Sen. Klobuchar makes stop in CloquetU.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar visited the Carlton County Volunteer Services office in Cloquet on Wednesday.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar visited the Carlton County Volunteer Services office in Cloquet on Wednesday. During a 45-minute session, attended by a handful of the program’s 3,000 volunteers as well as local governmental officials, Klobuchar voiced her support of federal elder care legislation that would provide assistance for families who care for aging family members and make it more viable for seniors to stay in their own homes as long as possible.
The bottom line of this particular stop on her five-community, day-long tour, however, was to express gratitude to the volunteers who are currently the county’s lifeline to doing just that.
“You are truly the angels of the community,” she said.
Cromwell volunteer Mary Oja sat in the front row. Oja, who along with her husband, Miilo, recently received a presidential citation for lifelong volunteer service, told Klobuchar that she recently helped paved the way for an 87-year-old neighbor living on an isolated farm to come back home again following a stay in a nursing home.
“We now call each other at least five or six times a day,” said Oja, “and I help her in whatever ways I can so she can continue to live at home.”
Oja said the elderly neighbor carries a Life Alert device, and when it goes off, Oja treks the 15 miles that lie between their respective homes to help her out.
“I’m often there before the ambulance arrives!” said Oja.
Klobuchar applauded Oja’s efforts, saying that is exactly the way the system itself should work.
“We have to change the way our programs work,” said Klobuchar. “We know that in the long run, it’s cheaper to keep people in their own homes, but our system is currently not set up that way. There needs to be some incentives in place to help make that happen so it’s not entirely dependent on the help of volunteers.”
Klobuchar went on to explain how there needs to be more help for care givers in the form of tax deductions and credits. She also said Web sites detailing available services for the elderly and their caretakers need to be made more widely accessible and that long term care issues need to be a priority, not only to assure that there are adequate assisted living services available but that significant money is devoted to supporting home care.
She specifically addressed the challenges adult children face in providing for their aging parents and how this care impacts the broader economy.
“I am myself part of the ‘sandwich generation,’” said Klobuchar, “ – those who have both children at home to take care of and elderly parents in need of help as well.”
Statistics show some 77 million baby boomers are currently approaching retirement age, and the senior population in Minnesota alone is expected to double by the year 2030.
“Unlike many other states, rural Minnesota has already begun to experience this demographic,” said Klobuchar. “What we do here should serve as a good model to the rest of the country as we move forward.”
Klobuchar also visited Chisago City, Cambridge, Mora and Pine City.
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