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Freiman: Financial security is essential for New Jersey’s seniors

By Assemblyman Roy Freiman

Picture this.

You are mid-career, you have debt and you’re helping pay for your child’s college tuition among a number of other expenses. Now add the responsibility and time commitment of caring for your frail aging parents who, despite their financial independence and ability to continue living at home, need significantly more help going about their daily lives and performing basic activities.

Sound a little overwhelming?

Well, this is a scenario faced by an increasing number of families both in New Jersey and across the country. As the size of the senior population balloons, we’re starting to come to grips with the fact that health is no longer truly synonymous with life expectancy.

In an age of advanced medical technologies and robust care strategies, it’s not surprising to see worldwide trends showing that people are living longer. And while an indicator of major progress on the healthcare front, we’re being forced to confront a new dilemma.

As people age, declining mobility and cognitive functioning starts making simple tasks like cooking, cleaning and bathing extremely difficult or impossible to do alone. Estimates indicate that 7 out of 10 people will require long term care in their lifetime, yet only about 4 percent of older adults are living in nursing homes.

So where are they living and who is helping them?

Most often seniors are being taken care of in their own homes by family members. When playing the role of caregiver these family members are giving up time at their own expense to help save on professional in-home care costs.

Paid out-of-pocket such services can cost upward of $50,000 a year in New Jersey, which is an extremely hefty bill for anyone, but especially for low income adults. What’s more is to get insurance to cover this care requires taking out a special policy. Without the proper guidance these policies can end up being ill-suited to individualized needs, restrictive and cost-prohibitive.

Many seniors feel guilty about needing the assistance or are prideful of their independence. In either case, being unable to shoulder the full cost of care out-of-pocket means people are missing out help they desperately need.

That’s why I have worked on legislation (A-5637) that creates relief for those burdened by the cost of in-home care services. With an ultimate goal to make expenses fully tax deductible based on income, the measure takes the first step in giving those with less than $150,000 in annual income a 20 percent income tax credit for in-home care expenses.

It’s about creating a safety net and about expanding accessibility to care on top of safeguarding it. We’re also ensuring families aren’t feeling such a big burden and that quality of life is financially accessible.

It goes without saying; all those who stand to gain from this are worth every penny.