Olivia Donna Gelardin was exquisite. At almost 5 years old, Livy, as we called her, was delighted to watch sunlight reflect off the window, feel the sand run through her fingers in her garden, splash soapy water in the bath tub with her brother.
She was our first, our dream-come-true baby, our patient teacher.
Livy was born with Schizencephaly, a rare neurodevelopmental disability characterized by global delays in gross and fine motor skills, cognitive functioning and speech.
Initially, her diagnosis made us anxious. My wife and I have physical disabilities and understood how to advocate for our own needs, but our daughter’s reality was somewhat unfamiliar ground. Mostly, we feared that her intellectual disability would result in exclusion from participating in play, learning and peer-relationships. We sought every opportunity to help our little girl grow and thrive. With the support of early intervention, intensive therapeutic supports, various State-funded services, love and support from family and, most of all, Livy’s extremely hard work, our little girl blossomed.
California is experiencing an unprecedented crisis in affordable housing.
According to the state Department of Housing and Community Development, over 1.5 million households in California pay more than half of the income toward rent. Since 2008, the state has experienced a 69% decline in state and federal investment in production and preservation of affordable housing.
This crisis lands most heavily on those who are aging or disabled, and have high health care needs. Of those Californians who are most in need of affordable housing – those who currently pay more than half their income toward rent – thirty-five percent are elderly or disabled households.
This trend will only get worse; older adults are the fastest growing demographic in the country. By 2060, 1 in 3 Americans will be age 65 or over. Increases in housing and health care costs, combined with stagnant Social Security and SSI disbursements, are creating tremendous poverty among the older adult population.
The federal Affordable Care Act, enacted in 2009, contained a provision that surprised many people. A concerted effort by a wide variety of organizations resulted in a provision to begin addressing a gaping hole in our social safety net that most people do not know exists.
Most people believe that existing health insurance, and certainly Medicare, covers the cost of services and supports needed by people who can no longer perform activities of daily living, such as dressing, eating, toileting, or getting around. It doesn’t. The only option for people who have not saved enough to purchase these services, or purchased long-term care insurance when healthy enough to qualify, is to spend themselves into poverty and enter a nursing facility that accepts the meager reimbursement offered by Medi-Cal.