My Turn: We must work together to help seniors
Since 2006, I have had the honor and privilege of serving as a legal aid attorney for New Hampshire Legal Assistance – advocating for workers, persons with disabilities, survivors of domestic violence, senior citizens and veterans.
I advocated not just in court, but in the Legislature, working on legislation with members of both political parties to get things done for everyday people.
In 2008, I had the good fortune to work with then-state Sen. Maggie Hassan and others to extend unemployment insurance aid to part-time workers, which is now serving as a possible lifeline to thousands of part-time workers at Market Basket. My work always aimed at one thing – providing everyday folks a fair shake in the legislative process and helping provide everyone the opportunity to get by.
Some of my most rewarding work has been with clients who are senior citizens, listening to them, and advancing their voices and their concerns. It was sincerely humbling to play a very small role in helping people who have given so much over the course of their lives, including many seniors who are veterans.
In my work with senior citizens, I’ve had the occasion to work on one of the more painful decisions anyone can make: Whether and when to leave your home for some form of assisted living care. I provided information and helped seniors navigate programs and services to fulfill whatever choice they made.
In this process, I learned that Granite State seniors want to stay in their home as long as possible. According to recent report from the New Hampshire AARP: “New Hampshire ranks No. 46 when it comes to offering services that help keep people in their homes and communities as they age. . . . Nearly all – 94 percent – of New Hampshire residents say they want to age at home, and not a nursing home.”
Research from the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies and New Hampshire Housing confirms this “age-in-place” sentiment, and also shows the demographic shift in our state of becoming older in population. This demographic shift comes at a time when our state is also shifting to Medicaid managed care, including for long-term care services affecting many senior citizens.
At this critical time, we need to take concrete steps to help our senior citizens in housing, including advancing affordable and accessible housing for seniors, providing more support for in-home care services for senior citizens, and very closely scrutinizing the implementation of Medicaid managed care, including the Phase No. 2 transition in Medicaid managed care addressing much of the long-term care for seniors.
To do the latter, I believe we should invest in an independent quality assurance authority concerning the implementation of Medicaid managed care, which will help ensure our citizens get the quality of care everyone expects, help ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and help ensure accountability.
Part of ensuring our seniors can live independently in their homes and in their communities for as long as possible means quality oversight of both the medical and non-medical in-home services, such as adequate transportation and home cleaning and meals. It also means we should explore ways to provide in-home care workers the training and support they need to provide safe and high quality in-home services for our seniors.
This is about helping senior citizens have adequate and accessible housing. It is about helping seniors live with respect and dignity in their homes for as long as possible. This is also about making sure the state makes fiscally prudent decisions now that save the state costs in the long-term.
As your state senator, I will listen to and work with all stakeholders in order to do the very best we can for our seniors and help make sure the system actually works.
I will help to serve that needed oversight function, and I will work with anyone willing to help take on these tough and complicated issues – because no one person, or one political party, has a monopoly on good ideas. Let’s work together to help our seniors at this very important time.
(Dan Feltes is a candidate for state Senate in District 15. He lives in Concord.)