Senior Advocacy in Action Alert
The Nursing Facility Transition (NFT) program is in jeopardy. The Governor’s budget allocates $11 million to serve people on the MI Choice waiting list, but only $3.1 million for NFT, enough to continue the program for only two months. This would mean over 1,000 people would be forced to remain in nursing homes when they could live in the community at a much lower cost to the state. An additional $22 million is needed for NFT in fiscal year 2013.
What You Can Do:
Contact these members of the Conference Committees, thank them for their past support of MI Choice and nursing facility transitions, and ask them to approve $11 million for the MI Choice waiting list and $25 million for nursing facility transitions in the MI Choice budget for FY 2013.
- Senator Roger Kahn, M.D. (866) 305-2132 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Senator John Moolenaar (517) 373-7946 email@example.com
- Senator Vince Gregory (517) 373-7888 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Senator Glenn Anderson (866) 262-7306 email@example.com
- Rep. Chuck Moss (877) 707-6677 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rep. Matt Lori (877) 262-5959 email@example.com
- Rep. Pete MacGregor (855) 347-8073 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rep. Joe Haveman (866) 908-4347 email@example.com
- Rep. Richard LeBlanc (888) 737-5325 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rep. Rashida Tlaib (877) 852-4212 email@example.com
Here are some talking points:
- The Nursing Facility Transition allows people to live where they choose and is cost effective, costing an average of $60/day compared with a nursing home cost of $172/day. NFT is part of the MI Choice Medicaid home and community-based waiver.
- Last year, the transition program helped more than 1,600 people move from a nursing home back to the community with an immediate cost savings to the state. Each person faced barriers that prevented them from returning home on their own.
- According to Governor Snyder’s 2012 Executive Budget, NFT has saved the state $65 million since 2008.
- There are 8,000 people on the MI Choice waiting list. Individuals are forced to wait many months, even years to enter the program.
The Nursing Home Transition (NFT) is part of the MI Choice Medicaid Waiver program. NFT is a cutting edge program that has gained national attention for successfully transitioning people in nursing homes who want to leave but face barriers. Barriers can include losing their home, not having an accessible home, and needing services and supports to stay at home. Last year, over 1,600 people were transitioned; data suggest that every year about 3,000 people in nursing homes are candidates for NFT.
NFT saves the state money because it targets people on Medicaid who cost an average of $172/day in a nursing home, compared with an average of $60/day in their own home. It is estimated that $25 million will be needed next year to transition another 1,600 people.
Legislators are now crafting the state’s FY 2013 budget, and the final decisions will be made by joint House-Senate Conference Committees. We need to convince committee members to approve the Governor’s request for $11 million to serve the MI Choice waiting list, and also provide the $25 million in funding necessary to transition 1,600 people from nursing homes next year.
Hearing Loss Resources
Hearing loss is something that many older adults experience. Most insurance plans do not cover the cost of hearing aids and equipment can range in cost from a couple hundred up to several thousand dollars. The price tag may prevent individuals from getting the help they need to hear, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
Katie Prins, Executive Director at Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS), says advances in technology have increased the options for those who do not have the means to purchase hearing aids.
Prins recommends looking into the following products, if you are unable to afford hearing aids:
- Pocket talkers. These are readily available and often resemble headphones and a portable speaker. The speaker portion takes sounds and feeds it through to the headphones, often allowing individuals to adjust volume as needed.
- Amplifiers for phones and televisions. These can be connected to specific devices and increase the volume just for the item it is attached too. This can be helpful for those who have difficulty hearing the phone or television.
- Modified smoke alarms or doorbells. Safety is a number one concern for those with hearing loss. Many safety devices (like smoke alarms) only use sound. However there are modified versions that use both light and sound to alert individuals of smoke or fire and they can be easily installed.
Hearing aids are still the most common choice for those with hearing concerns. Prins recommends that no matter how much you are spending on these devices, you should always be cautious.
