When John needed mental health and financial support, Andy got him through the systems.

Hi, I’m Andy, and I’m a social worker.

Let me tell you about John, one of the people I assist. For years, John lived alone with few friends and no family nearby. To make ends meet on his fixed retirement income, he lived in subsidized housing. Beyond loneliness, John has a history of mental health challenges. Fortunately, he started visiting his local senior center to bring a sense of community into his life. He was also able to enjoy the nutritious meals the center serves every day.

After a few years, John also sought assistance with day-to-day tasks from the Aging & Disability Resource Center. The staff there was concerned that John could not properly care for himself because of age-related physical disabilities and his mental health challenges. So they applied on his behalf for state-funded managed care. Although the request was approved and John began receiving care under the system then in place, changed regulations require that all new requests be filed with a state agency that manages a waiting list. The list is necessary because of rising demand for services and the limited availability of caseworkers.

As John’s caseworker, I quickly assessed his need for mental health support due to his bipolar disorder and depression diagnoses, and I also worked to ensure proper care for a range of physical ailments from arthritis to COPD. Yet, because John’s medical records indicate a primary diagnosis of dementia, he is ineligible for the mental health care necessary for his bipolar disorder and depression, which often makes him forget to eat and take his medications.

Typically, managed care social workers like me check in with clients once a month to offer any additional support needed. However, owing to John’s lack of adequate mental health services, I visit him at least once a week. Unfortunately, the extra time I take to support John’s quality of life cuts into the time I can give others who also greatly need support.

Thanks to the extra attention to John, I found that he had been targeted by a financial scam and gone broke. Fortunately, I was able to get him accepted into a rep-payee program that now manages his finances and pays his bills. Without this assistance, John would probably now be homeless and left behind — like too many other seniors who fall through the cracks.

John has now also been diagnosed with lung cancer. Although he’s receiving treatment, the system he had to navigate to get it nearly defeated him. For instance, he couldn’t afford daily bus trips to medical appointments. Although I got American Cancer Society assistance with transportation costs, John still ran out of money. I’m now trying to arrange further transportation support and am working with the rep-payee program to set money aside every month to cover this cost.

Despite his challenges, John is one of the lucky ones. He gets at least some of the services he requires and has a social worker to provide physical and emotional support. Still, his life is difficult. His mental condition is deteriorating, and if he beats his cancer he’ll need a more intensive case management program. Admittance into programs like these takes months that he may not have.

We need to ensure that California provides long-term services and supports for our aging population so that older adults like John can get the care they need. California must prepare for the needs of its aging population. Take the pledge today to demand that our elected leaders act now on this growing crisis.

Long-term services and supports along with the workforce required is a vital part of our community keeping seniors healthy.

Without adequate funding and a well-trained workforce, the centers that provide long-term services and support won’t be available to help future generations enjoy their later years. We need to make sure tomorrow’s Californians can Age on. AND Rage On. Get involved now.