Family caregivers converge at State Capitol to rally lawmakers for more help providing dignity for the elderly _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MARK BALLARD – Democratic Rep. Ted James, of Baton Rouge, speaks Tuesday to elderly care givers at an AARP rally on the steps of the State Capitol.

Family caregivers of the elderly lobbied legislators Tuesday for more help in keeping their loved ones at home, where they want to live.

The event, sponsored by AARP Louisiana, coincided with the release of a survey that found 90 percent of those interviewed wanted to live in their communities. The survey also found that 83 percent supported funding to provide more service in the community rather than institutions.

But Louisiana is spending 63 percent of its long-term care service dollar on nursing homes, said Denise Bottcher, interim AARP Louisiana state director. Bottcher said a “rebalancing” of spending must occur as the demand continues.

The survey of 1,000 registered voters age 45 and above was conducted in the fall.

Members of the AARP group delivered their message as they met with some 30 legislators on Tuesday morning.

“Our voice will make a difference,” the group’s legislative director Andrew Muhl assured participants.

Seniors must have a full range of health care choices that meet individual needs, Muhl said.

He said the opportunity exists for more dollars to be spent on home- and community-based services under the Jindal administration’s proposed Medicaid long-term services managed care plans. The administration is preparing to issue a request for proposals for a private firm to manage the care of elderly and developmentally disabled residents. The idea is to provide services that meet the needs of people in the most appropriate and least costly manner.

Nursing home interests are trying to get exempted from the program, which has been dubbed “Bayou Choice.”

Muhl said AARP members must be vigilant and monitor legislation that could be changed to exempt nursing homes.

“We must make sure Louisianians have the health care choices they want,” Muhl said. “We think the best way for it to truly work is to include nursing homes. ... Give seniors the full array of choices for long-term care. That helps the funding work.”

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