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Holding On: Older Californians with Disabilities Rely on Public Services to Remain Independent

January 1, 2011

Policy Note

Authors: Kathryn G. Kietzman, PhD, MSW, Steven P. Wallace, PhD, Anne Soon Choi, Ph.D., Carolyn A. Mendez-Luck, PhD, MPH

Low-income older Californians with disabilities depend on a variety of public programs to remain in their own homes. This policy note provides the first findings from a project that is following a group of seniors who depend on a fragile arrangement of paid and unpaid help to maintain their independence. The analysis finds that the disability needs of these older adults are often unstable, with both their physical and mental health status sometimes changing day to day. Public services are a crucial component of these individuals’ support networks, even if they sometimes fall short of addressing all their complex needs. Many of these disabled older adults have nowhere else to turn for assistance should their public services be cut. Interviews reveal that these people are typically in poor physical and psychological condition and are just managing to live safely in their homes. At the same time, they share a common goal of staying at home and maintaining their independence.

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