How Rising Fuel Costs Affect the Elderly

Aging services agencies are making cutbacks.

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Many seniors rely on local aging services like rides to the doctor, home-delivered meals, and home healthcare to keep them living independently. But rising gas costs are forcing cutbacks. Over half (56 percent) of Area Agencies on Aging have already reduced services in 2008 to keep up with climbing fuel costs, according to a survey by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and 90 percent expect to do so in 2009. Gas prices are also making it more difficult for over 70 percent of agencies to recruit and retain volunteers.

"Increased costs, all tied to the rising price of oil, are making it harder and harder to keep families together and maintain these patients at home where they prefer to be," says Tim Rogers, executive director of the Association for Home Care and Hospice of North Carolina and the South Carolina Home Care Association.

A separate study by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice's Foundation for Hospice and Homecare found that nurses, therapists, and homecare aides drove 4.8 billion miles in 2006 to provide medical and nursing care to chronically ill and disabled senior citizens, but escalating gasoline prices are threatening their ability to reach patients, particularly in rural areas.

Programs like Meals on Wheels, which deliver food to the homes of the elderly, are not yet being cut altogether, but seniors may now have to wait longer to sign up. More than half of Area Agencies on Aging say the number of people on waiting lists for services has increased since last year. The hardest-hit services include:

  • transportation to the doctor or senior center
  • respite care for elders to offer family caregivers a break
  • home-delivered meals like Meals on Wheels
  • chore and cleaning assistance for frail elders
  • home care from health aides
  • Tell us, have rising fuel costs affected your retirement?