On Tuesday, March 27, Mystic Valley Elder Services hosted its annual legislative breakfast at the agency’s headquarters, located at 300 Commercial St. in Malden.
Board President Mary Prenney and Executive Director Dan O’Leary were joined by legislative host Rep. Donald Wong. O’Leary outlined Mystic Valley Elder Services’ state budget priorities for FY19, which include increases for Elder Abuse investigations and Meals on Wheels, as well as funding to address the workforce shortage of frontline home-care employees.
Reps. Christine Barber, Paul Brodeur, Mike Day, Paul Donato, Sean Garballey, Joe McGonagle, Steve Ultrino, and RoseLee Vincent participated in the event with staff from the offices of Sen. Jason Lewis, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and Reps. Brad Jones. Medford Mayor Stephanie Burke also attended.
Joining the program this year, were three special guest speakers, Janice Houghton, StonehamBank CEO and board member at Mystic Valley Elder Services; Jeffrey Demarco, caregiver for his elderly parents; and Marcia Elgart, current resident at a local nursing home.
Janice Houghton, CEO of StonehamBank, advocated for increasing the state’s budget for elder abuse investigations. Houghton explained that the banking industry has seen a significant increase in the number of financial abuse cases perpetrated on elderly customers. Often times, this form of elder abuse is happening at the hands of trusted family members. Even though bank employees are not mandated reporters by law, they feel a strong moral obligation to report suspected financial exploitation.
Once the state’s elder abuse hotline receives the initial report of suspected abuse, it is forwarded to Mystic Valley Elder Services’ Protective Services team. Skilled, trained Protective Services caseworkers then start an investigation. O’Leary explained, “Unfortunately, the number of elder abuse reports has increased at a rate of 11% each year for the past three years. Funding for Protective Services, however, has not kept pace. Today, we are urging the Legislature to increase the Protective Services budget so we can be sure that these critical elder abuse investigations are not slowed down due to a lack of resources.”
Jeffrey Demarco talked about his role as a family caregiver for his 93-year-old father, and his mother who is 91-years-old. It has always been Demarco’s goal to have his parents continue to live in their own home as long as possible. Demarco and his parents partnered with Mystic Valley Elder Services to create the necessary support system for his parents to receive care in their home. This support system has evolved as their needs have changed. Demarco explained, “When my father recently started showing signs of dementia, he would forget to take his medications on time. Our Mystic Valley Elder Services care manager helped us get a medication dispenser with an alarm that goes off each day to remind him. All of these little things make it possible for them to stay living at home and out of a nursing home. I’m so grateful.”
The final guest speaker, Marcia Elgart, shared her inspirational story to wrap up the program. After working in the private sector as a legal clerk for decades, Elgart faced a perfect storm of challenges. In one year, she lost her family home of 49 years to foreclosure and suffered from a brain tumor. Homeless, she was living in her car when police found her and brought her to the hospital, where the brain tumor was discovered.
Following her hospitalization, Elgart was transferred to a local nursing facility. Nursing facilities are required under Medicare to ask if the individual being admitted wants more information about options for returning to the community. Because she answered yes, Mystic Valley Elder Services was notified to have a care manager meet with Elgart one-on-one.
When they first met, Marcia had a long road of physical recovery in front of her, but she also faced other major obstacles to moving out of the nursing home—her previous home was gone and she no longer had any income. Her care manager helped Marcia apply for Social Security Disability Insurance, MassHealth benefits, and has worked with her to complete multiple housing applications. Though Marcia remains on a waiting list for housing, she has made incredible progress physically, and is eager to leave the nursing home and move back to the community. As she told the audience, “I’m not a statistic. I’m not a number on a bed roster. I have emotions and feelings.”
O’Leary explained, “All across the Commonwealth, we have individuals in nursing facilities who want to get out and move back into the community. With appropriate support through home- and community-based services, this could be possible, but there are often many obstacles in the way. We hope Marcia’s story helped highlight this need, as we know it crosses multiple agencies and it will take a broad, collective effort to see changes.”
Concluding the program, O’Leary thanked those in attendance, “Each year, when we host this breakfast, I’m reminded of how fortunate we are to have representatives on Beacon Hill who truly understand the importance of home care services and who support our programs throughout the year.”