AARP Maryland has just released its legislative priority list for the coming year, with health and consumer protection issues topping the list.
The group wants state lawmakers to create better behavioral and cognitive health programs for seniors, improve long-term care opportunities and focus on keeping older people safe from abuse and financial exploitation.
Tammy Bresnahan, senior director of advocacy for AARP Maryland, said there is a severe shortage of in-home caregivers nationwide, and the problem is especially acute in the Commonwealth. At least 20% of Marylanders are over age 60, but cannot get the care they need.
She emphasized professional caregivers’ needs are also important.
“A lot of these workers are women, women of color, immigrants,” Bresnahan pointed out. “We’ve been working with the Public Justice Center and some labor organizations about understanding what that workforce looks like, and making sure that they are getting paid at a level to provide a good quality of care.”
Bresnahan stressed it is also critically important for the 700,000 family members who become caregivers in Maryland homes, so they have the opportunity for rest, and time away from the often round-the-clock needs of the loved ones they are helping.
A recent study by the Food Research and Action Network found Maryland has the nation’s seventh-highest food insecurity rate among people ages 50 to 59.
AARP will call on the state to resist efforts to cut SNAP benefits for seniors. Bresnahan also noted access to reliable and affordable internet is now as essential to seniors as water, gas and electricity.
“A lot of our people are doing telehealth calls with their doc,” Bresnahan explained. “That’s how they communicate with their family, they stay in contact with their friends that way. And we want to make sure that high-speed internet is accessible and affordable.”
The legislature convenes Jan. 11.