Seniors lack effective social services in Alaska by CARLOS MATías
“Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration lacks humanity for seniors. He does not allocate enough resources for their care. There are seniors who need to be assisted for many hours and they only get one, and that’s when they get it. I have seen many elderly people die, waiting to receive some kind of help or social services,” says Angela Jimenez, owner of McKinley Services, a company that provides assistance to the elderly in Anchorage.
Social assistance for the elderly in Alaska is “very deficient” and does not provide sufficient support or economic resources to cover all their needs. Angela Jimenez, owner of the McKinley Services agency which provides personal care services to the elderly, states that the work of personal care assistants is not valued as it should be. “They are paid poverty wages, many times lower than that of any domestic cleaning assistant, for example.”
“I have seen many extreme cases, too many to think that this is an exception, within a supposed normality in the care of the elderly in our state,” comments Ángela Jiménez. “I have seen an elderly woman who lived in a two-story house. The living room and kitchen were downstairs. Upstairs were her bedroom and the only bathroom in the house.”
“This elderly woman could not climb the stairs that connected the two floors of the house,” Jiménez continued to tell Sol de Medianoche. “She had to crawl along the floor, helped only by the strength of her own arms, a strength that was getting weaker and weaker as her condition declined. I saw how this woman said in front of me to a Social Services inspector for the state that she had this problem and that she needed help.”
“Imagine a very old woman with no mobility, who could only go to the bathroom to relieve herself as soon as she got out of bed, before going down to the lower part of the house, and who, once in the lower part of the house, could not go up again to use the bathroom, except when she found enough strength to crawl and climb step by step, slowly and with great effort.”
“Well,” Angela concludes, “the elderly woman explained her serious problem to the social services inspector in front of me, and in front of me this inspector replied to the poor woman, with total indifference, that this was not her problem. That’s how it happened.” Angela Jiménez adds that the next morning she phoned this inspector’s supervisor to tell her everything that had happened, and that the supervisor told her that she could not believe it, despite the fact that Angela had witnessed it.
“I have seen elderly people die waiting for help,” continues Angela Jimenez. “It’s a form of mistreatment. At the very least, it is psychological mistreatment, because many elderly people even go so far as to wish they were dying. The main concern of our elders is not to create morework for their children. Because in the old days, life was set up in such a way that the head of the family went out to work and the wife oversaw the household, the children if there were small ones, and the grandparents. Because the father of the family earned enough to support everyone. But now it’s not like that.”
“Now it’s not like that,” she continues, “because life is more complex and much more expensive. Now women also must go out to work to help with the household expenses, because if they don’t, they can’t make ends meet. But there are still households with small children, or with elderly people. And then, what happens? Well, if the social services are not sufficient, as is the case in Alaska, one has to stay at home to take care of these people and cannot work. And that role of staying at home almost always, in the vast majority of cases, falls to the woman. And then they say that in the United States there is equal opportunity.”
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