The words "Independence, Choice and Dignity" have held special meaning for Oregon's seniors and people with disabilities since the late 1970s. That's when those words were codified and promised in a groundbreaking state law—ORS 410.020—which focused on providing long-term care where Oregonians wanted it: in their homes and communities, significantly reducing the proportion of individuals in facilities like nursing homes.
"Oregon's system was once hailed as a national model that many other states try to emulate," said Don Bruland, director of the Rogue Valley Council of Governments' Senior & Disabled Services, AARP Executive Council member and one of the concept's pioneers. "We still have an important foundation, but neglect and disinvestment—coupled with rapidly changing demographic shifts—are leading to a near crisis for not only future but current seniors and people with disabilities."
Changing Demographics, Dwindling Resources, Growing Needs
According to the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, in less than 20 years, Oregon will see dramatic growth of those 65 and older. While the total population is projected to increase by 47 percent, the 65-plus population will more than double, growing by more than 137 percent to comprise nearly one in five Oregonians.
Over the last two decades, funding for Oregon's long-term care system, as a portion of the state's general fund, has decreased dramatically while caseloads have risen significantly, says AARP Oregon State Director Jerry Cohen. "The system simply does not have the funding or infrastructure to deal with current needs, let alone growing, future ones."
The Right System for the Right Price
Home- and community-based services provide a multitude of benefits. They offer needed care at much lower cost than institutionalized care (nursing homes), saving Oregon taxpayers significant dollars while simultaneously leveraging federal funds. The savings to the state can be sizeable. Consider that under Medicaid, a month in a nursing home can cost $5200 while a month of home-based care can cost only $850. In both cases, the state pays about half the cost.
Multiply the savings of using home-based care by the expected explosion in Oregon's older population, and it's easy to see that taxpayers will benefit significantly—as will those who need care. It's really the fiscally responsible, cost-effective thing to do, especially with a slowing economy and growing state budget pressures.
Such services also allow older Oregonians and people with disabilities to remain independent as long as possible, to exercise choice and to keep their dignity as they receive services in their own homes or communities.
Working Together to Make a Difference
For all these reasons, AARP Oregon and a diverse group of senior and disability organizations, including the Oregon Association of Area Agencies on Aging and Disabilities, the Oregon Health Care Association, Service Employees International Union Local 503 and numerous others, are joining forces to develop both short- and long-term priorities and solutions for consideration by Oregon policymakers. Check out a summary of this effort here.
AARP Oregon believes that if someone will decide where you spend the rest of your life ... it should be you. Please get involved today.
- Sign up to get free long-term care updates and alerts. Get the latest information and efforts regarding long-term care efforts in Oregon. Just send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 866-554-5360 toll-free.
- Volunteer. Opportunities to get involved and help make a difference on long-term care abound. From community information forums to advocacy days at the Capitol, and from one day a year to a few hours a week or month. E-mail email@example.com or call Gretchen Jordan at 503-513-7360 to learn more today.