Merkley Introduces Older Americans CARE Act To Help Seniors Stay in their Homes

WASHINGTON – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley introduced new legislation to help older Americans stay in their own homes and communities as they age. The bill, the Older Americans Community Access Revitalization and Education (CARE) Act, would also improve seniors’ access to a range of health and support services.

Merkley’s bill would create a Community Care Initiative within the Older Americans Act to coordinate support services like meals, nursing visits, and transportation assistance so older Americans can stay at home. Without these services, they often wind up needing expensive and impersonal hospital or institutional care.

“Caring for an aging parent can be so tough, but nobody wants to turn to a nursing home if they don’t need to,” Merkley said. “We can do a better job to connect older Americans to the basic services that can help them stay at home and help their families make sure they get the care they need. If we can keep more seniors in their communities and save money on expensive hospitalizations and institutional care, everyone is better off.”

With roughly 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day, it is more important now than ever to ensure that America’s programs for seniors are working effectively. Improvements to the Older Americans Act and better coordination among services would allow more of these retiring Baby Boomers to stay in their homes and communities as they age, with a higher quality of life and lower costs.

The Older Americans Act, passed in 1965, was the nation’s first initiative to aim to offer comprehensive support services for older adults. It created a network of federal, state and local units that distribute funding for home and community-based services, such as job training, chronic disease management, health promotion, legal assistance, and popular programs like Meals on Wheels. In 2011, over 47,000 Oregon seniors received Meals on Wheels.

In addition to the pilot program outlined above, the Older Americans CARE Act would:

  • Encourage Aging and Disability Resource Centers and Area Agencies on Aging to improve coordination and collaboration so that seniors seeking services would be directed to the best resource, no matter where they first seek help.
  • Prevent the elderly from falling prey to financial abuse, fraud and scams by strengthening early detection and finance education programs;
  • Increase access to support services for lower-income seniors who live in federally assisted rental housing or low-income housing;
  • Widen dissemination of information on public and private health and social services available to seniors, including a national education campaign to make more seniors and their families aware of available assistance.

Too often seniors only find out about the resources available to them through the Older Americans Act after a health emergency or an expensive hospitalization. The Older Americans CARE Act would establish a national campaign to make sure seniors and their families know about and secure these critical services when they need them.

Year after year, when Congress sets funding for the Older Americans Act, critical senior programs are overlooked and underfunded. Merkley has consistently fought to improve investment and access to these programs. In April he wrote a letter to the Appropriations Committee requesting additional funding for programs authorized under the Older Americans Act.

Merkley has long worked to protect the promises we make to seniors for their lifetimes of work, like Social Security and Medicare. He is the author of the Fair Raises for Seniors Act, which would increase Social Security benefits for seniors by changing the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) formula to reflect the real expenses faced by seniors.

Earlier this week, Sen. Merkley pushed for passage of the Medicare Protection Act, which would prevent Medicare from being privatized or turned into a voucher system and would prevent the Medicare eligibility age from being increased.