U.S. Assistant Secretary on Aging Kathy Greenlee shared her insights with 140 senior living executives gathered at the 2012 ALFA Advocacy Fly-in yesterday. Joining Greenlee at the event were Jim Ellis from PRIsm Consulting to comment on the political landscape and Lauren Harris-Kotjens from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, who discussed the agency’s new report on Residential Care Communities.
Kathy Greenlee concluded the day-long training by sharing with advocates her priorities as Assistant Secretary for Aging at the Administration on Aging. Greenlee emphasized that addressing elder abuse was one of the issues that she is most passionate about.
“I’m absolutely committed to it,” she said about the cause. “I will do everything I can to help talk about this issue, as unsightly and uncomfortable as talking about elder abuse can be.”
Despite any discomfort conversations about elder abuse can cause many people, Greenlee asserted that action must be taken now, since the problem can only get worse as the population ages. She called for funding of the Elder Justice Act, which was passed through the Affordable Care Act with authorizing language but with no appropriations.
“To not have appropriations is really difficult,” said the Assistant Secretary, “because the goal was to create the first ever dedicated federal funding for elder abuse.”
Greenlee went on to underscored her support for the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, which provides community supports, such as Meals on Wheels, caregiver assistance, and transportation for senior citizens. Even with programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, there is still a need for preventative programs, like those included in the Older Americans Act.
She announced her support for programs that fight ageism, a collaborative environment between providers and ombudsmen, and effective caregiver supports. Effective caregiver supports can even help after the family caregiver realizes their loved one would be better served in a senior living community. “People need you. They need a choice of services. They need an array of options,” Greenlee told the senior living advocates. “They need options to know it is not a failure if you can no longer care for your loved one at home.”
ALFA advocates will take to Capitol Hill today to advocate for many of the issues discussed by Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee and other issues that further ALFA’s core principles of choice, dignity, independence, affordability, and quality of life. Greenlee and many other presenters emphasized the importance of these meetings in enacting change in federal policies. Greenlee explained that her meetings with Members of Congress go much more smoothly when they have previously spoken to an advocate about senior’s issues.
“I need you, and they need you,” said Kathy Greenlee. “You may not know if you made a difference when you leave, but someone will come in behind you and the light bulb will go on…Go advocate, educate, and inspire.”
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