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Delegates Discuss Senior Health Issues

Health care providers said they are mainly worried about the group of seniors they call the "at-risk population." At a roundtable discussion of senior care issues, local providers said the "at-risk" group refers to people who do not require or meet the criteria for 24/7 nursing home care, but require funding for at-home services. Carolyn True, director of the Frederick County Department of Aging, said, "It's really a gap in services, not just in Frederick County, but across the state."

True called for state officials to raise funding to the Medicaid Waiver for Older Adults, a program managed by the state Department of Aging.

Danna Kauffman, vice president of public policy at Lifespan Network, said the at-risk population often falls into a pattern of being unable to afford at-home care, and thus go to the hospital because of injury. Lifespan oversees more than 300 Maryland care providers, she said. In a typical situation, senior patients may be discharged from the hospital to a nursing home, where providers assist them apply for Medicaid assistance.

Kauffman said when a person does not meet the requirements for 24/7 nursing home care, providers have two tough choices - they could keep patients at the center and write off the expenditures when patients cannot pay. On the other hand, providers could discharge patients to their homes, where they likely could injure themselves again and return to the hospital.

Carole Grissom, administrator of the Glade Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, said it is a frustrating cycle. She said, "It's a revolving door and the community is not able to support them as safely as they should."

Grissom said the lack of funding to nursing homes results in slashes to staffing and activities for residents.

Delegates Rick Weldon and Paul Stull, Republicans from Brunswick and Walkersville, respectively, said they met with care providers and seniors at Glade Valley, to better understand the problems, before casting votes in an upcoming state legislative special session.

Weldon said some funds from the proposed $1 tax hike on cigarettes could go toward senior care. He plans to lobby in the upcoming special session, for that money to be used to expand the state Medicare program. Weldon serves on the legislative oversight committee for nursing home and rehabilitation center quality. He said he also plans to introduce a bill in next year's session that addresses the requirements of the working poor, the people often saddled with parents' nursing home debt.



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