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Just Getting By: Unmet Need for Personal Assistance Services Among Persons 50 or Older with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities who do not get the help they need with essential daily activities such as bathing, dressing and cooking face significant challenges and can be at risk for more severe disability, acute care hospitalization, and institutionalization. In this AARP Public Policy Institute issue paper, Mary Jo Gibson and Satyendra Verma report the results of a survey of 865 persons age 50+ with disabilities, identifying...

  • key factors associated with unmet need for personal assistance services
  • differing preferences for services among those receiving no help and those receiving some but not enough help
  • changes that those with unmet needs say would bring about a major improvement in the quality of their lives
  • specific public policy initiatives to address identified unmet needs

Of those surveyed...

  • almost three out of ten respondents (29%) have unmet needs.
    • of these, 37% receive no help and 63% receive insufficient help.
  • family members, predominantly spouses or adult children, are the primary sources of assistance. Only a small minority receive help from paid sources (12%).

Findings underscore the need for more affordable home and community-based services to support independence, better health insurance, more support for informal caregivers, and more options that permit individuals to decide how, when, and from whom they wish to receive supportive services in programs such as Medicaid. (42 pages)

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