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Commentary | VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES

We All Should Have a Say on Home-Care Measure

Initiative assisting seniors and the disabled belongs on the ballot.

June 15, 2002|MARVIN SCHACHTER | Marvin Schachter is a member of the executive committee of the California Commission on the Aging.

The population of senior citizens is growing at an almost exponential rate, with the over-60 population expected to double by 2020 and the over-85 population projected to triple by 2030.

If we don't address the concerns facing this population, we are going to find ourselves in a fiscal crisis.

How our nation handles these concerns--from housing to health care--will define us.

Unfortunately, the pleas of seniors sometimes go unheard and their needs unconsidered.

The most striking example of this is the recent action of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to quash a ballot measure in support of home care--a critical safety net for more than 100,000 low-income, fragile seniors and people with disabilities in Los Angeles County.

The board's sneaky attempts to keep the measure from seeing the light of day did not go unnoticed.

A determined and hard-working coalition of senior citizens and people with disabilities, along with minimum-wage home health-care workers, overcame the supervisors' tactics to ensure that the measure would be put before the public. They collected more than 380,000 signatures from voters who support placing the Homecare Protection Act on the November 2002 ballot.

One of the reasons home health care is so essential is that it puts at ease one of the most disturbing fears facing our seniors: that they will one day have to move out of their homes and into institutional care facilities because of their diminished ability to care for themselves.

Home is where we raise our families, live our lives, spend time with friends and neighbors. It's wrong to rob seniors of the ability to stay in their homes or demand they do so only at the risk of their well-being.

Besides, the alternatives to home health care are more costly to taxpayers.

Seniors deserve the dignity and independence that come with living in their own homes. Home assistance is what makes that independence possible.

The Homecare Protection Act would protect home-care services by creating a stable work force. It would lift home-care workers and their families out of poverty and give them health insurance, paid vacation and sick time. (A home-care worker earns just $6.75 an hour and receives no vacation or sick pay.)

The initiative also would provide essential home-care service improvements, such as emergency-care and enhanced home-care worker training. The Homecare Protection Act speaks to our collective concern and regard for the needs and rights of our senior citizens and people with disabilities.

With all that said, supporting the Homecare Protection Act of 2002 is simply the right thing to do. Why should anyone be denied the right to remain in his home simply because he needs extra assistance with the daily chores so many of us often take for granted?

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors should be encouraged to place the measure on the November 2002 ballot.

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