Ensuring a Better Quality of Life for Delaware’s Elderly and Disabled
Caring for his grandmother and seeing the burden caregivers face, often with little support, altered the course of Michael Higgin’s life—twice. A few years ago, it spurred him to open a center to support and provide care for the elderly and adults with disabilities. Today, it drives him into the political arena.
Bear/Glasgow Adult Day Care Center, which Higgin opened in 2014, provides each client with an individualized plan of care involving some combination of physical therapy, speech therapy, or occupational therapy. Daily schedules encourage clients’ social interactions and engage their creativity with field trips, arts and crafts programs, and a changing roster of activities. Every client’s medical appointments and records are synchronized between doctors, pharmacists, and specialists to avoid interactions between medications and other problems.
Because of Bear/Glasgow, many individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities, Alzheimer’s, and dementia who might have gone to long-term care facilities are able to remain at home with their families instead. Bear/Glasgow makes it possible for caregivers to work, go to school, run errands, and spend time taking care of themselves, knowing their loved one is being looked after in a safe, enriching environment.
Higgin knows first-hand about the challenges of caregiving, and the real problem of caregiver burnout. On top of the daily challenges of assisting family members, finding and paying for needed therapy and programs can be an added source of stress.
Higgin created Bear/Glasgow to help families cope with these burdens. But he soon realized that the problem was larger than any that one daycare center could address. He decided to run for political office, and has made caregiver issues central to his legislative goals. Caregivers are “the overlooked and underserved population,” Higgin says. “In Delaware, people need these services, but it can be difficult to connect and qualify.”
Meeting the state’s financial eligibility requirement is one of the biggest challenges for people caring for a disabled family member, Higgin points out. As of 2022, the maximum income threshold is $2,200 a month. Individuals who have assets or own property may be ineligible. People end up stuck in a gray area of earning too much to qualify for state-provided care but not enough to pay for therapy and other services out of pocket.
“There’s no hand-holding until you become independent, no transition period,” he explains. “As soon as you make a dollar over the threshold, you no longer qualify.”
Higgin views the current system as detrimental to the overall economy. “The current system puts these individuals and caregivers in a difficult position as a caregiver’s income also qualifies. Should they work if it disqualifies someone from receiving services? Or should they cut down on work in order to qualify?”
There’s a simple solution, he says. Rather than looking only at income, the state should consider expenditures against income.
For now, Higgin and the Bear/Glasgow team will continue to do what they can to provide excellent care for their clients and support for clients’ families. “My goal,” says Higgin, “is to help people expand and improve their lives.”