Holding signs reading “We’re old, not stupid!” more than a dozen seniors and home care activists from across the state visited the Maine nursing home lobby’s office in Augusta today to demand that the organization stop misleading voters about Question 1, the universal home care referendum on the ballot this November.
The Maine Health Care Association (MHCA), which lobbies on behalf of the state’s nursing homes, is helping to lead the effort opposing Question One, which seeks to guarantee that seniors and Mainers with disabilities can get the assistance they need to stay in their homes. A report from the Muskie School of Public Service released last month estimates that more than 21,000 Mainers are currently going without needed home care services.
“It’s just wrong that the nursing home lobby is lying about Question One and standing in the way of the home care that so many veterans need,” said Wilbur “Skip” Worcester, a senior and veteran from Hermon. “Some nursing homes provide good care, but many don’t, and seniors don’t ever want to be forced from their homes. With Question One, more seniors and veterans can stay at home.”
Contrary to claims from the nursing home lobby and the No on One campaign, Question One would safeguard the privacy of older adults, protect the collective bargaining rights of home care workers without forcing them to join any organization and is funded by a tax on wealthiest 2.6%, those making more than $128,400 in individual income.
“I cared for my mother with Alzheimer’s for as long as I could at home, but with no help, it eventually got to be too much and she had to go to a nursing home,” said Carolyn Silvas, a senior from Portland. “It was awful. She hated every moment of it. Every time I would go to visit her she’d say ‘I just wish I could die and get this over with.’ Eventually she did. No more seniors should be forced from their homes and no children should have to watch their parents die under those conditions.”
Since 2015, Maine nursing homes have been found to be in violation of federal safety and quality regulations 1,114 times. These include disturbing violations like “hiring workers with a ‘legal history of abusing, neglecting or mistreating residents'” and failure to properly label drugs, abuses that can be fatal for Maine seniors.
Despite this widespread abuse, Maine is still prioritizing nursing homes over home care, which is more expensive to the system, less desirable to seniors, and often results in worse health outcomes. As the rest of the nation moves toward significantly increasing the amount of care provided in home and community-based settings, Maine has moved in the other direction, and now ranks last in the nation in home care affordability.