Throughout the afternoon, a steady stream of distinguished aging services teams could be seen traveling from the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., to Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Nearly 200 of the LeadingAge Leadership Summit attendees were scheduled for in-person meetings with policymakers and their staff as part of the annual Lobby Day event.
Following an Executive Order made yesterday by the Biden Administration that addresses aging services, LeadingAge members had the opportunity to share their on-the-ground experience and bring color to issues the order highlights and intends to improve.
I heard both members and legislative staff tell personal stories of how someone they care for has suffered during their aging journey. Family members that have experienced anxiety over how to find the proper care for a loved one. Older adults that need affordable housing but find themselves on a waiting list that will never be able to serve their need, so they’re only option is substandard living at their most vulnerable time of life. And dedicated caregiving professionals that aren’t paid enough to take care of their own families, and in many situations working alongside nurses from temporary staffing agencies that are compensated well beyond staff.
I had the opportunity to join the LeadingAge Massachusetts team for Lobby Day and was fortunate to meet with legislative staff with a relatively good understanding for LeadingAge and our work, and more importantly, strong support for older adults, aging services, and those providing care and services for their communities. All member visits look a little different across states in terms of length, location, and legislative host, but we were all able to highlight the impact of critical shortfalls to supporting our care economy and workers: outdated and unnecessary policies such as the 3-Day Hospital Stay, chronic underfunding in Medicaid reimbursement, unrealistic staffing ratios in nursing homes with reduced reimbursement if unmet, and the ongoing workforce crisis exacerbated by the pandemic and caregiving compensation below living wages.
“It is one thing for [Congress] to hear from me here in D.C., but it is so much more impactful for them to hear from the boots on the ground,” said Kevin Donnelly, vice president of government affairs, technology and strategic initiatives at the National Multifamily Housing Council, during his Leadership Summit session on the impact of technology in the lives of provider constituents. “And honestly, I think that if we leave here with anything, it’s that advocacy cannot end this week. It needs to happen every single day in the districts and states across the country.”
If you were not able to attend the Leadership Summit or participate in Lobby Day here in D.C., you can still take action today and make a meaningful impact. We urge you to contact your members of Congress today to support and strengthen the wide variety of aging services programs necessary to meet the needs of older adults wherever they call home.