Take the following steps when purchasing hearing aids:
- Talk with your doctor. Have a conversation with your doctor first about your hearing concerns. He can recommend you to an audiologist.
- Ask questions. This is new territory for many people so the terms used and the results after an audiological test may be confusing. Ask question to make sure you understand the information you are given.
- Do your research. Unfortunately (like with many high priced items) there are individuals and companies that have questionable sales tactics or misrepresent the truth when it comes to product features or individual needs. Doing your research (on the company and the product) before you purchase anything can help prevent you from making a costly mistake.
- Find out what the price includes. Some companies may offer warranties or fittings in with the cost of the hearing aid while others don’t. Being armed with this information can help you make a decision that’s best for you.
- Schedule an appointment with DHHS staff. DHHS staff can meet with individuals one-on-one to help determine hearing changes and identify equipment that best fits an individual’s needs.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) works with individuals of all ages to help with hearing concerns. They offer support groups and one-on-one assistance as well as classes and events for those with a hearing loss.
“No matter the age, someone dealing with hearing loss often struggles with feelings of isolation or depression while adjusting to these changes. This can be a very difficult time and often just admitting a hearing loss can be a struggle. It is essential that friends and family members are sensitive to this and provide a supportive environment.”
The Kent County Senior Millage provides funding to DHHS for programs such as rehabilitation for activities of daily living (related to hearing loss), group education on adjusting to a hearing loss and lip reading classes. Assistance is also available to help individuals find devices, equipment and other resources to adjust to hearing loss. The services are open to Kent County residents age 60 and over. Depending on income, individuals may be asked to pay part of the cost.
For more information on services for those with hearing loss, contact Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services at (616) 732-7358 or www.deafhhs.org.
For more information on other services for older adults and caregivers, contact the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan at (616) 456-5664, check out the rest of our website or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AreaAgencyOnAging
When is there too much stuff-training on hoarding
Hoarding has gotten a lot of attention lately as reality TV shows bring viewers into the homes of people who are hoarding. Often there are deeper issues than a mere attachment to things and it those concerns must be dealt with.
“When is there too much stuff? –Older Adult Hoarders and Safety Issues" brings in local experts to discuss the psychology involved as well as practical steps to take when dealing with an older adult who is hoarding. Experts from the Health Department, Animal Control, Adult Protective Services and the Grand Rapids Fire Department will educate professionals on how best to handle these situations to get individuals the help they need.
Training will take place Thursday, June 21, 2012 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. Registration required by June 15, 2012. For more information click here. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions. (Training is complimentary for Kent County Senior Millage Providers; otherwise there is a $5.00 fee for other attendees)
Seeking Letters of Intent
The Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan is seeking Letters of Intent to provide Long Term Care Ombudsman and Elder Abuse Prevention Education services funded under the Older Americans Act in Region 8.
Region 8 includes the nine counties of Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo and Osceola. This Letter of Intent is for one year, Fiscal Year 2013. The funding awarded will be for October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013.
Click Here for the service definitions.
Funding levels available are approximately:
- Long Term Care Ombudsman $80,902
- Elder Abuse Prevention Education $14,027
The Letter of Intent is due Friday, April 20, 2012 at 12:00 p.m. noon to the Area Agency on Aging of Western MI, 1279 Cedar NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 or to email@example.com.
Letters of Intent will be reviewed and appropriate agencies will be selected to continue in the proposal process.
Questions can be directed to Anne Ellermets, AAAWM Contract Coordinator at 616.222.7014 or Anne@aaawm.org
Senior Services Input Needed
"The commission is seeking comments from older adults, their caregivers and social service agencies to help shape programs and target financial resources." Read the entire article from Mlive.
