Minnesota is rapidly aging, with the 65+ population now larger than the school-age population. Most older adults want to age in their homes and communities. The state must prepare for this demographic shift. I urge you to make needed investments to support family caregivers, provide services to keep older adults in their homes and address the gravity of the workforce crisis.
Every day, millions of Americans help their parents, spouses, and other loved ones live independently at home - where they want to be. Caring for a loved one at home can be stressful, isolating, and financially challenging.
I urge you to support the following policies:
Support Paid Family and Medical Leave: Family caregivers are the backbone of our long-term care system. A Paid Family and Medical Leave program will benefit workers, employers and the economy by helping family caregivers remain at their jobs. It will also save the state money by helping family caregivers keep their parents, spouses, and other loved ones out of costly, taxpayer-funded nursing homes. The Paid Family and Medical Leave program would allow up to 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a seriously ill family member or a worker’s own serious health condition. Caring for a loved one shouldn’t mean losing your pay - or even your job.
Create Sustainable Live Well at Home Grants: Live Well at Home Grants provide services that help older Minnesotans live in their homes and community and include services like help with chores, transportation, and support for family caregivers. Nearly a decade ago, this program was designed to provide innovation grants but does not allow for longer-term grants that sustain programs and build provider capacity throughout the state. Expanding the Live Well at Home Grant as a sustainable program is critical.
Expand Options for Seniors to Pay Relatives for Care: The Minnesota Elderly Waiver Program under Medicaid helps seniors live in their homes and communities. Under this self-directed option, seniors can pay their family members for the care. This option provides more flexibility for care at home. Funding must be increased to allow seniors to exercise this option.
Expedite Access to Home and Community-Based Services: Older adults and people with disabilities who need long-term care under Medicaid may sometimes wait up to 90 days to establish eligibility. This inadvertently funnels many families who prefer home-based care toward nursing homes. Expediting access to home and community-based services under a policy called presumptive eligibility can help avoid unnecessary admissions to nursing homes, decrease hospital overcrowding and to support older adults in their homes.
Invest in Both Wages and Benefits for the Direct Care Workforce: To address the workforce crisis, Minnesota must increase wages for the direct care staff in skilled nursing and home care under the Elderly Waiver (EW) and Alternative Care Programs, the Essential Community Support Program and Personal Care Attendants. It is also critical to provide sick leave benefits. It’s unacceptable that workers caring for vulnerable seniors must choose between going to work sick or losing a paycheck.
Thank you in advance for your support of these policies. Investing in family caregivers, home and community-based services, and the direct care workforce will ensure seniors can live independently and at home where they want to be.