Senate Committee On Aging Exploring Ways to Modernize the Older Americans Act

Last week, the Senate Special Committee on Aging conducted a hearing on ways to further eldercare services through the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA).

The current OAA programs provide assistance to over 10 million older adults by helping them to live independently in their communities through home care services, congregate and home delivered meals, senior transportation, family caregiver support, and other services.  Despite the wide reach of the programs through the OAA, funding fell by 17% in FY 2011 to $1.9 billion from $2.3 billion in FY 2010.

“One of my priorities [for OAA reauthorization] will address helping the nearly 44 million family members providing care to an older relative by… permitting states to assess whether family caregivers need services such as respite care and counseling,” said Senator Herb Kohl.

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The hearing included testimony from former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, the current President of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving (RCI) at Georgia Southwestern State University and Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as well as other elder care professionals and citizens receiving assistance from the OAA programs.  Greenlee’s testimony outlined the extensive efforts to hold listening sessions from across the country to hear feedback from seniors and eldercare professionals across the country.

Max Richtman, Chairman of the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, provided an overview of the coalition’s recommendations for improving the OAA.  Next, Heather Bruemmer, the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman for Wisconsin, discussed the work of the Ombudsman program, which responds to reports of abuse, neglect and mistreatment in nursing homes as well as assisted living facilities and home and community-based settings.  Timothy Howell, CEO of Senior Citizen Home Assistance Services, described the types of services his company provides to seniors in East Tennessee to help them remain at home and independent as they age.

The Assisted Living Federation of America expressed their support for the OAA, which helps senior remain as independent as possible for as long as possible.

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“The need for programs such as those created by the Older Americans Act has never been greater,” said Richard P. Grimes, president and CEO of the Assisted Living Federation of America.  “The increasing senior population and the economy are squeezing important senior and family caregiver programs like never before.”

View a recording of the testimony.

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