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A recent poll by the SCAN Foundation and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that nearly half of California voters ages 40 and over say they will need long-term care for a close family member within the next 5 years. What’s worse is that just as many said that they couldn’t afford even 1 month of nursing home care.
The poll, now in its third year, illustrates what I am seeing across the country as the need for home and community based services and a reliance on informal supports become more commonplace, not just out of reasons of convenience but for financial reasons as well.
The survey’s key findings show that Californians, regardless of political party or income level, are struggling to save money for future long-term care expenses. It is for this reason that we must ensure that seniors have access to affordable housing and long-term care options.
Besides being a matter of practicality, it is a moral imperative for us to serve the most vulnerable and low-income populations. Because of this, LeadingAge is starting a Housing Plus Services Learning Collaborative in partnership with SAFE and Enterprise Community Partners that will serve as a proving ground for leading not-for-profit organizations to test innovative housing plus services models over the next 2 years. We have also established an Innovations Fund, which will fund projects offering solutions to the challenge of providing affordable low-income housing.
The provisions in the Affordable Care Act allowed for the CLASS Act, a voluntary, federally administered, consumer-financed insurance plan. The CLASS Act was commendable, and it is our hope that CLASS or something like it can be implemented in the near future as a sustainable and affordable solution to the challenge of long-term care.
The need for services and supports is something that most families will face, but that no one wants to talk about. Perhaps what is most important is that this survey is that it shows how the public is waking up to the fact that long-term care is a reality for most folks at a time when people are living longer and the burden of caregiving is increasingly great. If it’s not already a reality, it will become the reality in the next 5 years. Policy makers can no longer ignore the growing need for long-term care, especially when nearly half of voters say they will need long-term care solutions in the near future.
I encourage you to review the findings of the survey for yourself, and familiarize yourself with the trends, because what is happening in California is happening around the country. Use these findings in your advocacy efforts, and share them with your board members and stakeholders. I will end with a quote from Margaret Mead that I heard recently: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does.”
As always, don’t forget to let us know if you use these findings in your advocacy work! Please email email@example.com with your updates and ideas.