VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) gathered with advocates from the Southern Tier Independence Center in Binghamton on Friday to push for further investment in home health care.
“More than 820,000 Americans are on the waitlist to receive care,” Gillibrand said. “Families may have to wait as long as five years, to get home care services that they need for their loved ones who are aging or disabled.”
Gillibrand said it is difficult to access in-home health care, and the pandemic has made it even harder. She added part of that has to do with a lack of home health workers.
“The work is so hard, so difficult, but folks who are doing it aren’t getting paid properly,” said Gillibrand “They don’t get enough resources, they don’t get enough pay. They don’t have enough benefits, they might not even have health care benefits.”
Mary Whitcombe, Director of Broome County’s Office for Aging, said a shortage in staff makes it harder for residents and families to find care.
“Regardless of income, we want to see all people who wish to remain in their home have the ability to access in home care services,” Whitcombe said .
Whitcombe added home health care prevents many people from ending up in nursing homes and assisted living centers, which can save Medicare and Medicaid funding long-term.
Whitcombe argued home health aides provide important social connections for clients, and help in ways that range from medical services to cooking and cleaning.
Howard Struble, a Johnson City resident, said consumer-directed personal assistance, a form of home health care, has helped him for years.
“We need this, because I don’t want to have to depend on living in a nursing home,” Struble said. “We need to be on our own, we need to feel independent, we need to feel wanted and needed.”
Gillibrand said that the pandemic, combined with the waitlist for care, has put a strain on family caregivers.
Kathy McNulty, whose child is impacted by autism, said she had been without an aide for a year. She said the pandemic made being a caregiver harder, for her child and for her.
“It was very difficult to be able to work from home,” McNulty said. “Because the care time was split between caring for the child and then trying to do your work.”
Gillibrand argued the Better Care Better Jobs Act would put $400 billion toward Medicaid funding for home and community-based health care. She said the legislation would expand Medicaid funding for states that increase access to services and improve pay for home health workers.