Wednesday, August 12, 2009

California Budget Cuts May Lead to Devastating Results for the Elderly

On July 28, 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto powers to impose approximately $500 million in additional cuts to the state's budget plan. Significant cuts were made that affect society's most vulnerable individuals--children, the disabled, and the elderly. Approximately $6.3 million in services to the elderly were cut.

Affected Services
The services that were affected by the cuts and impact the elderly specifically include:

  • In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS): Enables the elderly and disabled, who are eligible, to remain in their own homes. California's IHSS program helps pay for various services, such as personal care services, meal preparation, and housecleaning services.
  • California Department of Aging-Linkages Program: Assists elderly adults and disabled adults, who wish to remain in their own homes, obtain comprehensive care management.
  • Medi-Cal: This is California's Medicaid program that provides health care to low-income elderly individuals and people with disabilities.

Other services that were impacted include aging and community programs and certain public health programs.

Potential Effects
The budget cuts severely impact home and community care programs that provide services to the elderly. These programs enable elderly people, who wish to remain at home, continue to receive services and care at their residence. Some expect that due to the cuts to these programs, there will be a sharp increase in nursing home admissions.

If there is a significant increase in nursing home admissions, there may be an increased incidence of nursing home abuse. If there is not enough staff to properly supervise and care for residents, this lack of supervision may lead to neglect and abandonment. Residents could also potentially injure themselves or others if there is inadequate supervision.

Even if the elderly person chooses to remain in his or her home, now there is a much higher risk that without adequate resources, the elderly person may not receive appropriate care. With less financial assistance, elderly people may also hire less-than-qualified caregivers to assist them, which could potentially lead to physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, or financial abuse or neglect.

Example of a Program Impacted by the Budget Cut
The Los Angeles Times stated that about 27,000 low-income seniors rely on a program which provides them with brown-bag lunches. Farms and other food producers donate the food and about 900 volunteers participate in the program. Before the passage of the current budget, California contributed $541,000 to the program for administrative services. Administration officials have admitted though that if the cuts go into effect, the program may fall apart, leading to potentially malnourished elderly adults.

Although the full impact of the budget cuts remain to be seen, individuals should be mindful of the negative potential effects these cuts may have on the elderly population. If you have experienced elder abuse or suspect elder abuse or neglect, contact me for assistance today.