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Politics & Government

Elder care leaders seek solutions to financial and legal barriers

Senior man walking

State leaders in elder care are learning the hurdles to helping people navigate the many hoops that come with aging.

A working group of state lawmakers and community leaders are looking at issues affecting Delawareans who are aging-in-place, essentially older folks who wish to remain independent for as long as possible.

The Financial and Legal barriers subgroup is diving into the difficulties that many older Delawareans face as they prepare for retirement, and how a lack of outreach makes that process even more difficult.

Julie Devin is a senior planner at Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Disabilities.

“We’re currently doing this whole aging redesign for our agency to really start providing information, referrals, options, counseling to people before they need the services,” Devin says.

She says it can be difficult to help people since many only begin to plan when it starts to become necessary — and those who don’t have family or friends to help can struggle to create an effective plan.

She says the agency ran an aging expo last spring to help create connections earlier, but other members in the group going through the planning process themselves say even learning about the expo itself proved difficult.

Members agree improving outreach should be a priority for agencies and legislation.

Devin adds the state should look to states like Washington, which recently passed a new payroll tax to provide long-term care benefits to individuals.

“Washington is the first in the nation to do something like this,” she says. “It seems promising but because the program has yet to start, it just is starting — it remains to be seen how successful it will be.”

But Devin points out there are issues with Washington’s plan. The maximum lifetime benefit available is only around $36,000, which she calls miniscule compared to the overall cost of long-term care.

Members also looked at difficulties navigating Power of Attorney laws; noting many financial institutions make it difficult to use Power of Attorney, and the lack of help for people living alone only adds to the problem.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.