Adult day-care center lobbies for Medicare funds
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Adult day-care center lobbies for Medicare funds

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Mario DeMasi of Fort Lee, standing, and Joan Foley of Leonia, participants in the adult day-care program at the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, sign letters urging Congress to pass a bill that would provide Medicare funding for adult day-care services. With them is staff member Alex Gomez. Photo courtesy of Galen Adult Health Care Center

While many focused on the heated gubernatorial race this past Election Day, participants at the Gallen Adult Health Care Center at the Jewish Home at Rockleigh began a campaign to lobby local, state, and federal representatives on a bill supporting adult day-care services.

The Medicare Adult Day Services Act, introduced in the House of Representatives in June, would offer Medicare beneficiaries the opportunity to attend medical day care instead of sub-acute care or home care, providing participants with greater independence while offering respite for caregivers. The social interactions provided by adult day-care programs help seniors maintain their cognitive abilities, said Shelley Steiner, a social worker at Gallen who spoke to day-care clients on Election Day about the importance of the bill, kicking off a month-long letter writing campaign. If such services were covered under Medicare, facilities such as the Gallen Center could offer more to its clients, she said.

“This bill is offering people who have Medicare the ability to use it effectively for what they need,” Steiner told The Jewish Standard earlier this week. “It offers structured, supervised programming. This bill would truthfully save people and the government money.”

Some 40 Gallen Center clients began writing letters on Nov. 3, and she hopes to collect at least 90 letters by the end of the month, when she will send copies to state and federal officials.

Currently, people who use adult day care must front the costs themselves. Medicare should cover the service, Steiner argued, because it not only helps patients mentally, but it can reduce the number of additional medical services they require. For example, nurses at adult day-care centers monitor vital signs and can write prescriptions, cutting down on visits to doctors’ offices and hospitals.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, 20 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who were discharged from the hospital were readmitted within 30 days. A key goal of adult day care is to keep people out of hospitals, Steiner said.

More than 50,000,000 people provide care for chronically ill, disabled, or aged family members or friends, according to the text of the bill. These caregivers provide an estimated $306 billion in “free” services annually, though caregiving families tend to have lower incomes. The average intensive caregiver loses $659,139 in wages, pension benefits, and Social Security benefits, while an estimated 9 percent of caregivers leave the workplace altogether.

“For many, it’s an extra cost that – as needed as it is – they can’t afford,” Steiner said.

The National Adult Day Services Association has directed adult day-care centers in advocating for the bill.

According to NADSA, these centers provide care for 150,000 people each day; almost 78 percent of centers are not-for-profit; the average age of an adult day-care client is 72; and two-thirds of all day-care clients are women.

Furthermore, 35 percent of adult day-care clients live with an adult child, 20 percent with a spouse, 18 percent in an institution, 13 percent with parents or other relatives, and 11 percent alone.

The national average cost of adult day care, according to NADSA, is $61 a day, averaging eight to 10 hours per day. By contrast, the average cost for home health aides is $19 per hour.

Adult day-care centers, according to the bill, “serve as an effective source of relief to familial caregivers and provide quality health options to treat our nation’s elderly population, which is about to dramatically increase with the aging of the baby boomer generation.”

For more information on the bill or how to advocate for it, visit www.nadsa.org.

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