EDITORIAL: Help older New Yorkers stay in their homes

Money to assist caregivers, provide nutrition is a worthwhile use of taxpayer dollars.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

If you’re taking care of an elderly family member and trying to keep them in their homes where they’re comfortable and happy, you know what a burden it can be on your time, finances and stress levels.

The alternative to allowing older people to stay in their homes as long as possible, with assistance, is placing them in nursing homes or other care facilities, where expenses can range from $200 to $400 or more per day.

That cost falls not just on the person needing the care, but to their families and eventually state taxpayers.

Comparatively small state investments to help offset in-home expenses is a worthwhile use of our tax dollars.

The Assembly Standing Committee on Aging held a public hearing on Friday, in which lawmakers heard testimony from caregivers and senior-support organizations like AARP NY about the need for the state to ramp up funding for in-home services, meals and other services.

The committee is reviewing funding for state and local programs, including the $15 million allocated earlier this year for the Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program (EISEP).

Witnesses also provided testimony in support of more funding for the state’s Wellness in Nutrition (WIN) program, which provides home-delivered meals. 

Support for caregivers and ensuring that people in their homes have proper nutrition is vital to ensuring the quality of life for millions of older New Yorkers.

As many as 2.5 million of New York’s 19.3 million residents find themselves in the situation of caring for family members, providing as much as $31 billion in unpaid care, according to AARP NY.

In addition to more state funding for nutrition and home-care assistance, lawmakers also should support a bill (A7209/S5100) that would provide a limited tax credit to middle class individuals and families to help offset the cost of caring for a love one in their homes.

In 2006, the average out-of-pocket cost for family caregivers was nearly $7,000. For family caregivers of dementia patients, the average expense is nearly $11,000.

The income-based tax credit would provide relief for family caregivers who pay out of their own pockets for home health aides, respite care, health care equipment, home modifications and transportation.

The credit would be limited to $3,500 or 50% of the expenses, and would only end up costing state taxpayers about $35 million, a fraction of what it would cost taxpayers if these individuals were forced to live in taxpayer-supported nursing homes.

State Sen. Daphne Jordan and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner are among the local cosponsors of the legislation.

These worthwhile and modest investments of taxpayer money won’t offset all the costs, but they will go a long way to helping middle class New Yorkers cope with the expense of caring for elderly loved ones who want to live their lives in their own homes.

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