For the handicapped, the new year promises nothing but broken promises. We all know that the state budget is in total disarray. Every sort of cut that could be made either has been made or is on the table for the new biennium. With each revenue forecast worse than the one before, more and more cuts have been made to social services.
Yet, little things make all the difference in the lives of the frailest of our elderly and the disabled.
One cut being considered is an eligibility change for long-term-care services with about 1,630 seniors and people with disabilities losing services. If the functional ability requirements are changed to cover only those who need a higher level of service, those who have limited abilities will be left with no one to check on them and do those little things the disabled person can’t do for themselves. People stand to be forced out of their homes with this change in eligibility. People who may be able to dress and feed themselves with supervision may not be able to care for themselves without that supervision.
The elimination of the adult day health program will mean about 1,000 frail and disabled adults will lose health and rehabilitative services and family caregivers will lose needed breaks from their 24/7 job. One of these people could be my friend who watches her husband, a victim of dementia, all day and every day. He tires easily and so shopping needs to be done either very quickly or when he has someone watching him. She is a lively, vibrant person who needs to socialize and statistics show that without periodic breaks, she is likely to die sooner than she would, leaving her helpless husband to custodial care.
A reduction by 20 percent in funding for Area Agencies on Aging on top of an 11 percent cut last year will result in less capacity for referral information and assistance. Meals-on-wheels, transportation and other support for seniors in local communities will be cut, perhaps eliminated. People who are not able to get out and about will lose their ability to get to the doctor or to have just one human interaction per day with the meals-on-wheels driver.
A further cut to the Disability Lifeline program will mean that my nephew will be without any assistance until he can get on Medicare. He is a young man, the father of three boys and he has nothing to offer his sons. The money portion of this program was stripped from the budget last session. When disabilities hit an adult, families frequently break up and the disabled person is left with nothing as his or her family has needs to be met.
The Long Term Care Ombudsman program stands to be cut. This is the program that makes sure that people in nursing homes and other such facilities are cared for adequately. Before this program, it was not unusual to go down to the local nursing home and find them nothing but stinking holes. Nursing homes still stand in my mind as one of the nine circles of hell, but at least the patients are no longer literally dying of neglect.
• This will be the last of my columns in this paper. I will miss writing for you every month, but I hope I have been able to bring a little understanding of what it is to be handicapped in our society. Please be aware when you see us out in the community we are neither cute nor pathetic. If we are struggling, please do offer your help politely. But please, do leave us our dignity.
Virginia Towne is a retired computer programmer from the University of Washington with experience in her own life with disabilities. A member of The Olympian’s Diversity Panel, she can be reached at townevi@gmail. com.