Adam Crum, 34, our current commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and a donor to the Dunleavy campaign, has provided a Community Perspective (News-Miner, Aug. 31) about our Pioneers’ Homes. I think the most telling point is his statement, “Being financially stable is an important part of being able to live up to that core value as it allows us to sustain operations of the Pioneers’ Homes into the future.”
Apparently, Commissioner Crum and Gov. Mike Dunleavy do not believe that there are core social values worth supporting, even if they don’t pay for themselves. When the Pioneers’ Homes were envisioned, they were not built with the idea that the residents would pay the total cost of their care. They were built because Alaskans believe that we take care of our elders. Especially in a state that lacks facilities for safe healthy, and compassionate care, the Pioneers’ Homes have been essential in providing such services.
There was no great public outcry to change the funding for the Pioneers’ Homes. The Legislature did not suggest these cuts when it presented its 2019 balanced budget. This is a manufactured crisis as Gov. Dunleavy and Commissioner Crum attempt to impose their views of the role of government on our state. It is not the view of the role of government held by most Alaskans.
When I was growing up and lived in Palmer, we were happy to have a beautiful Pioneers’ Home built in our community, one that would provide for the needs of our colony elders. The close proximity to town and the value of caring for our elders made it a source of pride. Students from the high school took their study hall and visited the residents. The community provided book clubs, visits, and music entertainment. They we were enthused to know that one did not have to leave Alaska for home care. The concept of subsidized elder care was embraced.
Today, I have an aunt on the waiting list for the Pioneers’ Home in Ketchikan because she is no longer able to live alone. She does not have the income to afford the increase suggested. Promises by Commissioner Crum about assistance for help with the payment are not the same as being eligible and accepted for assistance and actually receiving the benefit. It is no wonder that the residents feel like they are being thrown under the bus.
I should know about the value of the Pioneers’ Homes, because my mother spent the final years of her life suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease at the Anchorage home. She knew and I knew that the amount she paid, all her monthly income and savings, for her care did not cover the entire cost. She and I were grateful for all the Alaska residents who were willing to help support her. She did not have to leave the state that she loved. I and many other residents are willing to subsidize the care for other Alaska elders’ Pioneers’ Home costs. This is who we are as Alaskans.
Ann Fowler Jamieson lives in Fairbanks.