Adult center closure would hit Filipino community
At the fringes of Historic Filipinotown, a district encompassing the southwest portion of Echo Park near Downtown Los Angeles, stands the Silver Lake Adult Day Health Center (ADHC).
From Monday to Friday more than a 100 senior citizens, mostly of Filipino descent, converge at the center to partake in health, therapeutic, and social services.
The elderly are treated with the utmost respect and care, like family members. They are lively and engaging. Participating in activities specially tailored to keep them physically and mentally fit.
You could see and hear the camaraderie between the center's clients and with the health workers. There is a sense of community, of belonging together.
Unfortunately this might soon end.
State funding for Medi-Cal Adult Day Health Care is set to be cut in December, forcing medical professionals, senior-care workers and the adult children of elderly Californians to brace for an onslaught of unhappy consequences.
"Our patients are getting stressed already," says Mila Anguluan-Coger, Silver Lake ADHC program director, pointing to the fact that state workers have been coming in and asking the center's clients to fill up forms for their pending transfer to other programs.
"We have been telling our patients of the possible situation and that we are here to support and help them," added Angulan-Conger.
But for some the news was a bitter pill to swallow.
"Paano na ako?" (What will happen to me?) lamented Nanay Seling, an 82 year old suffering from mild dementia. "Mga kaibigan ko andito, malulungkot ako kung di ko na sila makikita." (All my friends are here, I'm sad that I might not see them again.)
"Di ko kakayanin. Baka mamatay na lang ako," (I can't handle it. I will die.) she sadly whispered.
Benjamin Villanueva and his wife Vicenta have been going to the Silver Lake ADHC since 2006 and they have no plans on joining any other programs.
"Sa bahay nalang kami," (We would rather stay at home) stated Villanueva citing facts that they are already old and it would be an added burden to them to meet and get to know new people.
"Malaki na tulong sa amin, lalo na sa asawa ko. Lumakas sya dito, kala ko nun mawawala na sya," (It was a great help for us, especially for my wife. She regained her health here. I though she would not make it before), stressed Villanueva. "Malaking bagay yung bawat umaga may titingin sa amin at aasikasuhin yung mga karamdaman namin," (It is a big thing that every morning that we come here, our health is being looked after).
While the closure of the more than 30-year-old ADHC program would save California $169 million, the cost would take a far greater toll on families who rely on them and further consign our elderly and disabled to a life of misery and most likely an untimely death, according to Dr. Jenny Batongmalaque, Executive Director of the ERB Foundation and Filipino Veterans Foundation.
Rodolfo Quitason, newly immigrated to the US in 2009 and now caring for his mother-in-law suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, says he would rather care for his mother-in-law full-time than enroll her in a nursing home.
"It's hard but no Filipino would want to enroll their parent in a nursing home," he said. "Iba na kung pamilya and mag-alaga." (It's different if a family member would care for them.)
"Adult Day Centers have a place in our lives as we advance in years. It is not just for the clients who directly benefit from it but the working families or care providers who need respite from a 24/7 care of ementia," stated Dr. Batongmalaque. "We may be further challenged with a dangerous course in long term care at facilities or homes."
But there is an alternative for elderly Filipino-Americans and their families.
For Filipino WWII Veterans, Tricare and Medicare are both honored in the Philippines.
Tricare is a medical insurance given to US veterans in addition to Medicare. Both insurance plans can be used in the Philippines but unlike Medicare, Tricare is honored in most accredited Philippine based hospitals and health care centers.
If veterans also wish to retire in the Philippines they can avail of 75% of their Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Segundo Bathan, an 84 year old former guerilla fighter, plans to go home to the Philippines after living alone in the US for almost 14 years.
"Pag magsarado na ang Silver Lake at nakuha ko na yung pingalalaban kong PTSD benefits uuwi na ako sa atin," (If Silver Lake closes and if I get my PTSD benefits, I am going home), said Bathan.
For non-veterans, US Medicare PH, a Filipino-American group, is optimistic that its drive to make US Medicare services portable in the Philippines will see fulfillment by December next year.
Quitason says that Medicare portability, if approved, would be good news.
"I would rather retire in the Philippines than face uncertainty here in the US," said Quitason. "Even with lesser benefits, costs are cheaper in the Philippines."
Eric Lachica, the organizer of Medicare PH, have met with US representatives Steve Austria and Jim McDermotta, member of the House Ways & Means Health subcommittee and both have expressed interest in the proposal because of the potential cost savings.
According to the group’s data, US Medicare will only spend $8,000 for an open-heart surgery in the Philippines, as compared to the $34,801 in America. Total hip replacement, meanwhile, will only amount to $1,500 in the Philippines as opposed to $23,588 in America.
However, the figures do not include physician fees.
"This is a big help to the US economy. I believe we can convince them especially with the cost-cutting the US needs to do now,” Lachica said.