The number of Missourians who are over 60 years of age is growing, and thus, the need for long-term care services is also growing at a rapid rate. Elder abuse and neglect occurs all too often. Some people do not think they need to pay attention to long-term care issues. Many do care, but are unaware of the abuse and neglect experienced by many older and handicapped Missourians.
The current environment for quality long-term care in Missouri is deteriorating. The number of staff on duty in most nursing homes is too low. Pay for staff is insufficient and staff benefits are essentially nonexistent. In our state capital, the Governor's Council on Aging has been abolished and replaced with the Board of Senior Services in the Department of Health and Senior Services. Unfortunately, the Board of Senior Services is no longer functioning. In addition, funding cuts in the Missouri Legislature have resulted in the reduction of staff available to conduct state healthcare inspections for nursing homes in our state. Funding for the official state Adult Abuse and Neglect Hotline has also been reduced. The staff available to answer calls from midnight until 7 AM has been eliminated, and replaced with an answering machine. We must reverse this trend.
When Missourians vote this fall, they should consider candidates who care about the welfare of our senior and disabled citizens. The need for quality long-term care is critical. All of us can make a difference.