Father's Day

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Father's Day has many meanings for different families. For my family it is very difficult because my father was taken from us years ago. I should clarify; physically he is still with us, but Alzheimer's has left us with the shell of the man we called Daddy. He has no idea that he has children; he does not know I am his daughter. He has been in my care for eight years with the diagnosis of dementia. In the beginning it was not so bad, just the short term memory was affected. Now, this horrible disease has taken over and left us with a man that lives in a constant state of confusion. I have wondered, what would mean a lot to my father? What could I give him for Father's Day? Then one night as I tucked him into bed, he said, "Thank you, dear lady, for the wonderful care you give me." Then I knew what I had to do for Father's Day.

My father receives Arkansas Medicaid funded care through Elderchoices. It's not just the care I give him. I have home care aides who help also while my husband and I are at work. Without this care I would have to place him in an institution. This would be the most heart breaking decision I have to make. I do have this fear in the back of my mind though. Arkansas has not raised the rate it reimburses personal care agencies in several years. The price of gas has increased, insurance rates have increased and the minimum wage has increased as well. All of these things put my father's in-home care in jeopardy. How can agencies provide competently trained home care aides to care for my father while losing money?

As more and more persons are aware of and choose home and community-based care as opposed to institutional care, Arkansas must have a system that adequately provides that care. Our current Medicaid system for in-home personal care and Elderchoices provides a low reimbursement rate, where the majority of home care workers in the state are provided a low wage with no health insurance and no retirement benefit.

National statistics indicate the need for home care workers will increase by better than 50 percent over the next 20 years as the Baby Boomers move into retirement and the older population increases.

I urge Gov. Mike Beebe to increase the reimbursement rate for Medicaid in-home personal care and Elderchoices to $16.76 per hour so that organizations providing the care can recruit and retain good workers while providing these workers an adequate wage and adequate fringe benefits.

The home care workers deserve a good wage for all their efforts. The care they provide allows my father to remain in the community instead of an institution. I want them to be recognized as heroes for our seniors.

In my father's name, I urge all of you to contact Gov. Mike Beebe's office to show your support for the care of our seniors, our fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers. They have given to our country and supported it through the Great Depression. They served in the Armed Services and made many sacrifices to ensure we have the freedom to speak out and take a stand for them now.

Lori Gentry

The proud daughter of Herbert Draper