Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s cuts to home care and respite services are as distressful as they are illogical. That’s because they are based on a false assumption that every cut automatically results in a savings. Not true.

In practical terms, the Governor’s proposed cuts to home and community based care for our seniors is the equivalent of someone on a tight budget skipping an oil change to save $120 only to pay $4500 at the end of the year for a blown engine. Sure it sounds tempting to have an extra $120 today, but would anyone call this a “savings?”

Cutting cost-effective home care services that support independent living for seniors is exactly the opposite of what we need. With an aging population and long-term budget challenges, the prudent move is to make more investment in home care —  not less. Programs like the Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders and Alzheimer’s Respite Care for family caregivers help keep seniors safe and out of costly nursing homes.

This, in turn, avoids premature nursing home placement and costly Medicaid expenses for taxpayers. Cuts to home care services are the ultimate “kick-the-can” solution. The savings are illusive because they rely on two assumptions: 1. forcing seniors to pay more than double won’t jeopardize access to the care they need, and; 2. delaying intervention will not have any long-term consequences. Both are wrong.

In fact, when the Rell administration imposed a 15 percent co-pay on home care services, hundreds of seniors immediately left the program and countless more cut back dramatically on needed services. These seniors are living on the financial edge. On average, individuals on the Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders have less than $1,900 per month in income and less than $10,000 in assets. By the time they pay for non-covered medical expenses, taxes, food, utilities, and other basic necessities, they simply do not have extra money to absorb additional co-pays for home care services that could reach $200 per month. As a result, these seniors are far more likely to be forced from their home, and into a nursing home, to get the care they need.

Second, aging is not a linear process. Therefore, delaying access to needed home care services can have permanent consequences on that person’s future ability to live independently. If you’ve provided care for a loved one, you know that their health can change dramatically in an instant; a slip on the driveway or fall in the bathroom can permanently change someone’s circumstances.

Therefore, when we eliminate early intervention programs like Category 1 of the Connecticut Home Care Program, we are not just delaying access to home care; we risk permanently jeopardizing their ability to live independently in the future. Here again, the result is premature nursing home placement, loss of independence for our seniors, and more costs to the taxpayers.

The bottom line: we simply cannot afford the proposed cuts to home care and respite care. Please ask Gov. Malloy and legislators to protect our seniors, family caregivers, and state taxpayers by fully funding the Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders and Alzheimer’s Respite Care.

Nora Duncan is AARP Connecticut’s state director.

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