As Calif. Cuts Senior Care Funds, Workers Worry About Jobs -- And Patients

As Calif. Cuts Senior Care Funds, Workers Worry About Jobs -- And Patients

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Photo by Latino California shows an abuela, a grandmother, receiving care at fhe Felices Dias (Happy Days) Adult Day Health Care Center in South Los Angeles, among 310 to close due to state budget cuts.

Editor’s Note: The following article is part of an innovative multimedia news package titled “Home Alone: Adult Health Center Cuts Devastate Elderly, Disabled.” It is a collaborative project developed by New American Media and NAM’s LA Beez, a consortium of Los Angeles ethnic-media outlets, in partnership with the CHFC Center for Health Reporting at USC. The multi-ethnic coverage chronicles the effects of California’s pending elimination of the state-funded Adult Day Health Care centers (ADHC). For a list of “Home Alone” stories with links, visit the LA Beez website or go to the Center for Health Reporting site.

LOS ANGELES — Zarine Tarayan, program director of Felices Dias (Happy Days) Adult Day Health Care Center in South Los Angeles, is not happy these days. Ever since she found out that the state's budget crisis may force the center to close its doors, she's been worrying not only about the health of the more than 100 seniors they serve, but about 25 employees with a families to support.

"What worries me the most is the safety of the elderly because we know that many will not survive long without proper care in their homes." Tarayan said. "But at the same time I worry about my employees and their families because everyone will be affected, not only them."

Over 6,000 to Lose Jobs

With the shut-down of the state’s Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) program scheduled for December 1, not only will the health of more than 38,000 elderly and disabled people be affected, but more than 6,000 Californians could be thrown out of work, increasing the unemployment lines right before the Christmas holiday season.

In California, there are about 310 ADHC centers with at least 20 employed staff members each. The programs are largely funded by California’s Medicaid program, called MediCal, for low income people.

Despite her credentials and master's degree in psychology, Tarayan is worried for herself, too, because she has four children to feed and is the only one who takes care of them.

"I never thought we could be in this situation. Not in America," explained the director, who emphasized that it does not seem to matter how educated people may be. To get a job now is a challenge for everyone.

Among the professionals and employees of the center who could be out of work are psychologists, therapists, drivers, certified nurses, social workers and other service employees.

A federal district court will hold a hearing on the ADHC center closures this month.

Zarine Tarayan, program director of Happy Days Center for Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) in South Los Angeles, is concerned about the future of over 100 elderly patients and 25 employees who will be unemployed on December 1 due to MediCal cuts.

According to the state’s Employment Development Department (EDD), in recent months California has lost 17,500 jobs in health, construction, government and education.

Once Josefina Lopez, director of Happy Days activities, realized how poor the job situation was in the state, she too worried about how she'll make it because, like Tarayan, she doesn't have anyone to help support her and her four kids.

"We are all wondering what we are going to do," said Lopez. "Not only for the safety of the nearly 100 elderly people we care for daily, but because of the unemployment benefits. It would be hard to survive because they just give you a percentage of what your salary is."

Closings Add to Unemployment

EDD offers people a maximum of $450 per week no matter how much they made at their last job. The money is available for six months and may be extended if people have not found employment.

David Shulman, senior economist at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), indicated that nationally, things do not look favorable.

"Recession or not, the employment situation remains horrible," Shulman said. "Job growth has stalled and we forecast that the unemployment rate will soon rise to 9.5 percent. Thus, even by the end of 2013 we will not be back to the unemployment levels of late 2007."

In California, Jerry Nickelsburg, an economist at UCLA, indicated that the state forecast sees virtually no job creation momentum with employment growth of 0.7 percent and 2.1 percent expected in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Mark Atallah, a social worker at the center, who could be laid off in December, is more optimistic than the experts. Despite having a mother to care for, a $1,800 apartment rent, car insurance and other expenses to cover, he prays and hopes the economy will improve soon.

However, what he can't understand is why elders, who gave everything in their time and now are among the most vulnerable, are going to be left on their own.

"In my case, I pray for myself and my colleagues for something good to happen, but for whom I pray more is for my patients," he said. "I am convinced that with the closure of these centers, the only thing you will do is hasten death and arrival at the emergency room or nursing homes for many elderly."

Agustín Durán is executive director of Latino California. Read this story in Spanish headlined "Riesgo en salud y pérdidas de empleos a consecuencia de los recortes en MediCal en Ca."