Maine doesn't make it easy

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Nancy Boily, 65, a personal care attendant, sits with Mildred Rood, 85, as the older woman eats lunch during a recent home care visit to Mildred’s home in Windsor. “I get pure satisfaction knowing they’re getting the care that I would want,” Boily says. “

WINDSOR — Mildred Rood lets out a little sigh, relishing a moment’s relief from the near-constant pain and numbness that come with having neuropathy in her feet.

A personal care attendant is rubbing medicated lotion on Mildred’s feet, after washing them in a pink plastic basin of warm water laced with sweet-smelling soap.

“Does that feel good?” asks Nancy Boily, 65, kneeling before Mildred’s wheelchair in her cramped kitchen.

“Ohhh,” Mildred moans softly, “it always feels good.”

At 85, Mildred is homebound and largely confined to a wheelchair as a result of advanced diabetes, congestive heart failure and kidney disease.

Nancy Boily visits three mornings each week, helping Mildred with a variety of personal and home care needs, including bathing and toileting. It’s critical assistance that allows Mildred, who is eligible for nursing home care, to stay in her modest mobile home on a dirt road in the woods near Augusta. 

But while Mildred is authorized to receive daily care, she often goes two or three days without outside assistance, leaving her dependent on the care of an ailing son who lives with her. And Mildred is fortunate – about 1,200 Mainers are on waiting lists for similar services, and that number is expected to grow in the coming fiscal year.

That’s because home and personal care programs for about 6,800 low- and moderate-income seniors are seriously underfunded, home care advocates say. As a result, there’s a statewide shortage of people who are willing to do such demanding, often difficult work for less than $10 an hour and no benefits.

Read part 7 of Portland Press Herald's excellent "Challenge of our age" series in full  here.

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