Senior Advocacy in Action Alert
Hearing on Elder Abuse Bills Scheduled for February 21
Governor Rick Snyder supports the elder abuse legislation passed by the Senate, and urged the House of Representatives to adopt the bills in his State of the State address this January. Representative Ken Kurtz (R-Coldwater) is holding a hearing on the 14 elder abuse bills assigned to his Families, Children and Seniors Committee. The hearing is February 21, 2012, from 10:30 am to 12 noon in the House Office Building, 124 North Capitol Avenue, in Room 327. We need advocates to pack the room, testify, and show their support for improvements in state laws to prevent elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, and obtain justice for the victims when it occurs.
Because committee hearings are sometimes rescheduled, advocates driving to Lansing should confirm that the hearing will take place before making the trip. To confirm, call Representative Kurtz’s office at 866-362-8812.
What You Can Do:
You don’t have to testify to attend the hearing and lend quiet support! If you are in the audience, you can submit a card indicating your support, which will be read by Rep. Kurtz.
People willing to testify are encouraged to do so, of course, and can use the talking points below, or relate a personal story about elder abuse they or a relative/friend have experienced.
Advocates who can’t attend are encouraged to call or email Rep. Kurtz (866-362-8812 or firstname.lastname@example.org) to indicate support:
- About 80,000 Michigan elders fall victim to some form of abuse each year.
- Last year, Adult Protective Services received 19,000 calls reporting abuse, up from 12,000 calls in 2000.
- 70% of abusers are ‘trusted ones,’ including spouses, children, grandchildren and friends. Victims come from all walks of life and income classes, as witnessed by Mickey Rooney’s testimony before the Congress.
- Michigan’s high rate of unemployment is fueling the financial exploitation of the elderly.
Six years ago, a Governor-appointed Task Force of experts released a set of recommendations on addressing the growing, and mostly hidden, problem of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. Bills addressing the problem have been introduced in every session of the Legislature since but died due to inaction by one or both houses. Last year, a renewed effort to pass the bills started in the Michigan Senate, which passed a package of 18 bills last November.
Taken from: Area Agencies on Aging Association of Michigan Advocacy Alert
Tax Preparation Options for 2012
Senior Neighbors will no longer be offering assistance with taxes. However, they have compiled a list of resources older adults can contact for help with tax preparation. Senior Neighbors’ outreach workers will help seniors problem solve tax issues through appropriate referrals, like they do with many other concerns. To contact Senior Neighbors, call (616) 459-6019 or visit www.seniorneighbors.org
H&R Block is willing to go to senior housing sites and senior centers and provide tax services like Senior Neighbors has done for the past several years. They are willing to assist the seniors using the same suggested donation schedule Senior Neighbors used last year. The contact person at H&R Block is Carl Underhill. He has been volunteering with Senior Neighbors the last couple of years helping with its tax program, so he is familiar with how the program has operated. Carl can be reached at 616-669-2081 or at email@example.com
AARP will continue to operate their senior tax program at the Baxter Community Center. They have the capacity to help many seniors with their tax forms at the Baxter Center and can be reached during tax season at 616-456-8593. Phil Quist is the contact at Baxter. For more information, visit http://www.aarp.org/money/taxes/ .
The Kent County Tax Credit Coalition operates over 20 sites to assist people with tax forms. For more information, call 211 or check this link: http://www.hwmuw.org/media/KCTCC_Coupon_English_2011.pdf
Elder Abuse Legislation Update from OSA
The Michigan Office of Services to the Aging (OSA) applauds Governor Rick Snyder's urgent call for the Michigan House to pass Senate elder abuse legislation quickly. During Wednesday's State of the State Address, Governor Snyder urged swift legislative action that would give vulnerable adults and seniors the necessary protection from physical abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.
According to Kari Sederburg, OSA Director, “Vulnerable adult abuse is one of Michigan’s fastest growing crimes, with an estimated 80,000 victims each year. Sadly, these people are suffering, often in silence, because Michigan does not have adequate tools and resources to protect and support victims and improve prevention and prosecution efforts. With passage of this legislation, this is all about to change.”
