STATE REPRESENTATIVE
PAUL C. CASEY

Room 473-B
State House
Boston, MA 02133
Telephone: (617) 722-2230
District Office
585A Main St.
Winchester, MA 01890
Telephone: (617) 721-7285 or (617) 438-7185

A View from the Hill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 02, 1998
CONTACT: Erica Quigley (617) 722-2230

SENIORS REAP THE BENEFITS OF HOLIDAY GIFT GIVING

Last week, thousands of people across the state were putting up miles of Christmas lights, yet not even twenty-four hours had passed since the carving of the Thanksgiving turkey. With the holiday season quickly shifting gears, pilgrims and turkeys have been thrown to the wayside to make room for reindeer and toys. While this rapid transformation from a fall feast to a winter wonderland can be somewhat disenchanting, the holiday spirit that remains in the air is fortunately uplifting. Generosity and the spirit of giving are the staples of the season, as the last page on the 1998 calendar has been turned.

With the beginning of this new month, the legislature has also seen the turning of a new page on the elder affairs agenda. For hundreds of thousands of elderly people living in the Commonwealth, it is imperative that continued emphasis be placed on providing services and incentives for a growing population of people sixty-five and over. (With the national population of people eighty-five and older growing by 16% over the next five years, a foreseeable increase of Home Health Care and nursing home caseloads have generated legislation to handle these anticipated increases.) Obviously, improving the lives of the elderly is critical and cannot be taken lightly.

Pursuant to our collective commitment commitment to the elderly, the legislature has included millions of dollars in FY'99 for the ever increasing needs of the elderly population. The 1999 budget expands many programs to improve the self-sufficiency and quality of life of Massachusetts' elderly residents. For example, this funding has enabled the Executive Office of Elder Affairs to administer home care and related services to more than 37,000 elders, to serve 10,000 elders through statewide supported volunteer programs, and to provide consumer protection to more than 3,000 elders living in assisted living facilities each month.

Overall, more than $7 million in funds have been directed to improve services for elders. The state "Home Care Program" received a $5 million increase alone. This Program ensures that elders are able to live more independently in the community, while avoiding premature, more costly nursing home care. Another bonus of this preventive service is the Meals-on-Wheels (M.O.W.) program for homebound elders. With an increase of $500,000 in funding, over 75,000 elders will continue to receive nearly 8 million meals annually. The expansion of the M.O.W. program is overseen by local Councils on Aging which are also slated to receive an extra million dollars. The latter funds will help provide outreach, transportation, social day care, health screenings and other services. These home health care programs are often a cheaper alternative compared to the costs of nursing home services. In addition to home care services, FY'99 also includes stop gap measures to alleviate elderly homelessness, to assist elderly residents of public housing, and to defray the cost of eyeglasses and hearing aids for low income seniors.

When all Home Health Care options have been exhausted, nursing homes are sometimes the only option. Nursing home care is in the midst of major reform in Massachusetts. Reaching beyond the federal guidelines, the Commonwealth has developed a comprehensive patient abuse prevention program entitled Keeping Nursing Facility Residents Safe. Moreover, legislation was filed that would mandate stringent criminal background checks for all potential nursing home employees. These and other similar measures illustrate the state's continued focus on improving the quality of care for our more vulnerable elders.

As we change holiday themes and make way for the gift-giving season, the legislature has been busy wrapping up new legislative packages designed to improve services for our senior citizens. Keeping in line with the traditional holiday spirit, the Massachusetts House has committed itself to giving back to those who have given so much of themselves. Yet, unlike the fleeting wafts of succulent turkey and cinnamon pumpkin pie, the efforts made on behalf of our elderly will not disappear. Rather, with care, craft, and a keen eye on the future, we can weave the most valuable lessons of the holiday seasons into the social fabric of the next millennium...guaranteeing a little holiday cheer for today and tomorrow!

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