Access to Senior Dental Care a Growing Concern
Low income older adults have limited options when looking for dental care. Only about 20% of dentists accept Medicaid and those that do are rarely accepting new patients. This forces many older adults to avoid dental care, which can cause and compound other diseases.
AAAWM has teamed up with volunteer dentists, hygienists and now students through Grand Rapids Community College Dental Clinic to provide Senior Dental Days.
Working with non-profit agencies, clients re identified based on need. Those identified receive a free dental cleaning, any necessary x-rays, screening examination and a referral if needed (efforts will be made to find a dentist to adopt them for future dental care at a free or reduced cost).
Local organizations estimated that over 1,000 seniors are in need to affordable dental care. One agency in West Michigan has a year- long waiting list and sees people line up at 4 a.m. to try and get an appointment.
AAAWM would like to expand Senior Dental Days but we need volunteer dentists, hygienists and community members to help make this a reality. If you would like to volunteer, contact the agency at (616) 456-5664 and ask for Senior Dental Days.
How Adult Day Services (ADS) Can Help Someone with Dementia
A dementia diagnosis doesn’t automatically mean packing your loved one’s bags and moving them into a nursing facility. Many older adults are being cared for at home and having dementia doesn’t have to change that decision. In fact, an Adult Day Services (ADS) program can help make this a reality while benefiting both the care recipient and the family caregiver.
What are Adult Day Services (ADS)?
ADS are offered at a location that is typically open during daytime hours and provides activities for older adults and those with developmental disabilities who are unable to be left alone without some type of supervision. Programs provide a structured environment that includes activities and social interaction. Some programs have music therapy, craft projects and social groups as well as offering a noon meal and transportation. They also provide a break for the caregiver with the confidence that their loved one is in good hands.
Benefits to the Caregiver
ADS programs offer numerous benefits for both the caregiver and care recipient. Providing care for someone can be very stressful. Often a family caregiver is also working and/or raising children while caring for an older adult. An ADS program is a safe environment for the senior and it allows both the caregiver and recipient to get a break from one another. The caregiver can use this time to simply relax, run errands or do something for themselves.
Many caregivers use an Adult Day Program while they are at work. Different programs even offer bathing services and/or other personal care options, which can be a benefit to both the caregiver and the care recipient.
“We had an elderly wife who was caring for her husband. She enjoyed the respite the adult day provided, but seriously began to think about placement in a nursing home because she could not get him to take a shower,” said Kendra Schumaker, Executive Director at SarahCare Adult Day Services. “Our staff offered to shower him while he was here during the day, but his wife was reluctant, thinking that he would not be agreeable. She agreed to let us give it a try, and when she came to pick him up she had tears of joy because he was clean and they would not have to fight about it at home.”
“Part of what adult day does is let people return to their previous life roles. In other words the wife can now be the wife and not the nursemaid, caregiver, etc. They can go home, have dinner, and she can be assured that her husband is not only clean, but he did not fall in the shower at home.”
Benefits to the Care Recipient
While at an Adult Day Program, the care recipient is able to enjoy a wide variety of structured activities that they may not be able to do while at home. Participants benefit from additional socialization and often form strong relationships with other participants and staff.
“We have an amazing staff that really bonds with our seniors,” says Teresa Schlump, Director at Side by Side Adult Day Services. “This helps the older adult feel more confident because coming to the center is like spending time with friends. It also makes it easier for the caregiver because it’s an enjoyable experience for their loved one.”
Sign Me Up! What do I do?
The best way to get started is to take time to visit an ADS program. Schedule a tour and talk with the Director or other staff. Some ADS programs even allow interested families to try the service out for a day (at little or no cost) to make sure it’s a good fit.
Because each location offers different activities and services, individuals need to contact the organization directly to find out about costs and qualifications. The Kent County Senior Millage may help offset the cost for families with lower incomes. For more information, including costs and how to qualify under the Kent County Senior Millage, contact one of the Adult Day Centers listed below.
