Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why we need the Community Choice Act

In my post yesterday, I wrote about the reintroduction today of the Community Choice Act and linked to testimony by people with disabilities who were put in nursing homes. Reading their stories is chilling to anyone who values their freedom and autonomy. The waste of human potential when people are forced into institutions is, as the UCCB wrote in their letter supporting this bill, against our Catholic beliefs.

But the question may remain for some - - what does community care do for a person with a disability? I live independently with the help of an aide forty hours a week. Some people think that having an aide is no different than having a maid - or is something that can be replaced by other services. This isn't true and is why people have wound up in nursing homes when they can't get funding for an aide in their home.

The reality is that aides provide help that fills in the cracks so a person with a disability can remain living at home. They don't just prepare food, they also feed you if you need that. They help you dress and shower. Aides empty catheter bags, they help with using a lift, they help with transfers, and they sit patiently and turn pages so you can read your mail. They dial phones, open mail, pay bills, run errands, shop, help you get to the doctor and show up at midnight if you have a flood from a plumbing issue. They fill wheelchair tires with air and cut up food.

And their help not only keeps people in their home, it keeps them working and paying taxes. The cost of in home help is cheaper than institutionalized care. It is more flexible and tailored, through a plan of service, to the needs of the person so that costs are kept down. Other available services are used, when possible, along with the services of the aide. There may be volunteers or programs that deliver meals. In the long run, keeping people with disabilities in the community simply costs much less and promotes the dignity and well being of the person.

It's a win-win.

The Community Choice Act will also help families with children with disabilities and seniors. This is a bill that promotes our belief in the inherent dignity and worth of every person and their value to their families and communities. It can end shutting the door on lives, premature deaths and the heartbreak of exclusionary treatment through forced institutionalization. And, in addition to all of that, it provides alternatives to the expensive institutionalized care now thrust upon people.

The only reason I can work and be productive is because of the community care I've received. I know many people with disabilities who were institutionalized and came back as much different people and some who gave up and died in nursing homes at young ages. I've seen mothers and fathers have to put their child with a disability in a nursing home because they couldn't get aides. The heartbreak of these situations can't be described, but needs to be stopped.

As someone who's been blessed and fortunate to stay in the community, I ask you to take the time to read about this bill in my post and support it by writing your representatives in Washington DC and asking them to co-sponsor and support this bill.


FridaWrites said...

I hope the bill passes this time. I am aghast that it hasn't passed years ago. Hmm, saves money, keeps families together, allows people to work and contribute funds to their (lower-cost) care--seems like an excellent solution. It might also provide more jobs--while nursing homes might lose some business, there's a lot of overhead in an institution that there's not with a personal attendant.

Meredith sounds like a blessing. I wish one of my friends had such an attendant right now.

Wheelie Catholic said...

I hope it passes too. Meredith is a blessing - and a brilliant person too. She manages to write books simultaneously.