Simmering issues important to all older Americans and their families, like health and financial security, may escalate to a full boil in many state Capitols in 2018.
Facing these challenges and opportunities head-on, AARP is already exhaustively at work throughout the country, fighting for the issues that matter and driving an innovative agenda focused on commonsense solutions without the clutter of partisanship.
Last year, AARP State Offices achieved huge successes, including new supports for family caregivers, greater access to home and community based services, and new ways to save for retirement. This year, we will continue to find ways to better enable more people to live and age as they choose.
Among our top priorities:
Supporting Family Caregivers
About 40 million family caregivers represent the backbone of our country’s care system, providing hours of unpaid care to their loved ones every day. Over the past two years, AARP state offices have worked with state legislators and governors to enact more than 150 new laws that support these unsung heroes.
In 2018, AARP will continue to support family caregivers and their loved ones by advancing laws and policies that:
- Provide information about the medical or nursing tasks that family caregivers will be asked to perform when their loved ones are discharged from the hospital. The Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable (CARE) Act promotes family caregiver involvement, notification and instruction, and has been enacted in nearly 40 states already.
- Reduce the financial burden for family caregivers through a tax credit.
- Ensure Advanced Practice Registered Nurses can use the full extent of their education and training, and allow nurses to delegate certain medical tasks to home care workers.
- Provide family caregivers with a much-needed break through greater access to respite care services.
- Help family caregivers manage personal or property decisions through comprehensive adult guardianship and power of attorney improvements.
- Encourage employers to offer workplace flexibility options, such as extending paid leave and allowing employees to use sick leave for caregiving responsibilities.
- Create or modify a home care provider registry to enable public access to home care information and availability.
- Remove barriers to telehealth services such as outdated regulations and policies, in order to expand access to care, improve the quality and reduce the cost of care, and create greater convenience for patients and their family caregivers.
Strengthening Home and Community Based Services
AARP knows that an overwhelming majority of Americans want to stay in their homes and communities. That’s why AARP is urging state policymakers to improve home and community based support for older adults and Americans living with disabilities by:
- Lowering costs and improving access.
- Providing greater choice of settings, providers and services.
- Enhancing quality of life and quality of care.
- Increasing effective transitions to avoid unnecessary hospitalizations and institutionalizations.
Accessing Retirement Plans at Work
Half of all U.S. families have zero saved for retirement, and 55 million Americans do not have access to retirement saving plans at work. That’s why AARP will continue advocating for Work and Save plans to increase access to workplace savings options and remove barriers for small businesses that want to offer retirement savings plans to their employees.
Ensuring Utility Services are Affordable
All across the country, families count on utility services to warm and cool their homes, keep their lights on, and access the technology to connect with loved ones—as well as police and fire in case of emergency. AARP strives to save utility customers money by fighting for affordable, reliable, and safe energy and telecommunications services.
In addition, this year, AARP will also continue fighting to: extend Medicaid coverage; lower the costs of prescription drugs; protect pension benefits and retirement income; strengthen communities for all ages; and combat financial exploitation and elder abuse.
To stay up to date on our work in your state, and nationwide, sign up for our e-alerts AARP Advocates e-newsletter, follow me on Twitter @roamthedomes, or visit your state Web page.
Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.
AARP Foundation has filed a lawsuit on behalf of 82-year old nursing facility resident Gloria Single against Pioneer House nursing facility, RHF Foundation, and their corporate affiliates, charging that they illegally dumped her into a hospital. The suit contends that the defendants are willfully violating a State order requiring that they allow her to return home and seeks an injunction so she can return to Pioneer House to be with her 93-year old husband, who still lives there.
Ms. Single is joined as a plaintiff by the public interest organization California Long Term Care Ombudsman Association (CLTCOA). According to the complaint, CLTCOA “has taken the extreme measure of bringing this case because nursing facilities, such as Pioneer House, routinely ignore State Readmission Orders because the State refuses to enforce them itself.”
Pioneer House sent Ms. Single to a hospital, then refused to allow her to return home after the hospital medically cleared her to leave. In response, Ms. Single exercised her right to an administrative hearing before the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), where both sides submitted evidence and sworn testimony. After she prevailed at that hearing and DHCS ordered the facility to readmit Ms. Single, Pioneer House and RHF Foundation continued to refuse to readmit her.
Federal and California laws provide strong protections against evictions of nursing home residents. Residents have very specific rights that are intended to prevent inappropriate, unnecessary and untimely transfers and discharges. States must provide a “fair hearing” for nursing facility residents who claim that they have been illegally evicted. Mrs. Single’s suit alleges that because California has failed to enforce the readmission orders resulting from such hearings, facilities like Pioneer House see no downside in disobeying the orders.