Who to Contact:
- CareTree Adult Day Services (operated by Gerontology Network) (616) 464-3665
- Side by Side Adult Day Services (operated by Hope Network) (616) 235-2910
SarahCare Adult Day Services (616) 530-6700
November Family Caregiver Series a Success
The Caregiver Resource Network’s Family Caregiver Series was a “great success,” says Anne Ellermets, Contract Coordinator at Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan and staff liaison to the group. The Caregiver Resource Network (CRN) provided a month long list of complimentary activities geared towards family caregivers. Events included everything from a pie contest to local experts, authors and family portraits. Topics included financial and legal concerns, end of life issues as well as caregiver stress and Alzheimer ’s disease. Most of all the CRN feels they were able to reach a variety of family caregivers through the series.
“Caregivers often have hectic schedules and may not feel they have the time to get additional information or take time for themselves,” says Ellermets. “The fact that we had nearly 500 people attend events over the month speaks not only to the volume of family caregivers, but to the fact that information like this is needed and wanted. The organizations involved did a great job of providing interesting, engaging and entertaining events for the caregivers to attend.”
The CRN is a collaboration of over 110 community organizations helping serve caregivers throughout West Michigan. For more information on their programs and resources, visits www.caregiverresource.net.
Senior Advocacy in Action Alert
There are a number of issues that are being considered by Congress and the state legislature before the end of the year that will have a huge impact on seniors. Below is urgent information on three of them, and what you can do right now.
Sequestration ( the fiscal cliff)
- Threatens federal funding for older adult programs which help seniors stay in their own homes.
- The Super Committee, comprised of 3 Republicans and 3 Democrats from both the House and Senate, failed to come to a budget agreement, resulting in the automatic budget cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. This is a package of spending cuts and tax hikes that will come into effect on Jan. 2, the first business day of 2013, if President Barack Obama and Congress cannot agree to an alternative measure to cut the deficit. $109 billion will come out of the federal budget every year for the next 10 years. Half, or about $54.7 billion, comes from defense spending, half will come from domestic programs, including Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly, which will see an $11 billion cut. The sequester cuts roughly 8 percent from all federal discretionary programs, from military spending to food safety to education.
- Click here for sequestration advocacy
Personal Property Tax Exemption
- State level bills that will reduce funding to local senior millages and state municipalities.
- Lt. Governor Calley has been working with the House of Representatives on an alternative plan to replace revenue lost to local entities from the exemption of industrial and commercial personal property tax. This differs from the earlier Senate passed version in that instead of relying on the annual appropriation process to replace the funds with expiring tax credits it proposes to shift funds from the state USE tax out of the general fund to the “Personal Property Tax Reimbursement Fund”. It would require a statewide vote to do so. Funds lost to the general fund would be made up in time from the expiring tax credits, with no indication of where general fund reductions would come from in the meantime.
- Of greater immediate concern to senior programs with millage funding is that the provisions for protecting “Voter-Approved” millages that were in the Senate bills are absent from the new proposal. The exemptions would begin in tax year 2014, and projected replacement revenue would not be available until 2016, and projected at only at 80% replacement, if voters approve the shift of funds from the USE tax.
- The new proposal allows local units of government to have a special assessment on industrial real property for police, fire, and ambulance services, that could help replace lost revenue up to 100%, but have no mechanism for other entities to make up lost funds.
- Click here for Personal Property Tax advocacy
Blue Cross Bills
- These bills will change how Blue Cross Blue Shield is structured and will put seniors and those with disabilities in jeopardy of losing affordable insurance coverage.
- Blue Cross Legacy Medigap policies are the most accessible and affordable policies in the state and must be maintained by keeping current statutory protections in place. If Legacy policies are discontinued, some beneficiaries will be forced to drop coverage altogether, or go on Medicare Advantage. Both have high out-of-pocket costs when you need health care. Some will spend their income and assets on health care bills and be forced to enroll in Medicaid.
- Younger people with disabilities going on Medicare have no legal protections in purchasing Medigap and rely on Blue Cross Legacy policies to supplement Medicare. People with End Stage Renal Disease, ALS, MS, and many other conditions depend on Blue Cross to sell them insurance.
