Caregivers At Tulsa Convention Worry About Funding For Elderly

Thursday, June 30th 2011, 5:10 pm
By: News On 6

Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Caregivers from across the nation are calling on Congress to take Medicaid and Medicare funding off the chopping block. They say nursing homes are the tenth largest employers in the country, and they say cutting federal funding will hurt more than just the economy.

A group that met in Tulsa Thursday represents hundreds of nurse aides. They say lawmakers wrangling over spending cuts and the debt ceiling could strip elderly Americans of much needed care.

"My dad had promised his mother that he would always take care of his older sister," said Toni Bailey, who has Power of Attorney for her aunt.

But Toni Bailey's 80-year-old father can't keep that promise, so now it's up to her to care for her aunt.

The elderly woman suffers from dementia and was overmedicating herself, so Bailey put her in a local nursing home.

"She's paying anywhere from $5,400 to $5,600 dollars a month at a local nursing home here in town. And it's a wonderful facility, but it has exhausted her funds," Bailey said.

Bailey says she doesn't know what her aunt would do without help from Medicaid.

"I really don't know what I would do because she can't come live with me, because all of my rooms are upstairs," said Toni Bailey.

Medicaid and Medicare dollars are in the middle of the tug of war over spending cuts and raising the debt ceiling on Capitol Hill. Now folks from the health care industry are weighing in to protect their slice of the pie.

"CNA's of this country are doing Gods' work," said Governor Mark Parkinson, former Kansas governor and a member of the American Healthcare Association/

Hundreds of certified nurse aides from around the country met in Tulsa for their annual convention. They say cutting federal dollars would cutoff care for the elderly and threaten the livelihoods for millions of health care workers.

"And we not only take care of them, we are their family," said Nurse Aid Cassandra Reed. "And if they cut Medicaid, it cuts our jobs. And there's less aides to take care of them and spend time with them."

Toni Bailey says she hopes lawmakers will look at the people behind the numbers, when they consider their cuts.

"It scares me, because I really want my aunt taken care of since she has no other means of support," said Toni Bailey, a woman committed to caring for her aging aunt.

"I really can't imagine her living on the streets."

A spokesperson with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority says the state pays for 70 percent of nursing home care in Oklahoma. Last year, nearly 22,000 elderly Oklahomans got help.