“The problem is that no state agency will take responsibility for enforcing these orders,” said Kelly Bagby of AARP Foundation Litigation, who also represents Plaintiffs. “Resident dumping is a growing trend and serious danger to seniors in California. Until the State does something, our only recourse is going to be filing suits like this. Three years ago, the federal government told California that it had to enforce these orders, and it has done nothing. The time has come for the State to protect its elderly citizens and stop this abusive practice.”
In 2016, AARP and AARP Foundation filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asking the federal government to compel California to enforce its own readmission orders. As a result of that complaint, the federal government again, directed the State of California to enforce administrative law judges’ decisions for people like Mrs. Single.
But to no avail. The AARP Foundation lawsuit followed.
Every person, regardless of age, can participate in creating a livable community. According to a newly published report from Generations United, opportunities that bring different generations together—even the tougher ones involving “tack[ling] critical problems” benefit the entire community.
Though somewhat counterintuitive, finding solutions to meet the needs of older adults must involve voices and collaboration coming from people of all ages. Various generations offer different perspectives, and in fact, people of all ages gain value from age friendly concepts. A recent project we led proved to be a living example.
A Winning Project
The likelihood of having a disability that limits a person’s mobility increases with age. Homes with physical barriers can present risk of falls and injuries, especially for someone with mobility challenges. In 2016, AARP and its partners called for submissions to a competition-style project that sought new solutions for homes that best accommodate our needs as we age. “Re-Defining Home: Home Today, Home Tomorrow,” developed through AARP’s Future of Housing Initiative, asked architects to redesign an existing home while embracing the concept of universal design—that is, design that supports and empowers all people and families: retirees, caregivers and their loved ones, people with disabilities, singles, and young and multigenerational families.
AARP and partners renovated a home in Memphis, TN to incorporate universal design features to accommodate the needs of residents as they age. New features include an open space floor plan with flexible space, wide hallways and spacious bathroom with a curb-less shower.
Photo: Benjamin Rednour
Entrants were challenged to discard typical designs usually targeted towards older adults such as ramps or shower handrails. Rather, competition judges wanted to see evidence of innovative thinking around how affordability, flexibility, community, accessibility, beauty and functionality could best be reflected in a home for people who want to remain in their homes as they age.
Designers incorporated features that provide opportunities to engage the community. Front yard planters can become a community garden. Large windows invite interaction with neighbors. Photo: Benjamin Rednour
The winning team included three junior architects, from IBI Group—Gruzen Samton, Gabriel Espinoza, Carmen Velez, and Timothy Gargiulo—professionals under age 30. Their designs considered what it means to age in place successfully: creating an easily navigable home, incorporating features to reduce fall risks, as well as creating space to nurture and maintain family and community connections. Ms. Velez no doubt drew from her own experience living with her grandmother, Carmencita Bengzon, to help inform the team’s choices. Ultimately, this winning team’s original and imaginative plans were incorporated into a house in Memphis, TN—now the home of a veteran and his family, including his mom, who has limited mobility.
IBI Group—Gruzen Samton architects, Gabriel Espinoza, Timothy Gargiulo, and Carmen Velez speak about their winning designs at the home renovation reveal (left). Mr. Walter Moody and his mother, see their “ageless” home for the first time (right). Photo: Benjamin Rednour
Also achieving success in age disruption was the entry from 11-year old Jennifer Haage, a self-described future architect. (Yes, that’s right—when we say all ages should contribute, we mean all ages.) In her thoughtful and comprehensive proposal, Jenny shared her ideas for aging within a home suitable for all families. Her designs included using wide hallways for wheelchair accessibility, creating multi-functional spaces, adding in interior and exterior green spaces, and incorporating a “cat corner,” since pets can be great companionship for older adults who may feel isolated.
Designs from Jennifer Haage, age 11, who shared her vision for an “ageless” home. Photo: Jennifer Haage
All-Ages Approach a Winning Combination
The Re-Defining Home competition illustrates how accessible home design can be duplicated across the country. The winning team exemplifies younger generations taking action to solve pressing issues that make stronger communities for all. Encouraging and inspiring young people to participate in aging issues can positively impact their families, careers and communities—and help us to make places more livable for people, both today and tomorrow.
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Shannon Guzman is a policy research senior analyst with the AARP Public Policy Institute, where she works on housing, transportation and land-use issues. Shannon focuses on policies and programs that create livable communities for people of all ages. For more information about livable communities visit, www.aarp.org/livable. Photo: DFinney