- Click here for Blue Cross Bills Advocacy
Healthy Aging Video Now Available
Healthy Aging classes are a fun way to get fit and meet new friends. Designed specifically for older adults, classes are available throughout West Michigan. Watch the video below to see classes in action, and then find a class in your area!
Medicare Part D Open Enrollment Ends December 7
Navigating through the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage can be confusing and choosing the wrong plan can be a costly mistake with high out of pocket expenses. So, how do you find the right option? Where do you turn if you simply don’t know where to start?
The Michigan Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP) is a statewide program run by a team of volunteers that have gone through an extensive training on Medicare and Medicaid. MMAP can help individuals determine which plans cover their medications and narrow down their options to see what will work best for them. The decision on which plan to choose is still made by the individual, but they are armed with the information they need to make the decision.
“The options can be a lot to sort through, especially if you are taking multiple medications and need to search for plans that cover specific prescriptions,” says Karen Rozelle, Regional MMAP Coordinator at the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan. “So much of the research into which plan is right for you is completed online now, which can be intimidating to some older adults. Our volunteers are trained in how to use the system and they are ready to help.”
This year there are 34 available drug plans in Michigan. Some of the plans that were popular in West Michigan in 2012 have been discontinued for 2013 while other ones have changed portions of the coverage. Experts advise beneficiaries to review their plan each year to make sure it still works for their current needs.
“Plans can change from year to year and if you don’t do the research, you may end up with surprises that are very costly. By doing the research, you can determine if that plan still fits your needs,” says Rozelle. “It’s also possible that someone’s health and /or their health care needs have changed during the year and they will want to take that into consideration. For example, are they going to the doctor more often or are they taking more medications now than before. All of these need to be considered in order to make the most cost effective choice.”
To contact a MMAP counselor in your area, call 1-800-803-7174. To search plans online go to www.medicare.gov
Family Caregiver Series Starts November 1
The Caregiver Resource Network's November Family Caregiver Series starts November 1st and lasts all month long. The series, consisting of 22 events, is targeted to family caregivers and includes a wide variety of topics and event types.
Some are more educational, including authors and local experts; while other events are more interactive such as family portraits or baking demonstrations. All events are complimentary and open to the public.
Event times range throughout the day with locations throughout Kent County.
For more information, including a complete list of all the events, visit www.caregiverresource.net.
The Caregiver Resource Network is a collaboration of over 100 West Michigan organizations dedicated to helping family and professional caregivers.
From the Executive Director
In the world of politics the focus these days is on the upcoming elections. However, after November 6 attention will shift to the Budget Control Act of 2011 and sequestration of all discretionary federal funding. Older Americans Act funding, the primary funding source for area agencies on aging, will be impacted by the sequestration.
In 2011, Congress and President Obama agreed to the Budget Control Act to address the growing federal budget deficit. Under terms of the agreement, Republicans and Democrats must identify $1.2 trillion in budget savings and/or revenue increases over the next ten years to reduce the federal deficit. Both parties must come to an agreement by the end of this calendar year.
If no agreement is reached, then all discretionary federal funding will be sequestered. That means an 8.4% across-the-board cut in defense and non-defense discretionary spending. Older Americans Act funding will be among the many, many programs to be reduced. Between $4-5 million in annual Older Americans Act funding will be lost to Michigan. The AAAWM region would lose about $350,000 which currently provides congregate meals, home delivered meals, and in-home services. In Michigan, the cuts will deny 6,000 seniors nutritional meals, including 2,500 frail homebound seniors getting meals-on-wheels.
An 8.4% funding cut will make it harder for low income older adults to stay in their own home and out of a more expensive nursing home. In the long run, taxpayers will have to pay more as an increasing number of individuals qualify for Medicaid.
This all comes at a time when senior millage funding across Michigan is declining due to decreasing property values. And the number of older adults in need of in-home assistance is growing. The number of older adults in Michigan grew by more than 20% over the past ten years. That trend will accelerate over the next ten years. Consequently, demand for services and waiting lists will continue to increase.
