Rocky Point, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, and U.S. Rep. Timothy Bishop (NY-1) visited with seniors today at the Town of Brookhaven’s Senior Citizens Division annual May Rally in Rocky Point to talk about issues affecting seniors and the aging. Senator Gillibrand discussed her three-point plan to improve the lives of New York’s seniors and provide support to family caregivers and other health care professionals.
“With over 75 percent of adults older than 65 suffering from at least one chronic condition, we must ensure that critical senior health care issues are being addressed now,” said Senator Gillibrand. “My plan works to provide more access to training for health care 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.”
Senator Gillibrand’s three-point plan will tackle critical issues facing seniors and the aging population by addressing the severe shortage of health care personnel trained to care for older adults, the need for vital background screening of health care 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. But evidence shows the health care workforce 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 financially – working to handle the costs of food, medicines and other necessities, while also maintaining jobs and caring for their own families.
Seniors are also vulnerable to elderly abuse. A 2002 Government Accountability Office 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.
As a member of the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, Senator Gillibrand is a strong voice for New York Seniors. Her 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 health care 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 services and create a National Clearinghouse to coordinate research and share best practices.