U.S. safety net systems for helping older Americans live comfortably in the community have many holes in them.
Investigators at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) describe some of the home care gaps in a new report prepared at the request of Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent who is running for president.
The investigators looked at how well government-funded meal service programs and home support care programs are aimed at low-income older Americans, and older Americans who have trouble with the activities of daily living (ADLs), are reaching the intended recipients.
See also: GAO Eyes VA LTC Quality Efforts
Charles Jeszeck, a GAO director, wrote in a report summarizing the investigators’ work that only about 10 percent of low-income older adults participate in meals programs, and only about 17 percent of the low-income older adults are skipping meals because they are unable to afford food are in the meals programs.
Similarly, only about one-third of older Americans who have trouble with ADLs receive much home care, although investigators did find that about 30 percent of older adults who had trouble with three or more ADLs received some professional help in 2012, up from 19 percent in 2008.
About 20 percent of people over the age of 65 probably need transportation services. Government-funded programs provided 1.2 million assisted transportation rides for 32,000 people in 2012, and 24.5 million bus rides for an unknown number of people in 2012, but Jeszeck said the GAO has no way of even estimating how great older Americans’ unmet transportation needs are.
The GAO recommended in 2011 that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) get data on unmet transportation needs. “It has not fully implemented the recommendation to data,” Jezceck writes.