ANNAPOLIS – Evelyn M. Chittum, 73, lives in a Glen Burnie community where she cooks, cleans and receives visitors in her small apartment. But without the help of drop-in nurses, she wouldn’t be able to live on her own.
Like Chittum, many senior citizens say they want access to help that will enable them to live in their own homes longer, so Maryland lawmakers are responding to the call.
“I don’t want to be a burden to anybody,” Chittum said. “No matter what shape I’m in I want to try and help myself for as long as I can.”
Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on Tuesday unveiled the seniors’ agenda for this General Assembly session, announcing plans to invest $9 million in the Medicaid waiver program, which will increase the number of seniors who can receive care at home. There are 135 seniors in Maryland who use waivers to pay for at-home assistance. The number would grow by 1,000 with the new money.
“Like all citizens, seniors are happiest and healthiest when they can maintain their independence and live at home, and our agenda for this year will enable more elderly men and women to make that choice,” Townsend said.
The senior agenda also includes funding to expand services in senior housing complexes and to increase health benefits to low-income seniors.
Senior advocacy organizations applauded the agenda, saying the administration is dedicated to improving health and living conditions for seniors.
“As you get older, you want to continue with your independent lifestyle,” said Pamela Causey, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Aging. The state is “stepping up opportunities for more seniors by giving them services that will let them live in their own communities.”
Nearly 400 seniors braved the snowy streets of Annapolis to rally before the administration’s announcement. United Seniors of Maryland has sponsored the rally and lobbying effort since 1979.
“There are a lot of seniors that don’t have someone to visit them or protect them,” said Charlie Culbertson, United Seniors of Maryland president. “Sometimes it doesn’t require very much assistance, just (enough) to get over the hard places where they can’t manage.”
Seniors were excited to meet with legislators, Culbertson said. They supported Townsend’s announcement to help seniors live at home longer.
“When you are more comfortable, you live a more healthy and long life,” Culbertson said. Up-front costs may seem high, he said, but it will be made up by what the state saves in the long run because seniors won’t need to stay in nursing homes as long.
The seniors’ agenda pleases the elderly like Chittum who value their independence but need a little help.
Chittum used to live in a basement apartment with her daughter, but she became frustrated because she had trouble getting in and out. Securing a home aide enabled her to move into her own apartment two years ago. “I can walk with a cane or walker. I can do for myself,” she said. “I don’t want a nursing home. I love it here on my own. I’m happy, very happy.” – 30 – CNS-2-2-00