April 08, 2009

Gillibrand, Towns Tour Brooklyn Senior Centers

Gillibrand Unveils 3-Point Plan to Improve the Lives of Seniors and Provide Support for Over 2 Million Family Caregivers in New York State

Brooklyn, N.Y .- U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate's Special Committee on Aging, and U.S. Rep. Edolphus "Ed" Towns (NY-10), Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, visited with seniors today at the Penn Wortman, Vandalia, and Ft. Greene Stuyvesant Heights senior centers in Brooklyn to talk about issues affecting seniors and the aging. As a leader on health and other issues relating to the elderly, Chairman Towns invited Senator Gillibrand to his district to hear constituents' concerns. The Senator discussed her 3-point plan to improve the lives of New York's seniors and provide support to family caregivers and other healthcare professionals.

"With over 75 percent of adults older than 65 suffering from at least one chronic condition, we must ensure that critical senior healthcare issues are being addressed now," said Senator Gillibrand. "My plan works to provide more access to training for healthcare professionals and family caregivers, and helps to reduce elder abuse. I will continue to work hard in the Senate to ensure that we are protecting and improving the quality of life of New York's senior citizens."

"It is important that we work together to tackle the emerging needs of our seniors, family caregivers, and health care providers," said Rep. Towns.  "Our seniors deserve quality health care services, expanded educational opportunities for lifelong learning, and resources that enable families to continue to provide care to their loved ones during the most critical times of need."

Senator Gillibrand's plan will tackle critical issues facing seniors and the aging population by addressing the severe shortage of healthcare personnel trained to care for older adults, the need for vital background screening of healthcare applicants to prevent elder abuse and neglect, and the need for better funding and research options for family caregivers.

With more than 75 percent of adults older than 65 suffering from at least one chronic medical condition, seniors are heavily reliant on health care services. However, findings show that the healthcare work force is insufficient and unprepared to meet the health care needs of the 78 million baby boomers that will begin turning 65 in 2011.

The largest source of long-term care services in the United States are the 44 million informal caregivers, with over 2 million unpaid family caregivers in New York alone. These dedicated individuals often feel ill-prepared to handle the changing and intense care needs of their loved ones, and struggle to find reliable information and resources to supplement their care. Many of these caregivers are stretched to the brink financially, juggling the costs of food, medicines, and other necessities, while also maintaining jobs and often caring for their own families.

Seniors are also vulnerable to elderly abuse. A 2002 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report recommended that individuals "applying to work in long-term care settings also undergo background checks because the elderly, like children, are a highly vulnerable population." A three-year, seven-state demonstration project stopped over 9,500 applicants with a history of substantiated abuse or a violent criminal record from working with elders and individuals with disabilities.

Senator Gillibrand's three-point plan will address the needs of seniors and increase federal support for family caregivers. The plan includes:

  • Co-sponsoring the Retooling for an Aging America bill to address the severe shortage of health care personnel who are trained to care for older adults. This measure will expand education and training opportunities in geriatrics and long-term care for licensed health professionals, direct care workers and family caregivers.
  • Co-sponsoring The Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act. The measure would add a federal component to the background check process for healthcare employees by screening applicants against the FBI's national database of criminal history records. This will help prevent the abuse and neglect of older persons living in nursing homes and other residential care settings, as well as the elderly being cared for in their own homes.
  • Working on legislation with the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, to create a grant program for local and municipal governments, and non-profit organizations. This bill will provide training for family caregivers to expand their training services and create a National Clearinghouse to coordinate research and best practice information.