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Kansas Budget Cuts Lead To Waiting List For Senior Services

Andy Marso
Heartland Health Monitor
The Johnson County Area Agency on Aging provides housekeeping and attendant care services for Julia, a 96-year-old who lives in an Overland Park apartment. She met last week with her case worker, Monica Anderson.

Eleven agencies that provide support to help Kansas seniors stay in their homes are starting to put some on waiting lists following state budget cuts.

The $2.1 million reduction to the state’s Senior Care Act programs was part of a package of cuts Gov. Sam Brownback made last month after the Legislature sent him a budget that didn’t balance.

Brownback and the Legislature have faced several budget crises since enacting large income tax cuts in 2012.

The Senior Care Act cuts will affect in-home services that are provided to Kansans 60 and older who aren’t poor enough to qualify for them under the Medicaid frail/elderly waiver.

Jocelyn Lyons, executive director of the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging (AAA) in Topeka, said in a news release that the decrease in funding “came as a complete shock” and represents about 30 percent of the program’s budget.

“The cut to the Senior Care Act program challenges our agency in determining how our consumers will continue to receive services and avoid early nursing home placement,” Lyons said.

Lyons and her colleagues estimate that about 1,300 of the 4,500 Kansans currently served by Senior Care Act programs will be affected.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services administers the program with the help of Area Agencies on Agingthroughout the state that were created by the federal Older Americans Act in 1973 to help older adults “age in place” rather than move into nursing homes.

To do that, the program provides attendant care, respite for family caregivers, housekeeping and chore services, and adult day care.

Monica Anderson, a case worker with the Johnson County AAA, said the agency has started to wait-list some Kansas seniors applying for housekeeping and attendant care services.

“We’re trying to serve as many people as we can,” Anderson said, “and we’re doing that by looking at their long-term care threshold scores when we go out and assess them. Depending on their level of need, we’re kind of allocating hours — a few here, a few there.”

Anderson said, for instance, that a senior eligible for six hours a week of attendant care might get two right away and be put on a waiting list for the other four.

Anderson recently visited a 96-year-old client named Julia in her subsidized apartment in Overland Park.

Julia, who asked that her last name not be published, receives attendant care to help her climb in and out of her bathtub because she has a bad knee. She also receives housekeeping services to keep her apartment tidy.

The services are wonderful, she said, and living independently is good for both her and the state.

“They always tell you the reason they do allow people to come here is it costs so much less than if they go to a nursing home, which, who wants to go to?” Julia said.

Anderson said Julia’s services cost about $500 a month, while a nursing home in Johnson County could cost 10 times more.

Julia says she moved to the Kansas City area from London 70 years ago after marrying an American who was a reporter for Stars and Stripes covering World War II.

She survived the Blitz on London as a young woman, an experience she said may have contributed to the personality that drives her to continue wanting to live independently, without asking for daily help from her family.

“I don’t want to be a problem to anyone,” Julia said.

Anderson has worked for the Johnson County AAA for 22 years. She said the budget cuts have taken a personal toll as she tells Kansans like Julia they will be placed on waiting lists for some of their services.

“When I have to go out and meet people in desperate need and say, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t accommodate all of your needs,’ it’s very difficult,” Anderson said.

Andy Marso is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach him on Twitter @andymarso

Andy Marso is a reporter for KCUR 89.3 and the Kansas News Service based in Topeka.
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