It’s complicated…

Here’s the opening of an article by Brian Rokos in the Riverside Press-Enterprise on the potential local impact of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts into programs for individuals and families in need of adult day health care and home-care health services:

“Frail, elderly people and mentally ill adults could be forced into hospitals and nursing homes if day-care services close because of the state’s budget cutting, care providers say.”

But the article goes on to explain that there’s a whole lot more involved than just the black-and-white scenarios: There’s a domino effect of consequences should clients lose access to adult day health care. There’s also the physical and emotional toll on the elderly and frail. Many may not survive a relocation from their own homes.

And, significantly, there’s the stress placed on relatives at home who may have no choice but to restructure their lives to care 24-7 for their loved ones. When adult clients no longer are able to attend day-care health centers, the tasks of providing oversight and activities fall on family members who may have to give up their jobs and free time to provide the care.

The article is illuminating when it comes to explaining this toll on caregivers, some of whom are apparently outlived by the person they attend to, due to the added stress: One man told the Riverside P-E that he grew frustrated reinventing himself as a housewife and a cook and keeping an eye on his wife at all times: “There were times I just wanted to go out and yell,” the man said. Without having a day-care health program to take his wife to, “I’d be back to the old daily going crazy.” With the service as an option, he’s been able to gain some of his free time back — making life easier on him and his wife.

State budget drafters should always consider the multi-tiered human impacts of cutting deeper and deeper into health and human services programs. Represented on the spreadsheet, the programs may look like numbers yet, in actuality, they represent people. And not just people, but whole neighborhoods, cities and — in the final analysis — our level of empathy for fellow Californians.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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