Seniors Struggle With New Home Care Charges

By Stephanie Reitz, Associated Press Writer

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — Rising property taxes, failing eyesight and even a tumble that cracked her tailbone haven't forced 89-year-old Angeline DiBeneditto from the home she's had for more than six decades.

Now, though, changes in a Connecticut program that helps her and others live independently could push her toward a nursing home after all if she can't scrounge at least $180 more from her monthly budget.

DiBeneditto, who's lived on the same block for 87 of her 89 years, said that if it appears she'll need to move to a nursing home rather than continue living independently, "I would ask the dear Lord to go ahead and take me."

As states struggle with red ink, more seniors like DiBeneditto face new fees or lengthy waiting lists for in-home services like meal deliveries, personal care assistants and visiting nurses.

They have just enough assets that they don't qualify for such services through Medicaid, but are likely to end up in nursing homes — at a much higher state and federal cost — without the help of their state-funded programs.

Officials say the fees and waiting lists, while difficult, are necessary to preserve the home care programs from elimination altogether.

In Connecticut, more than 5,100 clients of its Home Care for Elders Program now pay 15% of their services' costs. Advocates for the elderly say many can't afford it, and state figures show 275 people have dropped out of the program since the charges went into effect Jan. 1.

Other states are also struggling with funding for their home care programs, even as aging baby boomers join a population of older people living longer than ever before.

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