up to 30 minutes before a CNA responded. My aunt’s needs were often neglected and she greatly suffered, both physically and mentally. My siblings and I spent a lot of time with my aunt in the nursing home so that we could monitor her care and advocate for her. I still feel guilty about taking her from her home and I’m haunted by the poor care she received.

I can understand why there has been a shortage of CNAs. They work very hard for little pay. They also work in facilities that are underfunded and have dismal settings, inadequate supplies and poorly functioning equipment. The nursing home where my aunt was a resident had one shower for 70 people.

That said, not all assisted living facilities are bad. In the years before I retired, I worked independently offering art experiences to residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. I worked in some lovely places that offer quality care for residents and decent pay for CNAs, but they are cost prohibitive for most people, and no matter the quality of a facility, most residents would still rather be in their own home.

I sometimes think of the future and what life will be like for my husband and myself. We don’t want our children to be saddled with the burden of taking care of us, but we also don’t want to become nursing home residents.

I believe Maine’s Homecare For All initiative is the solution to this dilemma because it will ensure that families have the resources to take care of their loved ones in their homes instead of having them sent to a nursing facility. It will provide training that will produce professional skilled caregivers who will be guaranteed decent wages and benefits. Finally, universal home care would give seniors and Mainers with disabilities the freedom to live and age in dignity in the safety, comfort and familiarity of their own homes.

 


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