Who will care for the elderly? Private sector must take larger role, businesses told


WESTMINSTER -- The County Bureau of Aging chief told a Carroll Chamber of Commerce gathering this month that private businesses will play an increasingly larger role in helping the elderly remain independent and out of publicly financed nursing homes.

County government won't be able to meet all the needs of Carroll's 17,000 or so residents over the age of 60 through the 1990s and beyond, said Janet B. Flora. Government allocations for senior citizen programs, such as nutrition and transportation, have been decreasing for several years, a trend Flora said will continue.

"Privatization of services to the elderly will continue to be an issue," she told about 60 chamber members. "I believe that partnerships between the public and private sectors are essential for the survival of our society."

She mentioned Snyder Body Inc. of Hampstead, which delivers meals daily from the school where they are prepared to the NorthCarroll Senior Center, as an example of a public-private partnership that saves taxpayers money and helps seniors remain independent.

"A lot of businesses are tightening their belts in monetary contributions to charity, but there are other ways to contribute to the community like this that are probably more helpful," said Mark Snyder, president of the truck equipment manufacturer.

Not all private services can be rendered to the elderly for free. But if the resources to serve the elderly already exist in the private sector, government should forge partnerships, Flora said.

Some Bureau of Aging clients are "at risk" for placement in a PTC nursing home, but don't need the skilled care provided in the institutional setting, said Flora. Through a combination of public and private services, many at-risk seniors could stay in their homes with minimal in-home care and financial aid, she said. Such an arrangement might cost taxpayers about 10 percent of what they would pay for full-time nursing home placements, she said.

According to the 1990 census, 12,557 Carroll residents were 65 or older, making up 10.2 percent of the population.

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