Please contact U. S. Senator Levin, Senator Stabenow, and your U.S Congressman by phone, fax, or email urging them to find common ground and to reach a budget deficit agreement before the end of the year. Tell them how the sequester will devastate Older Americans Act programs and the negative impact on the health and independence of older Michiganians.
Senior Advocacy in Action Alert
An 8.4% cut across all federal non-entitlement programs will go into effect January 2, 2013. The cuts are automatically triggered by the 2011 Budget Control Act, resulting from the bipartisan “Super Committee’s” inability to come to an agreement on $1.2 trillion in budget cuts. Unless Congress acts, these cuts will affect every federal program, from the military to public health and social services. Please see the information below and make calls, emails, faxes, and tweets to express your concern.
Unless Congress reverses an 8.4% across-the-board cut approved last year, all discretionary federally-funded aging network programs will lose funding beginning January 2, 2013. The official name for this cut is “sequestration,” and it was a provision of the Budget Control Act that was passed to address the growing federal budget deficit.
Between $4-5 million in annual funding will be lost to Michigan just from the federal Older Americans Act, which provides congregate and home-delivered meals, in-home services, senior employment and other services. Other discretionary federal programs would also be hit, including energy assistance, senior volunteer programs, and the Community Services Block Grant, which supports Community Action Agencies and helps low-income families. A report released by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) states that the sequester would eliminate 17 million meals for needy seniors nationwide. The sequester is taking place because a bipartisan committee failed to come up with an agreement on how to save $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.
What You Can Do:
Contact your U.S. Representative and Michigan’s two U.S. Senators to express your concern about the impact of “Sequestration Cuts” on low-income seniors. Find your U.S. Representative by going to www.house.gov and typing your zip code in the box at the top labeled “Find Your Representative.” You can also send a message directly through the website. If you don’t have the Internet, call your local library for information.
Michigan’s U.S. Senators
- Senator Carl Levin Ph (202) 224-6221 F (202) 224-1388 www.levin.senate.gov
- Senator Debbie Stabenow Ph (202) 224-4822 F (202) 228-0325 www.stabenow.senate.gov
NOTE: Deliver messages by phone, fax or email. Do not send a letter as mail addressed to federal officials is screened for toxins and can be delayed in the process.
- When the sequester cuts take place, Michigan will lose $4-5 million in federal monies for home and community-based services for seniors through the Older Americans Act.
- The cuts will deny 6,000+ seniors nutritional meals, including 2,500 frail homebound seniors getting meals-on-wheels. Evidence shows that poor nutrition can lead to weight loss, health problems, falls, and increased difficulty with activities of daily living.
Harold Mast Appointed by Governor to Chair Commission
Harold Mast, Kentwood resident and current Kent County Commissioner, was recently appointed by Governor Snyder as Chair of the Commission on Services to the Aging.
“Harold Mast is an outstanding choice to serve as chair of the commission,” said Kari Sederburg, director of the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging. “We are thankful for his willingness to serve and look forward to working closely with him to provide resources and support to older adults throughout Michigan.”
Mast will lead the 15-member board as they advise the governor and legislature on the coordination and administration of the state’s older adult programs as well as changes to federal and state programs related to aging.
Commission members are appointed by the Governor and serve three year terms (that will expire in 2015). Governor Snyder recently appointed four members and re-appointed a fifth member. All selections are subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.
Mast has experience working with older adults in West Michigan. He was a member of the Board of Directors at the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan for over ten years where he served as treasurer. He is also a Board Member of the Alliance for Health of West Michigan. He currently is owner and president of Harold Mast Consulting LLC where he works with the Hispanic Center of West Michigan and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority on affordable housing projects. Previously, he served as the executive director for Genesis Non-profit Housing Corp. and held various leadership potions at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.
Other appointees include Michael Bartus (Bloomfield Hills), Donna Murray-Brown (Detroit), Renee Parnell (Niles), Patricia Rencher (Detroit) and Donald Newport (Greenbush).