I’m sure Margaret Schneider, an 86-year-old woman from St. Peter, didn’t wake up yesterday thinking she’d make national headlines for voter fraud. It all sounds like an extremely innocent case, but it raises real questions for Minnesota on how we want to age and live.
I don’t know Margaret’s living situation. But I’m thinking many Minnesotans could relate to her story of “forgetfulness” and desire and pride to live independently. Perhaps you’ve lived one of these or one like it:
- Maybe Mom drove through the intersection because she forgot there was a stop sign . . .
- Maybe Dad forgot to take his medicine and it resulted in a trip to the emergency room, which turned into a very expensive hospital stay . . .
- Maybe your spouse or partner forgot to turn off the water in the bathroom and it’s flooding into the basement, and you have to miss work to get the situation under control . . .
- Maybe you visited a longtime neighbor who is like a family member and you saw in her refrigerator that all the food is spoiled, and she’s clearly been eating it . . .
Dementia is a huge and growing public health issue in Minnesota that impacts every area of society. According to the Prepare Minnesota for Alzheimer's Report to the State Legislature more than 100,000 Minnesotans have the most common form of dementia – Alzheimer’s. One in two Minnesotans over age 85 has Alzheimers or another dementia. And by 2050, it’s estimated 200,000 Minnesotans will have Alzheimer’s.
So who will pay for and provide the supportive services for this unprecedented change in Minnesota society? Services that help people maintain their independence as safely and healthfully as possible.
- Churches? Doubtful. Many don’t have the people or financial resources.
- Non-profit senior service organizations? They already provide a great deal of subsidized service. More would mean these organizastions don't have the funds to exist.
- State Government? Not with its current Medicaid/Medicare set up. State Government doesn’t have the funds.
- Private Insurance? Only about 9% of Minnesota adults have long-term care insurance.
- Family? For some. But when adult children live far away or are working, it’s either not realistic or financially possible.
Living at home sounds really great in theory. But it takes support. And Minnesota has more people in need of support than ever before. How will we as Minnesota answer the call that's only getting louder?