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NEWS: Governor Steve Bullock Supporting Seniors and Their Caregivers

Governor Steve Bullock understands that the entire state is going to be better off if seniors have the care they need to live independently in their own homes and stay engaged in their communities. Providing that care and support isn’t just the right thing to do for seniors; it’s the right thing to do for our kids and grandkids who benefit so greatly from continuing to have access to their elders’ love, wisdom, and experience. And it’s a good deal for the taxpayers as we help seniors avoid much more expensive nursing home care.

Sometimes the difference between staying at home and going to a nursing home just means having access to basic assistance with daily activities; sometime it means getting more substantial in-home healthcare. And sometimes it means making sure that our family caregivers have the training and support they need, including the ability to take much-needed breaks to attend to their own physical, emotional, and professional needs.

We’ve come a long way in supporting Montana seniors and their caregivers. During Governor Bullock’s first term, we became the fourth state in the country to adopt the Community First Choice program, providing long-term supportive care in a home setting for people who would otherwise require institutional care. We’re one of just 10 states implementing a similar program for veterans that provides a mix of services that can meet their care needs in their own homes and communities. And we’re taking unprecedented steps to make sure that we have the healthcare workforce necessary to care for our aging population.

Governor has announced a plan to expand on the great progress we’ve already made in these areas by:

  • Increasing Services that Help Seniors Stay in Their Homes as They Age by providing addition funding to Area Agencies on Aging for services that help seniors stay in their homes and communities, including home delivered meals, transportation to doctor appointments, information about community resources, and respite care for caregivers. Many of the Area Agencies on Aging have waiting lists for these important programs. The services provided by AAA’s save the state money by delaying or avoiding nursing home care. Governor Bullock will be including an additional $1.5 million of state funding in his budget to help fund services for the growing number of seniors in Montana, including those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  • Providing Support for Family Caregivers by funding the Lifespan Respite Program. Over 100,000 Montanans are helping to care for adult family members or friends. Our long-term care system is very dependent on these family caregivers, many of whom are juggling work and caregiving. Respite refers to services that allow family caregivers to take a break from caregiving. Currently a limited amount of respite care is provided through the LifeSpan Respite program and through the Area Agencies on Aging. Montana Lifespan Respite is funded through a federal grant of $120k per year that will end in 2017. Governor Bullock will include state funding in his budget to continue this promising work.
  • Increasing Care Coordination and Decreasing Hospital Readmissions by supporting the CARE Act. The CARE Act is model legislation supported by AARP that has passed in 19 states so far. The CARE Act recognizes the critical role that family caregivers play in keeping their loved ones out of costly institutions. Many of these caregivers end up helping with medication, wound care, and even IVs and injections. Yet too many of them don’t get adequate information or training to help them be successful. The CARE Act would:
    • allow a patient to designate, upon entry to a hospital, a caregiver in the patient’s medical record;
    • require a hospital to notify and meet with the designated caregiver along with the patient to discuss the patient’s plan of care prior to the patient’s discharge or transfer to another facility;
    •  require a hospital to offer instruction to the designated caregiver on certain after-care tasks at time of discharge to his or her current residence;
    • and provide limitation of hospital liability.

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The Department of Public Health and Human Services has a myriad of services available to our seniors.