MAINE, Maine — Kathryn Harnish of Houlton spent the last year-and-a-half caring for her parents. At the start, her dad needed more support. He later died from a battle with liver disease. He was 83. Now, it's her 78-year-old mother who is in need.
"I certainly was blissfully unaware of all of this until it happened to me," Harnish said. "I think the reality is that there simply isn't enough professional paid caregiving available."
When Harnish started caring for her parents, she was working at a software company in California. She was sent to New York and told her the company was being bought, and her position was being eliminated.
"I flew back to Bangor and went directly to the hospital and started making end-of-life arrangements for my dad," she said.
Without a job, and caring for two parents, Harnish decided this was going to be her next act and started advocating for older Mainers. She got her master's degree in social work and started working at the Elder Abuse Institute of Maine.
"As I've done this work, you know working with my mom really inspired me to focus on gerontology," she added.
"The state of Maine is in a pretty desperate situation in regards to our direct care workforce. We don't have enough people. Therefore, older people and people who need home care services are going without," Elder Abuse Institute of Maine Executive Director Patricia Kimball said.
She added there are benefits to both in-home care and nursing home care, but for people who want to stay in their homes, and in their communities, Build Back Better could be crucial.
The Elder Abuse Institute of Maine is also hoping people start reporting elder abuse more often.
That's why it started A Helping Voice. It's a place where someone can speak to an advisor and share concerns about elder abuse they may be seeing. Kimball said this is an opportunity for people to feel more comfortable in reporting elder abuse.
The hotline is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., but if no one is available, someone will call you back, Kimball said. The number is 207-805-5555.
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, spoke on the U.S. Senate floor earlier this month in support of funding in-home care. He urged others to support Build Back Better because the investments can not only help seniors but confront the workforce issue.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, released the following statement:
"I have authored multiple laws to enhance the quality of care for seniors and support family caregivers and have vigorously fought for expanded home health services through Medicare. My work to expand and strengthen home health care has been recognized by both the Caregiver Action Network and the Home Care and Hospice Alliance of Maine. The 40-year-high inflation rate is imposing a tremendous toll on seniors, and the nonpartisan CBO estimates that the most likely cost of the Democrats’ bill is $4.7 trillion, which would further exacerbate inflation and interest rates."