Act Now: Budget Cuts Could Overwhelm Caregivers and Seniors Alike

Being a lifelong student of psychology, I’ve come to a stark conclusion:

Elected officials are missing the part of the brain that allows them to see the potential ripple effects of their actions.

How did I arrive at this revelation? I believe it was when I started reading about the automatic federal spending cuts set to begin March 1st unless the Oval Office and Congress can reach an agreement about how to curb spending in a better way.

This process of automatically cutting federal spending across the board with no reasoned or balanced formula has been named “sequestration” or more dramatically, “The Sequester” (I suddenly want to write a screenplay with this ominous title.). Those are good names, because not only is “sequester” a noun that formally refers to government spending cuts – it’s also a verb that means “to isolate.”

And that’s exactly what The Sequester will do to older adults and their caregivers if it goes through.

The Sequester could result in the decimation of the Meals-on-Wheels program that provides hot meals to over one million elders a day. If you are a caregiver whose loved one relies on Meals-on-Wheels, what will you do if this program is reduced or goes away? Do you have a Plan B to make sure your family member has enough food?

(c) Warren Township Senior Center in Gurnee, Illinois

(c) Warren Township Senior Center in Gurnee, Illinois

It could also result in reductions or shut-downs of programs that help seniors pay for their heat. If you are a caregiver, do you have the funds to cover this expense or the ability to move your family member to your own home or another that will keep him or her warm?

Perhaps most disturbingly, The Sequester could force the closing of thousands of senior centers that provide invaluable services to older adults in communities large and small, including activities, meals, support groups, health screenings, and more. How many caregivers reading this blog depend on their local senior centers to provide services for a parent or spouse? A lot, I expect.

Some people (not many elected officials, mind you) recognize that cutting funding for these programs will hurt seniors, but not enough people extend their thoughts that extra step to see how sequestration will affect caregivers. You see, caregivers and their care receivers are ever-connected and must be considered in tandem when government funding issues are at play.

When the government hurts older adults, their caregivers get hurt too – and vice versa. You cannot separate their needs or their well-being. By allowing automatic federal spending cuts to annihilate programs for elders, the government is helping the word “sequester” live up to its true definition – to isolate and hide away, as if forgotten.

If you are as roiled about this as I am, here’s something you can do: Go to the virtual advocacy page developed by the National Council on Aging and send a letter to your Senators urging them to find a reasonable solution to this mess before sequestration begins on Friday.

As to whether to share with them my theory about their brain anatomy, I leave that up to you.

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