California seniors bearing the brunt of state's budget cuts

Since his son died a few years back and with his nearest relatives in New Mexico, 86-year-old Phil Duran is mostly, but not completely, alone.

The Modesto man still has Maria Profeta, a Linkages social worker with Stanislaus County's Area Agency on Aging who checks in on Duran and steers blessings his way.

Like a powered wheelchair. And a hand-held shower wand. Also, a "reacher kit" allowing him to grab items, and night lights and a smoke alarm. And nutritional supplements to help Duran keep some weight on his frail frame.

In short, Profeta has made it possible for Duran to live where he's independent and happy and comfortable.

But in six weeks, she'll be gone. And no one will take her place, because of state and county budget cuts whose impacts are starting to emerge.

To close a mind-numbing state budget deficit, Gov. Schwarzenegger recently erased nearly $10 million for senior programs.

"This is our most vulnerable population," said Mickey Peabody, Stanislaus County Commission on Aging chairwoman. "They've done their share to build this country. They don't complain, they don't get arrested, they don't make big waves. They just suffer in silence because they are a generation that doesn't ask for anything. They were raised on 'the Lord helps those who help themselves,' but there is nobody to help them."

Potential victims in Stanislaus County include:

— Linkages' 80 clients, most of whom are at risk of ending up in institutions, experts say.

— About 2,180 seniors who get brown-bag meals from The Salvation Army at 32 distribution sites.

— Fifty-three seniors in adult day care and 29 Alz- heimer's clients in another day care program at Miller's Place, operated by Doctors Medical Center Foundation. However, the center's operator said Miller's Place will beef up fund raising and grant requests to maintain those services.

"We will find a way to make ends meet," said Tom Truax, DMC Foundation's chief executive officer since June.

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