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Issue Position: Reforming How Maryland Cares for Those Who Are Aging, Those with Disabilities

Issue Position

Location: Unknown

The Maryland General Assembly may not be in session, but we continue to work on issues critical to the state's residents. I am a member of three commissions, which have been working regularly since May. One of these is the Long-term Care Reform Commission, which addresses issues of the state's aging and disabled populations. I'm proud to serve on a panel that focuses on these concerns, and it was a pleasure to meet with my fellow members in June and July at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Baltimore.

Members of the Long-term Care Reform Commission include service providers, businesses, non-profit organizations and a few legislators from the Health Committee. Its objective is to determine how people can live their lives to the fullest, despite the challenges of aging and disabilities, in the least restrictive setting, while at the same time being conscious of costs.

We hear from groups, such as the Health Facilities Association of Maryland, Life Span Network, Maryland Disability Law Center, and the Maryland Association of Area Agencies on Aging, among others. These are agencies and groups which provide care for your aging parents, people with dementia, individuals with disabilities who need personal care and individuals recovering from serious accidents, injuries or illnesses.

Currently, multiple systems, multiple payers and multiple programs address the needs of these populations. It is difficult to navigate the confusing maze of the different systems, difficult to understand who pays for what, and difficult for individuals and their families to identify the best setting and services for themselves or their loved ones.

As the Long-term Care Reform Commission explores the many options, it has become apparent that placement in a nursing home is the most expensive and restrictive setting, although that intensive level of care is needed by a certain percentage of individuals.

But we have found most individuals choose to age in place in their own homes, and they can do this successfully with adequate supports. We have also learned that people with disabilities often prefer a less restrictive placement than a nursing home, but require caregivers and transportation to remain in their own homes.

What are your opinions and experiences with these issues? I am eager to hear from individuals and their families with suggestions and ideas on helpful ways to allow those who are aging and those with severe disabilities affordably live life to the fullest measure.

As the Long-term Care Reform Commission and I explore these issues, I will report back to you from time to time.

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