Care for elderly
Trump's pledge to aid caregivers
President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to provide family caregivers with a tax deduction (up to $5,000 per year for necessary senior care costs), dependent care savings accounts for long-term care costs, along with some further — yet not specific — support. It is my strong hope that he carries through with these promises (and even betters them).
Family caregivers are sons, daughters, spouses and/or partners who step in to help care for and support an aging loved one. Shouldering the new responsibilities while watching a loved one physically and/or mentally decline can be physically, emotionally and mentally draining. The associated costs of providing necessary care can also become onerous. For example, an in-home health care aide can cost $20 an hour, while a long-term care room can cost $200 to $250 a day. Often, these costs are incurred by the family caregiver.
As a former co-caregiver for my own parents, I consider myself fortunate that they were financially savvy and we could afford to care for them. However, no matter where a family stands with financial savings, the costs of caregiving can become burdensome and government assistance would dramatically ease that burden.
Caregiving is fast becoming a timely and topical issue in our country and, in due time, we will learn if Trump's promise was real or empty.
Rick Lauber, Edmonton, Alberta
In 8 years, 'Yes, we can' became 'Yes, we did' Jan. 10, commentary
Assessing the president
I like Carl Hiaasen's work. He has written some good, if quirky, fiction and painted his characters in a lovable light — not only in his books but in this column.
Did President Barack Obama accomplish some good things as president? Of course. Did he prove himself to be a charismatic and popular president? No question. But his legacy is cast by these realities:
• The country is as divided as ever. Per my daughter the social worker and my friend the police officer, perhaps more than ever.
• The vast majority of the president's "accomplishments" were done through executive order. His "pen and phone" approach replaced the hard work of passing legislation — work done across the aisle, as most presidents have had to do.
• The Democratic Party has lost consistently over the last six years in spite of the president's personal popularity.
• The political climate is such that Donald Trump could get elected.
These domestic realities are plain to see — in the news, in social media, in the gym and at the water cooler. The realities of the president's world view and foreign policy will be judged over time, but at a minimum, his rebuke of Mitt Romney — "the 1980s are calling and they want their foreign policy back" — will stand as testimony of how he misread Russia throughout his term.
Having been a young president, Obama's true legacy will be determined more by his accomplishments after his presidency than by his last-minute campaign to affect it. I wish him well in that regard and I thank him for his service to our country. And I look forward to Hiaasen's next work of fiction.
Paul Brooks, Valrico
Florida tops in pedestrian deaths | Jan. 10
First step: Obey the law
While the headline states Florida is tops in pedestrian deaths, the article doesn't mention how many of these deaths are due to pedestrians not obeying traffic laws and failing to cross in a crosswalk. We can't help those who don't help themselves.
Betsy Crate, Ruskin
I believe any solution to a problem has to address the root cause. This case centers around carelessness. I don't mean to be insensitive to anyone who has lost a loved one, but almost every case you read about involves the pedestrian being in a random spot on the road instead of in a crosswalk, which still has potential for danger but at least is marked to make drivers more aware of possible crossers.
Don't fool yourself into thinking that adding more lights and crosswalks will help anything, as people are going to cross wherever they decide to anyway. Instead, push a campaign to encourage people to pay attention and be personally responsible for getting across the road safely.
James Jones, Tampa
Include charter employees
The most vulnerable people in our communities are children awaiting adoption in the foster care system. Based on a Florida Department of Children and Families report from March 2015, there were 816 children in foster care awaiting adoption.
Florida provides assistance to families who take the compassionate step of adopting children from the child welfare system. In 2015, the state re-established the Adoption Benefit Program for Qualifying State Employees. This program provides that state employees in school districts, public community colleges and universities receive a lump sum of up to $10,000 per child adopted from foster care. However, charter school employees are not eligible for this benefit.
Charter schools, which are funded by the Florida Department of Education, provide public education for 270,000 students in Florida — 10 percent of the student population. Charter school employees are required, by law, to pay 3 percent of their salary into the Florida Retirement System. Why are charter school employees, who provide the same services and have to meet the same expectations and regulations as school district employees, ineligible to receive this benefit?
Last summer, my wife and I adopted four children (siblings) out of foster care. We could not be more happy with our decision. With adoption comes expenses, some short-term and many long-term, that for a high school teacher can be tough to meet at times. As a public school teacher in a charter school, I — and other charter school employees in Florida — am not eligible for this benefit. Let's make this right.
Daniel Lauk, Lakeland