Social care and meals for seniors are taking a tremendous hit throughout Michigan after federal cutbacks.
A statewide budget cut of close to $2.4 million means fewer free and low-cost meals throughout Michigan — both in home-delivered lunches and those served at senior centers, recreation sites and senior housing complexes.
Twenty-two meal sites have cut Friday’s lunch in Macomb County. Last, for Jo Anne Murray, the alternative was to eat bread and butter from her apartment. In fact, the Elizabeth Lee Doles Manor in Clinton Township has reduced its 40 served and brown bag lunches per month to 16. Low-income seniors depend on these meals for nutrition, said site supervisor Kathy Hernandez.
“I got stopped by a police officer last week — and this upset me so much — he found some of the residents Dumpster diving,” Hernandez said.
Murray, a 66-year-old retired nurse, getting by on just Social Security and $122 a month in food stamps, said there was nothing but bread and butter in her refrigerator.
“It’s not pleasant, it really isn’t — going hungry,” she said. Just as bad, she said: “You miss seeing your friends.”
Other cutbacks include:
■ The Southfield-based Area Agency on Aging, spanning six southeastern Michigan counties, reduced respite care by 550 hours and cut 86,000 senior meals to help close an estimated $700,000 gap.
■ The Detroit Area Agency on Aging, facing a $479,556 reduction, will be providing 72,714 fewer senior meals; in addition, 311 clients will lose respite care and other services.
■ The Wayne-based Senior Alliance has cut staff to help make up for an initial cutback of $207,941, including social workers who connect seniors and families with critical services to help them remain independent in their homes.
■ The Muskegon-based Senior Resources of West Michigan has reduced funds used to pay for personal emergency response systems for seniors — the alarms that summon emergency crews and loved ones during a crisis.
The $25 to $35 a month monitoring fee can no longer be covered by an small agency that has had to take $78,000 in estimated cuts, said agency CEO Pam Curtis.
■ Across Michigan, agencies have slashed services by helpers who clean homes, help prepare meals and run errands for seniors to help them remain at home, said Mary Ablan, director of executive director of Michigan’s Area Agencies on Aging Association.
In stated by Washington in March, the sequestration cuts included an estimated $77.4 million in the Older Americans Act — the lifeblood funding to the nation’s network of 629 area agencies on aging and their more than 20,000 providers of senior meals, transportation to medical appointments, home help and respite care.
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Across the U.S. senior advocates are being forced to cut programs that save money in the long run, said Sany Markwood, CEO of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.
“If they’re not getting meals, and they’re not getting rides to the pharmacy, and not getting rides to the doctors, these are the people who are going to end up in a nursing home or in hospital,” she said.
Despite the widespread cuts, a number of agency heads in Michigan said they are doing their best to protect home-delivered meals — the service reserved for some of the most delicate and isolated seniors.
“Especially in rural areas, the issue is that the Meals on Wheels is not just about a meal. It’s about a human being checking in on another at least once a day,” Ablan said.
But with nowhere else to cut, the Senior Alliance, for example, will no longer deliver meals to 30 of its more than 2,000 clients in October. Those initial cuts will sharpen quickly as sequestration continues to shrink the federal funding, said Bob Brown, agency director.
Not only is it frustrating; it’s dangerous, he said.
Christopher J. Berry is an elder law lawyer in Michigan Dedicated to helping seniors, veterans and their families navigate the long-term care maze. To learn more visit http://www.michiganelderlawattorney.com/ or call 248.481.4000