The bipartisan 18-bill Senate elder abuse package championed by Senator Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton) provides long overdue reforms including increased criminal penalties, provisions for video-taped testimony, required training for employees of financial institutions, improved coordination between state and local authorities, and a silver alert program. Most of the bills in the package have been introduced in previous legislative sessions.
Help Governor Snyder and OSA send a firm message to the Michigan House of Representatives and Speaker Bolger that passage of this elder abuse package by Valentine's Day is critical. Michigan must not miss this unprecedented opportunity to show we care for our most vulnerable and will not break their hearts yet again.
Additional information on senior protections can be found in "the elder protection" Senate bills 457, 459-468, 604-605, 706 and 777; the bills text and analyses are available at www.legislature.mi.gov. For more information, contact the OSA at (517) 373-8230 or visit www.michigan.gov/miseniors.
Resolve to a Healthy New You!
January is often a time to jumpstart fitness goals or make resolutions for a healthy new you and while nutrition is a key component in building a healthier lifestyle, it’s often neglected or overlooked. Yet, proper nutrition can be critical in preventing the development and progression of life-long diseases such as diabetes. Coupled with exercise, healthy eating habits can also reduce the occurrence of heart disease and osteoporosis.
The Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan (AAAWM) wants to help older adults reach their healthy lifestyle goals through a new program called Healthy Eating for Successful Living in Older Adults (Healthy Eating).
If you want to learn about healthy lifestyle choices using a hands-on approach, then this is the class for you! Sessions include cooking demonstrations, group outings to a grocery store and restaurant, and a group physical activity segment. The group outings help participants learn how to incorporate the healthy choices into everyday life activities. “The class is fun and interactive and not the typical classroom setting. Participants have the support and encouragement of each other,“ said Barbara Nelson-Jandernoa, Contract Coordinator at AAAWM.
Registered Dietitian Staci Shell says older adults may not understand how their nutrition needs change as they have aged or possibly developed chronic conditions. “The goal is to teach people how to fit healthy eating into their lifestyle and how to make those healthy food choices in the grocery store, out to eat or wherever you are. It’s not following the latest diet, but learning how to incorporate smart nutrition choices into everyday life.”
The program, provided in partnership with Spectrum Health Healthier Communities, can accommodate up to twelve adults age 60 and over. The first session will be held Wednesday from March 7 through April 11 from 1:00 until 3:30 at Spectrum Health Healthier Communities (665 Seward, Grand Rapids, MI 49504). Instruction will take place in a classroom, kitchen, grocery store and restaurant.
Healthy Eating sessions are held weekly for six weeks. The March class will be taught by Nelson-Jandernoa and Shell. A session is also planned for Ionia County in the spring and AAAWM hopes to expand the program throughout West Michigan in 2012.
Healthy Eating is a National Council on Aging model program. It was developed in Massachusetts with funding from the John A. Hartford Foundation in 2005. Upon completion of the program, 80% of participants changed their diet or behavior to make healthier food choices or include physical activity in their daily routine.
Healthy Eating is one of seven healthy aging programs offered throughout West Michigan by the AAAWM. Other classes address fall prevention, physical activity, chronic conditions and arthritis. For more information on healthy aging programs or other resources for seniors, visit www.aaawm.org/healthy_aging
To sign up for the class, call 616.267.2626 or toll free at 877.495.2626, option 4.
Help for Paying for Heating Bills
Winter is here and along with it high heating bills. If your budget is tight and you’re worried about paying bills on time, call your utility company NOW to ask for assistance. There are programs that can help, especially if you plan ahead.
This article summarizes the programs available throughout Michigan. There might also be programs unique to your area – call your local Area Agency on Aging (www.mi-seniors.net) or Community Action Agency (www.mcaaa.org) for more information.
Budget Billing Plan
Upon request, utilities will bill a customer an equal amount each month, allowing the customer to pay an estimated average. For example, if your heating bills last year were $1200, you can ask to be billed $100 each month, instead of having low bills in the summer and high bills in the winter. Gas and electric companies offer this option to all customers, regardless of income – contact them directly to sign up.
