Tracy Cruz of Bridgeport is lucky. Although she works two jobs, she was able to enroll her 62 year old father in the state’s Alzheimer’s Respite Program before it closed to new applicants.
Marjorie Swarts of Waterbury, who takes care of her 63 year old husband with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, isn’t as lucky. She’s been on the program’s waiting list for the past seven months.
The two women are complete strangers, but both Swarts and Cruz traveled to the state Capitol in Hartford Tuesday to support a bill that would restore funding to the program and give respite to the 400 caregivers currently on the waiting list.
The funding for the program, which was cut by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell was never restored last year when the Democrat-controlled legislature passed the budget. However, a bill that’s headed to the Appropriations Committee, would help fund the program.
“Connecticut’s fiscal situation is dire and we can all agree that we have to save money where we can,” Sen. Robert Kane, a Republican from Watertown, said Tuesday. “But the bottom line is that we should be willing to make the investment to provide Alzheimer’s respite services for families caring for their loved ones.“
“The alternative is to leave caregivers with no choice but to make the heartbreaking – and expensive – decision to place their relatives in nursing homes,“ Kane said. “Providing respite services saves money by delaying, perhaps preventing, the need for nursing home care.”
The cost of nursing home care is much greater to the state than the cost of the respite program.
Both Swarts and Cruz said their loved ones are too young to qualify for any other programs. Swarts said she knows her husband’s disease is progressive and she doesn’t know how much longer her two friends will be able to watch him when she needs to do an errand or go to work.
The cost of adult daycare at $80 per day, “I just can’t swing that right now,” Swarts said.
Cruz, who also has a four year old daughter, said between her daughter and her father, “I don’t get to sleep very much.” She said her life would be extremely difficult without this program.
Sen. Edith Prague, one of the bill’s main proponents, has said she would like to fund the program with money from the Citizens’ Election Program. That provision was stripped from the bill by the Human Services Committee where members felt it was best left up to the Appropriations Committee to decide how to pay for it.