For years, advocates for older Floridians and their families have watched waiting lists for home- and community-based services grow as state budgets put other priorities ahead of supporting caregivers.
Three years ago, Florida had more than 54,000 frail, older state residents on waiting lists for services that help family caregivers keep their loved ones where nearly all of us want to remain as we get older – living independently in our homes and communities.
Legislators put additional dollars into state budgets in 2014, and again in 2015, and again in 2016. Yet each year, waiting lists have grown. As of late February 2016, the waiting list has grown to more than 60,000 people.
Even worse, in February the nationally recognized news outlet Politico showed that more than 6,500 Floridians, most of them frail elders, died while on the waiting list for all types of home- and community-based services.
These services include Community Care for the Elderly, Home Care for the Elderly and other major programs. Working together, aging-service agencies throughout Florida use these services to provide support that family caregivers rely on to keep their loved ones living independently in their own homes and communities, rather than in an institutional setting.
Some 2.8 million family caregivers call Florida home, and their commitment and dedication help keep many frail, vulnerable Floridians from requiring care in institutional settings, often with help from public programs. When Florida caregivers get the support they need, it’s a win both for families and for taxpayers.
AARP Florida is grateful for the financial support that the state of Florida has given in order to reduce these waitlists and serve more Floridians in need.
Yet Florida is falling further behind in its support for family caregivers. Each registrant represents a family and a caregiver who bears responsibility for helping their frail loved one remain where they want to stay – at home and in the love of their community.
In the 2016 elections, AARP Florida will be pressing candidates for the Florida Legislature to tell voters where they stand on this important issue. AARP Florida will reach out to aging-service allies across the state to enlist support for family caregivers.
Caregivers have waited long enough for the support they have earned. They should wait no more.
Through appearances at candidate forums and town halls, online advocacy, editorial board visits, letters to the editor and op-eds and more, AARP Florida will press for the Legislature to commit to significantly shrinking the Home and Community-Based Services waiting list.
Our long-term goal for the Wait No More initiative: To shrink the waiting list for home- and community-based services by at least 20 percent every year while also creating a system that will foster a brighter future for disabled and elderly Floridians.
To succeed, the Wait No More initiative needs your help. Please reach out to legislative candidates in your area and ask them to commit to shrinking the waiting list for home- and community-based services. Also, please watch AARP.org/FL for more information and opportunities to engage in this important initiative.