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What The GOP Doesn't Get About My Dad, & Your Parents & Grandparents

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The House Republican budget has a lot of flaws. For one thing, independent reports say the plan will cost 700,000 American jobs. (Talk about a job killer!) But let's take a look at just one small group of cuts their plan makes--programs to help seniors stay healthy and independent.

Some examples of these cuts include:

  • Job training & placement for low-income seniors still able to work
  • Grants and loans to rebuild low-income seniors' housing
  • Programs to help seniors with their nutrition
  • Home heating assistance for low-income seniors

Of course, don't forget Republican plans to repeal the health care reform bill, which allows more seniors to get home and community-based alternatives to nursing home care.

I've been taking care of my elderly father for over a decade. Two years ago he spent a few weeks in the hospital, lost his appetite (and a dangerous amount of weight) and stubbornly refused to eat. The first two days, I was lucky if I could beg him to drink a glass of juice and eat some cheese. Only through patient, persistent care, and trial and error, did I find something he was willing to eat. It took months for him to come back from the brink. Even now, his appetite has not fully recovered.

Luckily I'm available to help manage my father's care from day to day. How do seniors without close supervision make it through health, financial, or home challenges? Think of your own elderly parents or grandparents. Can they do maintenance around the house themselves? Do they always eat properly, especially if they're suffering from other health problems? Do they always remember to pay their bills? And would they know how, or who, to call if they needed help with any of these issues?

You could imagine how a slip in any one of these could easily lead to a larger emergency like a fall, worsening health, or foreclosure. Now your elderly parent or grandparent might need to move into a senior community or facility. For the roughly 20 million informal caregivers of the elderly out there, this is a daily worry. So spending a small amount to keep seniors independent can save money that might otherwise go toward more expensive, more intensive care.

Providing better care for seniors can also help their family caregivers. Caregivers have worse physical health and worse overall wellness than non caregivers, go to the doctor less frequently, and can cost American businesses about $34 billion dollars a year in reduced productivity.

But not only does it make good economic sense to help our seniors stay independent, it makes good political sense. This recent NYT/WSJ survey shows cuts to home heating assistance is one of the least popular cuts we can make. By contrast, ending the Bush tax cuts is one of the most popular. Republicans are deeply misguided if they think cutting aid to seniors is their mandate from the midterm elections.

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