The Florida Department of Elder Affairs has released data showing that 6,538 older Floridians died while they were on waiting lists for home and community based services in the state. The information was provided by the office after the chairman of a state health legislative committee asked the department to provide it. The news report from Politico Florida also noted that the state has been increasing funding for some of the programs to address the waiting lists but not enough to keep up with the growing numbers of older persons in the state. AARP in Florida estimates there are nearly 59,000 on waiting lists.
The report stated the seniors died “during the 2014-2015 fiscal year while they were on a waiting list for one of four programs aimed at keeping the elderly out of nursing homes. The four programs include: Medicaid managed long term care, the Home Care for the Elderly, Community Care for the Elderly and the Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative.”
Waiting lists are a major issue in New York State as well among senior advocates and service providers. At a conference early this month which I reported on, three organizations, Lifespan, LiveOn-NY, and AARP called for an investment of $177 million in five service areas to address waiting lists and help older persons stay in their homes. There have also been some increases in funding for programs such as the Community Services for the Elderly (CSE) in New York and other initiatives like caregiver support for Alzheimers. When I was Director of the State Office for the Aging in 2007-2010 we were certainly hampered by the Great Recession which led to budget cuts across the board.
With the state now having a large budget surplus there is an opportunity to push for additional funding but advocates are going to need to get the kind of data that has come out in Florida regarding the number of people receiving services and those who have died waiting. Of course, to be fair, there is a natural level of deaths which would occur over any twelve month period so it is important that the advocacy case provide as much detail as possible to show the impact of services. Of course, the larger issue is the dilemma that seniors and their families have when a person is in great need of help and has made a request but can’t get that help before they die.
An AARP public relations person in Florida commented, “We’ve only just begun to see the types of social changes that will be sweeping over Florida for the next 30 years. What are they going to do 30 years from now?”