Better Senior Services
Across the District, Seniors face rising housing costs, food insecurity, and difficult transportation options. Over the past year and a half, I have been working to bring a dedicated Senior Wellness Center to Ward 3. I've worked with the Ward 3 Democrats, drafted a resolution for Ward 3 ANCs, and passed the resolution in my ANC (ANC 3C). I'm proud to say that we now have an item in the budget - $500,000 - for a dedicated Ward 3 Senior Wellness Center!
Aging in Place
We have some mechanisms, including Senior tax credits, to help Seniors age in place, but we need to expand our programs to cover all our Seniors and ensure that Seniors know about the programs available. For example, the Department of Aging and Community Living's Safe at Home program, which provides safety adaptations in and around the homes of qualifying Seniors and adults with disabilities, should be expanded to include better lighting, including nightlights, and cord management (for example, tacking phone cords along walls to remove trip hazards). We also need to expand the Single Family Residential Rehabilitation Program to include accessibility modifications beyond $30,000. In addition, given some of the recent issues the program faces, I plan on providing robust oversight over DHCD.
Addressing Food Insecurity
We need a comprehensive approach to addressing Senior food insecurity. Nearly 12,000 Seniors across the District lack consistent access to enough food, and, unfortunately, fixed incomes and social isolation contribute to higher rates of food insecurity in Seniors than in any other age group. Here's my plan:
Expand Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program eligibility to include more Seniors;
Develop and implement a communications plan to let Seniors know of various nutrition assistance programs;
Lower barriers to sign up through a lead-agency approach using the Department of Aging and Community Living as a "one-stop shop" for Seniors to learn about and sign up for assistance;
Establish a Medicaid waiver for home-delivered meals and medical nutrition therapy.
The District and WMATA offer a confusing array of transportation services for seniors. There's the Senior MedExpress to get folks to and from medical appointments or to health-related appointments. There's Transport DC and MetroAccess. We know that MetroAccess is a well-meaning program, but poorly executed, with drivers showing up late or on the wrong day.
Memory Care and Hospice Care
Ward 3 has a high number of seniors but few memory care facilities and even fewer hospice care facilities, especially with the closing of the Washington Home. Upwards of 5% of Alzheimer's patients need a memory care facility at some point. On ANC 3C, I fought to have a memory care facility built on Wisconsin Avenue, just south of Cathedral Heights, but pushing for such facilities on a case-by-case basis won't work over the long term. I've proposed an Acquisition Fund for the District to move nimbly to purchase properties in order to build housing, but such a fund should also be used to provide critical care facilities so that our friends and family who need care can receive it nearby.
In addition to facilities, we also need people to provide healthcare, not just at memory care facilities but at home. The District faces a home health aide shortage, but I have a plan to address our shortage. We should leverage the fantastic vocational programs at the University of the District of Columbia to establish a home health aide training program with financial aid packages for those who practice in the District for five years.
Alzheimer's in Ward 3
Sadly, approximately 9,000 people suffer from Alzheimer's in the District, with roughly 9-10% of Ward 3's population over 65 dealing with Alzheimer's. The District is supposed to have a plan for Alzheimer's, but we don't have a current plan. We need a new plan to be shared with stakeholders, including hospitals, doctors, caregivers, and patients and their families so that we can move forward with better treatment, better understanding, and more facilities. As the Ward 3 Councilmember, I pledge to require DC Health to develop a new plan to be released no later than June 30, 2023.