Oregon Department of Human Services Director's Message
May 7, 2010 DHS Director's messages on the Web
To: All DHS employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., director

One day at a time

"The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes."
~Frank Lloyd Wright

May is Older Americans Month, which reminds me of the quip that says an "Older American" is anyone older than me. At least that's what my 87-year-old dad tells me. But the truth is that we are all getting older one day at a time and we are living longer. This will have profound impacts on all of us.

By 2030 the percentage of Oregonians who are 65 or older is predicted to increase from 13 percent to 20 percent. That is going to have an impact both on our state and how the Department of Human Services operates.

Today 18,000 seniors receive Medicaid-funded services; that number will nearly double to about 35,000 by 2030. The number of seniors receiving SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) is predicted to nearly double. These increases are going to put enormous strain on a system that is already stressed.

Almost all of us can expect to need long-term care services and supports, either for ourselves or for a family member. And the cost of long-term care is financially challenging. The average cost of nursing-home care today is $214 a day for a shared room in Oregon.

The work we do today to prepare for our collective future will be critical to ensuring that Oregon seniors age with dignity. And as in so many things, Oregon has been extremely innovative in the approach we have taken in how we treat seniors in our state.

In Oregon, we have a visionary law which says, "The state shall assure that older Americans and citizens with disabilities retain the right of free choice in planning and managing their lives; by increasing the number of options in life styles available to older citizens and citizens with disabilities by aiding them to help themselves; by strengthening the natural support system of family, friends and neighbors to further self-care and independent living; and by encouraging all programs that seek to maximize self-care and independent living within the mainstream of life."

At DHS, that's exactly what we strive to do. Today, Oregon leads the nation in developing community living options for seniors. We leverage federal and state dollars to help people overcome the obstacles that keep them from living independently. That is both the humane and fiscally responsible approach. Nursing facilities cost more than in-home care, no matter how you do the math, and when people are able to stay at home, with necessary supports, they do better.

To that end, last year we launched a comprehensive program to help seniors make informed choices about their options for housing. As a result, more than 900 people were able to choose less restrictive care when transitioning from a hospital or nursing home.

If we are going to ensure that we are able, as a community, to support seniors where they choose to live in the mainstream of life, where they remain vibrant and relevant members of their communities, we must continue being innovative in our approaches.

The Department of Human Services website offers information and resources on issues that affect Oregon's seniors, from learning about assistance programs or searching for an assisted living arrangement to finding healthy food, fun activities and opportunities in our local communities. The website is: http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/spwpd. I encourage you to visit this website and learn about some of the programs the state has available, and join me in celebrating Older Americans Month.

DHS on the web