Winter Protection Plan
This plan protects all seniors 65+ and low-income customers from service shutoffs between November 1st and March 31st. (Some utilities offer this protection to those 62+.) Between these dates, seniors are protected from shut-offs even if they make no monthly payments. (They are encouraged to pay something, however, to avoid higher bills when the protection period ends and they are required to pay.) Low-income customers are required to pay at least 7% of their estimated annual bills between November 1st and March 31st, along with a portion of any past-due amount. Low-income customers are defined as either 1) receiving cash assistance from the Department of Human Services; 2) receiving Food Stamps or Medicaid; or 3) having an annual household income at or below 150% of the poverty level (which in 2011 is $10,890 for one person and $14,710 for two – these amounts will go up slightly for 2012). Both seniors and low-income customers must pay back any money owed between April and October, and shut-offs are allowed during this period. All gas and electric companies offer the Winter Protection Plan; be sure to contact your utility company to let them know you qualify.
This program helps low-income customers of all ages reduce their heating costs by making apartments and homes more energy efficient. Households that are weatherized can save as much as 20-30%. The program provides home inspections, and can pay for a wide variety of repairs and services such as installing insulation, and repairing or replacing furnaces, heating ducts, thermostats, and water heaters. Services are delivered on a first-come, first-served basis until funding is depleted. To be eligible, you must have a household income at or below 200% of poverty (which in 2011 is $21,780 for one person and $29,420 for two – these amounts will go up slightly for 2012). You are also eligible if you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or cash assistance from the Department of Human Services. Most weatherization providers are Community Action Agencies. To find the agency that serves your area, look in the phone book’s business section under Community Action Agency, or on the Internet, go to www.mcaaa.org.
Home Heating Tax Credit
Low-income customers, including seniors, can receive a state income tax credit for last year’s heating expenses. You can apply for a Home Heating Tax Credit even if you don’t pay income tax or file an income tax return; a separate form is used. Eligibility is based on household income, the number of people in the household and actual heating costs. Applications will be available in January from the Michigan Department of Treasury by calling (517) 636-4486. Forms are also available on the Internet at www.michigan.gov/taxes. Applications can be filed between January 1 and September 30.
State Emergency Relief
Run by the Department of Human Services (DHS), this program is available to low-income individuals year-round on a first-come, first-served basis until funding is depleted. It can help with a variety of emergency expenses, including utility bills and energy-related home repairs. Assistance is provided to those with an immediate crisis, for example, receiving a shut-off notice. The monthly income limit for energy assistance is $1,909 for a one-person household and $2,496 for a two-person household. (The limit goes up with each additional person in the household.) There may also be an asset test. Payments are made directly to the utility company or repair contractor. To apply, call the DHS office located in your county for an appointment. Current DHS clients can apply online at www.michigan.gov/heatingassistance.
Propane, Heating Oil, Coal or Wood
Low-income customers running out of heating fuels may be able to get help from their local Community Action Agency, if funding is available – www.mcaaa.org.
Some utilities have created their own programs to help with utility bills. For example, Consumers Energy, in partnership with the Salvation Army, operates the “People Care Plus” program for their service areas. Another program, known as THAW (The Heat and Warmth Fund) is available in 53 of Michigan’s 83 counties, including the Upper Peninsula. Help from THAW is provided to households already shut-off or completely out of fuel, as well as some in danger of being shut-off. Customers must have a household income at or below 200% of poverty (which in 2011 is $21,780 for one person and $29,420 for two) and are required to apply for all other assistance first. Payments are made directly to utility companies or vendors. Applications can be submitted at the Salvation Army and some other organizations. For more information, call THAW at (800) 866-8429 or visit their website at www.thawfund.org.
If you have a complaint about your gas or electric company and the company hasn’t resolved it to your satisfaction, call the Michigan Public Service Commission at 1-800-292-9555.