As Washington Post reporter Jeff Stein’s Aug. 16 article so ably makes clear, good luck getting any help for a poor and infirm parent through the MaineCare system.

When, after many weeks, you have jumped through all the hoops to qualify your parent and are assigned MaineCare home help, you are likely to find that no one is available in the area. Why? Because personal support specialists covered under MaineCare are as scarce as hen’s teeth.

The scarcity certainly has to do with the position’s low pay and lack of benefits, but that in turn stems from the painfully low regard we have for the old and poor.

They are at the bottom of our hierarchy of esteem. “Esteem” comes from Latin, meaning “estimate the merit of.” We use the word to signify respect, honor and even reverence. The old and poor garner none of that, to judge by how fiercely the health care system pushes them toward soul-deadening nursing homes. Their “merit” is zero.

To allow an older disabled person to remain in his or her home requires the system to acknowledge the humanity of that person, that they are more than just the MaineCare number by which they so often are referred. If we held older people in higher esteem – particularly those who can no longer be the dynamic individuals they once were because of illness or disability – then the people who work to take care of them might gain a degree of stature that is conspicuously absent right now, to judge by their pay.

Melissa Waterman


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