Geriatric experts brief the council on unmet home care needs for seniors

April 21, 2023
Homelessness among seniors in Multnomah County increased 15% over a two-year period. This underscores the need for more services aimed at preventing evictions because home care needs are not met, according to a new report from the county’s Department of Human Services.

County employees Department of Aging, Disability, and Veterans Services (ADVSD) briefed the board on Thursday, April 20, highlighting the department’s work to serve the elderly and promote aging in place. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines aging as “the ability to live in one’s home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

In the middle of 2022, Commissioner Susheela Jayapal I requested a budget note during the fiscal year 2023 budget process to better understand the home care needs of seniors who rent in Multnomah County and how the county can help ensure housing stability for this vulnerable population.

“Daily housekeeping and house management tasks such as paying bills are challenging” for many seniors, Commissioner Jayapal said Thursday. “Challenging enough that not being able to keep up can lead to evictions.”

Approximately 152,000 people in Multnomah County are 60 years of age or older. Of those, 33,000 live below the federal poverty level. Between 2017 and 2022, the Oregon standard for self-sufficiency—the amount required to cover the basic needs of working adults—increased from $25,360 annually to $31,521.

“Aging in place becomes especially challenging for anyone with a stable income,” said Alex Garcia Lugo, ADVSD Project Manager. “As the cost of living rises, they may be displaced from their rental housing arrangements.”

In 2013, 13% of the population experiencing homelessness was between the ages of 55 and 69. By last year, that rate had risen to 22.5%, up just 9% between 2021 and 2022. This trend has also been seen among Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.

Recent research also shows that older adults who experience homelessness are twice as likely to develop cognitive impairment, and 2.5 to 10 times more likely to have difficulty caring for themselves. Data from the 2022 Multnomah County countdown timeline also shows that the number of seniors experiencing homelessness increased 15% from 2019 to 2022.

The Department of Aging, Disability, and Veterans Services interviewed more than 1,391 seniors in 17 languages. 2021-25 District Chart for Aging. The top four needs among those surveyed were housing, income, health care and food. With rates of homelessness rising among the elderly, experts suggest that investments in these areas are necessary to prevent homelessness.

Older adults at risk of housing instability or eviction also tend to experience negative social and health conditions. And for people living on fixed incomes, an unexpected medical or utility bill can be disastrous.

“There is an intersection,” García-Lugo said. “The common theme of the participants is that once things get off track, it’s really hard to get back on track.”

García-Lugo highlighted two ADVSD programs that serve seniors at risk of eviction. The Safety Net program helps participants pay medical and utility bills, while the Care Transition program provides case managers who follow up on patients after hospitalization to prevent resettlement.

“Older adults are the people we see a lot in the ED that I care about and they have many, many unmet needs, and we are one of the few safety nets out there,” Commissioner Sharon Miran He said.

Include other local resources Aging and Disability Resources Oregon Connectionwhich provides information for seniors experiencing homelessness, and Mobile Team, which reduces transportation and technology barriers for homeless or disabled seniors.

The Department of Aging, Disability, and Veterans Services also offers Housing Mobility, which assists case managers, directs consumers with resources, tenant screenings, and housing assessments to identify barriers to successful housing.

“It’s good to know that there are programs that are willing to step in,” said the commissioner Diane Rosenbaum He said.

But the gaps remain. The report included five recommendations to help reduce barriers for older adults:

  • Create a home economics program for low-income seniors.
  • Create a pet care program for the elderly.
  • Develop an overnight care delivery program.
  • Increase the Oregon Money Management Program’s ability to act as a representative of the payee to enhance case management and support in the home.
  • Expanding programs that help low-income seniors access home services, resolve tenant problems, and stay in housing

authorized Laurie Stegman She said the housekeeping suggestion resonated with her, having personally witnessed housekeeping become an issue as her parents got older. As people’s health conditions deteriorate, she said, “housekeeping becomes non-existent, which creates a whole other set of health challenges.”

In order to approach implementing these recommendations, the report suggests increased investments in frontline workers, as well as job development, skill expansion and more behavioral health support for employees.

Laura Golino Di Lovato, CEO of Northwest Pilot Projectan organization that connects low-income seniors to affordable rental housing, said the report reflects trends seen by Project Pilot over the past decade.

“I really want to thank our partners at ADVSD for the comprehensive report they put together,” said Giulino Di Lovato. “It really breaks down all the issues related to home care and other support services for seniors, especially those on low incomes.”

chair Jessica Vega Pederson He thanked the sponsors for identifying actionable recommendations for the Board’s consideration.

“It is an important topic when we look at population aging and the unmet needs of our senior neighbors who are either unhousing or at risk of unhousing,” said moderator Vega Pedersen. “There are things we can do, so thank you for bringing us this concrete report.”

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