Digital town hall: Caregiving and aging in Connecticut

Connecticut officials describe it as the “silver tsunami:” The state’s population of seniors is forecast to rise dramatically in the next decade, while the working-age population declines. That’s expected to bring a growth in the need for caregivers — both people who take care of others professionally and those who do it free, out of love or obligation, for friends or family members.

To understand some of the implications of these changes, The Mirror hosted a digital town hall on caregiving and aging in Connecticut, with panelists Anne Foley, undersecretary of the state’s Office of Policy and Management; Sen. Kevin Kelly, a Stratford Republican who works as an elder law attorney; and Amy Goyer, an expert on caregiving and families with AARP. The town hall was sponsored by AARP.

Here’s some background on a few of the items mentioned:

Unpaid caregivers, the backbone of the long-term care system: Research suggests that as many as one in eight Connecticut residents serve as caregivers for loved ones. In many ways, the long-term care system relies on them as much as their family members do. Read some of their stories here.

The community spouse asset limits (mentioned by Kelly): This refers to the amount of assets a person is allowed to keep while his or her spouse is in a nursing home that’s covered by Medicaid. In 2011, the state reduced the allowed amount in a money-saving move. Read more about that change here. Legislators have made some efforts to raise the level of assets people can keep, but no measures have passed.

Nurse practitioners (mentioned by Kelly): This refers to a change in state law, passed during this year’s legislative session, that allows nurse practitioners — also known as advanced practice registered nurses, or APRNs — to practice independent of physicians. Read more about this change here.

Rebalancing nursing homes (mentioned by Foley and Kelly): Connecticut is in the midst of trying to make it easier for people to receive care in their homes or in other community settings, rather than in nursing homes. This is known as rebalancing the long-term care system, and it’s a major undertaking that has major implications for housing, transportation, communities, the workforce and the state budget. Read more about this effort here.

The caregiving workforce (mentioned by Foley): Connecticut is projected to need thousands more workers to meet the demand for long-term care in the coming years, but there are many challenges to building the workforce. Read more here.

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