NORWICH — Faced with what he called a “tsunami” of Americans who will turn 65 in the next quarter century, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said new laws are needed to ensure the country is equipped to deal with long-term home health care needs.
“This is important to get this right now, because if we don’t, not only are we going to have millions of people in inappropriate care for them, but we’re going to bankrupt the country,” Murphy, a member of the Senate Health, Labor and Pensions Committee, told a group of about 45 caregivers and industry workers Friday at the Senior Resources Agency on Aging in Norwich.
“We’re massively under funding the need at the federal and state level. When a lot of these seniors slip through the cracks, it’s often the cities and senior centers that end up picking up the pieces, and there’s a limit to their generosity,” he said.
Murphy’s stop was the latest in a series of forums he is holding to get feedback on the RAISE Act – Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage Family Caregivers- legislation he co-sponsored.
In Connecticut, where 1 in 6 residents are providing care for a relative and 70 percent think they will at some point, Murphy said reforms such as pushing employers to provide more flexibility in scheduling and allowing Medicaid dollars to be spent more broadly are essential.
“That is the new reality of this country, and we just haven’t adjusted our laws to catch up,” Murphy said. “We need to be particularly concerned about the burdens we’re asking individuals to take on as they pick up the cost of caring for a relative.”
Denise and Frank King, of Lebanon, offered their experience to back up Murphy’s call. The couple, who are in their 70s, are raising a 25-year-old grandson who has intellectual disabilities.
For more than 10 years, he has been wait-listed for residential placement, and the Kings fear he won’t find a bed before they need assisted care themselves. They’ve testified before the General Assembly several times.
“It makes no sense that five, six, seven years later we’re no longer able to care for him and then they’ll have some funding for him and put him someplace where he knows no one,” Denise King told Murphy. “It doesn’t make any sense that they’re not willing to put the money into helping this now and yet between 5 and 10 years from now, there won’t be any alternative.”
Paige Woodruff, a community care manager at The William W. Backus Hospital, said other complexities, such as public transportation networks and under built workforce development programs, need to be addressed as part of a wider solution.
“I think as we talk, we really need to talk about ‘how do we get information out there to our seniors or to caregivers,’ because people don’t know how to access the system, they don’t have primary care providers. Transportation is a major problem for our seniors, and it’s a big barrier to accessing care,” she said. “We need to talk better as professionals, and we need to build that.”