Advocates for Georgia’s seniors are prioritizing the growth of home and community-based services as they lobby lawmakers during the 2018 session of the state General Assembly.
But the challenge ahead of them was made clear by the release of Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed budget last week, as there is no additional funding for these services proposed in his budget.
“We are disappointed that the budget proposal does not include additional funding for older adults,” Vicki Johnson, who chairs the Georgia Council on Aging, said in a press release. “We will work with committees in the Georgia House and Senate to try to get additional funding included in the final budget.”
Increasing funding for services that support older adults who want to remain in their homes and neighborhoods as long as possible has become a mobilizing force for advocates, whose numbers are growing.
One in five Georgians will be 60 years of age or older in 2040, according to census estimates, and managing that growth will take funding, social support and new programming, advocates contend.
However, more than 12,000 individuals who are seeking assistance with such tasks as bathing and dressing, transportation to the doctor and home-delivered meals are currently on waiting lists.
“That explosive growth will further strain the already overstretched system of supports for Georgia’s older adults,” Johnson said. “Without more funding, Georgia’s seniors will have fewer options for help, and more will end up in nursing homes.”
The cost to Georgia of providing home-based services is roughly one-tenth the cost of nursing home care, according to the Council on Aging, which was created by the Georgia General Assembly in 1977 to advise the governor, legislature and state agencies on programs for Georgia’s seniors.
Advocates for the elderly will also pursue $4 million to help grow staffing, improve technology and expand marketing of senior care programs among the state’s network of 21 aging and disability resource centers, such as Legacy Link, which serves Hall County and the Northeast Georgia region.
Additional priorities include prevention of elder abuse.
For several years now, the Council on Aging has pushed for the creation of a registry that will identify abusers before they can strike again and prevent the hiring of caregivers with a history of abusing or exploiting vulnerable people.
The proposed registry would provide employers of direct-care workers a better screening method for new hires that may deter abusers, according to advocates, while strengthening penalties for abusers.