Hundreds of Mainers from across the state picked up the phone Monday evening June 1, 2015 and joined Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Nora Super, executive director of the White House Conference on Aging, for a telephone town hall to discuss the work being done in Maine to build a sustainable long term care system to ensure dignity for Maine seniors and the workers that care for them.
The Speaker's KeepMEHome proposal currently before the legislature seeks to create more affordable housing for seniors as well as increase wages for home health care workers in an effort to improve Maine's long term care system.
"As the oldest state in the nation, Maine has an opportunity to demonstrate bipartisan leadership in addressing our aging challenges," said House Speaker Mark Eves, whose bill to boost pay for direct care workers won bipartisan support last week. "One of the most important steps we can take is ensuring that we have a workforce to help care for our seniors so they can remain in their homes and live independently for as long as possible. We must do right by our seniors and those who care for them."
The Speaker’s KeepME Home plan has bills under consideration that would:
- Boost pay for in-home care workers who have not had a raise in nearly a decade;
- Expand property tax credits for seniors;
- Create affordable housing for seniors in each of Maine’s 16 counties through a $65 million housing bond.
Lawmakers in Augusta are still working on the proposals.
For Jonathan Fulford, a small business owner from Monroe, home health care workers allowed his elderly father to age in his home rather than move to a nursing home.
"My father's deep wish was to age in the home that I built for him and my mother," said Fulford. "He passed away nine years ago, and in the last twelve years of life home health care workers made the absolute difference in helping us realize this dream and keep him out of a permanent life in a nursing home."
The tele-town hall comes as the White House prepares for their annual Conference on Aging in July, which seeks to identify and advance actions to improve the quality of life of older Americans. Nora Super, executive director of the conference, expressed gratitude at being able to hear directly from Mainers about the challenges of aging.
"I often say I'm focusing on three C's: conversation, celebration and change," said Super. "Conversation is what we’re doing tonight, listening and learning from each other, giving me the opportunity to hear from you all in Maine about the issues that are most important. It's also a time to celebrate older Americans and all they have and continue to contribute to our communities. With change, we're looking ahead at how we can improve these programs and looking at interesting work that is happening in states like Maine as a way to move forward."