Caregivers of seniors and people with disabilities say they need more support, funding

By Jon King, Michigan Advance

A virtual roundtable discussion Tuesday featured state and federal lawmakers seeking solutions to address Michigan’s critically under-resourced care needs for families and care workers. 

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Ann Arbor) joined with state Reps. Padma Kuppa (D-Troy) and Stephanie Young (D-Detroit), along with more than 100 caregivers and caregiving advocates for the discussion, which highlighted the over-reliance on unpaid family caregivers.

Dingell said these families often have little support, despite the fact that caregiving allows for all other work to be possible. 

“It’s the foundation of our economy — no one can do their job if their loved ones aren’t cared for,” she said. “It’s simple: Seniors and people with disabilities deserve to live with dignity and in safety. And care workers deserve adequate benefits and pay for the work they do. Currently, our nation’s long-term care system simply does not meet those unique needs. We have a responsibility to take care of our seniors, our workers and to fight for better home- and community-based services (HCBS).”

Rep. Kuppa said that as the co-chair of the Michigan Legislative Care Caucus and a member of the Disability Caucus, she has been well acquainted with the issues affecting the long-term care and disability communities. 

“I recognize the need for additional federal resources to improve our care infrastructure for seniors, those with disabilities and care providers,” said Kuppa. “Care accessibility and quality are vital to the health of our state, and I was thrilled to join this discussion to share ideas on improving care outcomes for all Michiganders.” 

Advocates from Michigan care organizations showcased the lack of access to support services and programs across the state for people to age with dignity and for disabled people to live the life they choose. 

“Without HCBS, people can’t age at home. This means higher costs and worse outcomes,” said Nicole Shannon, systemic advocacy attorney at Michigan Elder Justice Initiative. “When HCBS isn’t there, people live in dangerous situations. Living in a dangerous situation can look to outsiders like the adult lacks capacity to make decisions–leading to the guardianship system. In reality, people have full mental capacity and are making impossible choices with impossible tradeoffs.”

Also participating was Christina Potts, a direct care advocate and care worker with more than 30 years experience. 

“The current state of the direct care worker is a job with low wages and no time off,” said Potts. “I would like to see a living wage and investments in benefits, including time off and training, that would allow me to have a better quality of life and have more time with my family. If these steps are taken, Michigan’s direct care workforce will be stronger and can care for the people of our state for the long term.”

The roundtable included representatives from a coalition of caregiving focused organizations including Care Can’t Wait Michigan, Alzheimer’s Association of Michigan, Area Agencies on Aging Association of Michigan, Caring Across Generations, Detroit Disability Power, Michigan Developmental Disabilities Institute, Michigan Elder Justice Initiative, Mothering Justice, National Domestic Workers Alliance and The Arc Michigan.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: [email protected]. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

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