Dependent Care

This Committee's "Story" continues to evolve. Through a year of community work, this committee has identified barriers to prosperity, created recommendations to address these barriers, and submitted their recommendations to the PPA Steering Committee. The committee will continue its work as the final recommendations and strategy for implementation are developed.

The Dependent Care Committee tells a story about an overlooked and neglected population in our community. Although the Athens-Clarke County community provides many services to older adults and persons with disabilities through multiple service providers, the growth of this population, and its impact on caregivers (usually family members), far exceeds the capacity of current services. In Athens alone, there are 10,800 individuals over the age of 60 with over 1,543 living in poverty. The Area Agency on Aging Gateway staff has a waiting list of services for Clarke County. Currently there are 98 people waiting for Meals on Wheels, 25 caregivers requesting respite (short-term time off), and over 50 needing homemaker/personal care services. A person may be on the waiting list for an average of 8 months or more. These numbers exclude those who have not even tried to access services.

The Dependent Care Committee focused their attention on the needs of this growing population of elderly and disabled adults as well as on the needs of this population's family caregivers. The committee's first recommendation was to train Certified Nursing Assistants for the purpose of providing support to older adults and people with disabilities. This would create more qualified employees for needed services, offset the burden experienced by family caregivers, and develop a new workforce strategy to recruit and train persons living in poverty to get jobs serving in their community. Since these skills can demand top dollar, the key to making this recommendation truly effective will be to create a sustainable mechanism to pay CNAs to provide their services to low-income elderly and disabled adults.

The barter system was recommended as a low-cost, creative means of addressing the needs of elderly and dependent adults and the needs of family caregivers. This recommendation brings to light that many of the needs of elders and disabled persons are not met with traditional services; examples include the need for assistance in grocery shopping or a ride to the bank. This recommendation also acknowledges that many older adults and people with disabilities have something in turn to offer their community and addresses the need to coordinate the vast volunteer resources available from our entire community.

This committee's work calls our community together to ensure that now and in the future, older adults, people with disabilities, and family caregivers are no longer marginalized, that their needs are addressed, and that their skills are valued.