Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Care Giver: Tips for Embracing your New Identity

By Megan Staley, EI blogger

            Many of us, at one point or another, will be responsible for the health and well-being for another human.  80% of the care given to people over the age of 65 in the US is provided by family members. This is a big, looming, responsibility; you are virtually navigating a life or death situation for an extended period of time.  You also inadvertently take on a new identity; a new role with new expectations, privileges, and disadvantages. A child must effectively become their parent’s parent. Spouses, although vowing to stand by in sickness and in health, often find it difficult to transition from lover to caregiver. Whenever a family member, be it parent, spouse, or child, becomes unable to fill the roll they had been filling, a shift has to happen; someone has to clean the gutters and pay the bills. Stress of this magnitude, especially for the lengthy amounts of time caring for someone often demands, can and will take a toll on you, your charge, and the other people around you. Luckily, there are many resources available to anyone living as a caregiver. Here are just a few:

1.      The Pennsylvania Caregiver Support Program - This program offers relief of “caregiver burden” by providing reimbursements for a selection of assistive devices and other out-of-pocket expenses. For more information or to apply, visit your local Area Agency on Aging or the Pennsylvania Department of Aging website.

2.      The National Alliance for Caregiving (http://www.caregiving.org/) - This is a hub of information and resources based on up-to-the-month caregiver research. Follow this link for a great  article and video on caregiver health featuring Queen Latifah and her mom.

3.      https://www.caring.com/ - An online resource offering health and wellness tips, information on every level of care, as well as support group forums.

These resources will provide more help than you can imagine. You are certainly not alone in the caregiving experience. Visit your local Area Agency on Aging for any support groups that meet in your community. Many long term care facilities and adult day care centers also offer caregiver support groups. Finally, if you feel as though you are not able to provide the best care possible to your loved one while maintaining your own wellness, both physically and mentally, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.

Join Penn’s Village for “Protecting Your Financial Security”

Join Penn’s Village on Thursday, February 18th at 11:00 a.m. for “Protecting Your Financial Security.”

As we happily grow older in our own homes, our nest eggs seem to be increasingly attractive targets for the dishonest. Penn’s Village sponsor East River Bank will conduct this workshop designed to alert us to the types of scams and frauds we need to be aware of and ways in which we can protect ourselves.

The workshop will begin with a 30-minute informational video that will cover identity theft, Ponzi schemes and scams related to the Internet, sweepstakes, home health care, hiring contractors and those specifically aimed at veterans. 

There will be plenty of time for questions and all attendees will receive a fraud prevention checklist and contact information for agencies that will help us take action if we should become a victim. 

We will meet in the ­­­­Harding Room of the Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 North American Street. The Neighborhood House is next to Christ Church on 2nd Street above Market. Penn’s Village members and volunteers attend free of charge. We would very much appreciate a $5 donation from other guests, payable at the door. We apologize but the location is not handicapped accessible.

Please RSVP by calling 215 925 7333 or emailing info@pennsvillage.org

Update on Pennsylvania’s transition to new system of Managed Long-Term Services and Supports

By Joe Quinn, EI blogger

Under the auspices of the Department of Human Services and the Department of Aging, Pennsylvania is planning to implement a Managed Long-Term Services and Supports (MLTSS) program to be known as Community HealthChoices (CHC). A document was released last June initiating a public comment and discussion period. Actual implementation won’t begin until early 2017 and be phased in through 2019.

That may seem a long time away, but this effort will entail big changes in the way long-term health care services are delivered to certain populations. This should be of great interest to us since a chief focus of this program will be on the elderly and other vulnerable groups now served by traditional Medicaid (and in some cases Medicare) programs.

As defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), MLTSS is a way of delivering long-term services and supports through capitated managed care programs. Capitated refers to the payment of a fixed amount of money per patient per unit of time paid in advance to the medical provider, as opposed to the typical fee-for-services (FFS) model. States are increasingly incorporating populations and services that have long been excluded from capitated managed care arrangements.

The news is that the new model will go beyond providing medical services and will include non-medical Home and Community Based (HCBS) services that will help seniors with daily living activities such as dressing, eating, and bathing, toileting, in addition to housekeeping, shopping, and keeping track of medications. While these services are available now to those who can afford to pay for them privately, the thrust of the MLTSS program is to provide them directly in a recipient’s home or in a local community setting using the capitated Medicaid model. The services will come to the client, rather than the client having to travel to the services. This would allow many recipients to remain in their homes and avoid placement in expensive assisted living facilities. The hope is that for many seniors this will increase access to needed services by eliminating the need to travel and by keeping them in a safe, familiar setting.

So this is an ambitious vison and a vast undertaking. One that will attempt to encompass many of the traditional medical services along with more personal and personalized services that will allow seniors to maintain normal daily living activities in familiar home settings. As if that were not enough, the CMS strongly recommends that MLTSS programs focus on enhancing the consumers’ engagement, control, choice and independence. Further they must be staffed with providers with specialized training who are linguistically and culturally competent to serve diverse populations in community settings. CMS is blunt about the challenges and pressures this new delivery model will bring to bear on already stressed state administrations and budgets. This is not, they warn, something that can or will be done overnight, nor without considerable financial expenditures.

CMS also recognizes that this cannot not be a one-size-fits-all initiative. Each state will have to build a program that meets its constituents’ needs and that is realistically (and politically) achievable based on available resources.

Pennsylvania will be implementing MLTSS as part of a new initiative known as Community HealthChoices (CHC). Here are a few of the main points about the proposed CHC included in a concept paper released last September:

 “The vision for CHC is an integrated system of physical health and long-term Medicare and Medicaid services that supports older adults and adults with physical disabilities to live safe and healthy lives with as much independence as possible, in the most integrated settings possible. CHC will serve an estimated 450,000 individuals, including 130,000 older persons and adults with physical disabilities who are currently receiving LTSS in the community and in nursing facilities.”

We are committed to creating a system that allows Pennsylvanians to receive services in the community, preserves consumer choice, and allows consumers to have an active voice in the services they receive. This initiative will result in a more strategic care delivery system and improve health outcomes for seniors and individuals with disabilities.”

Certainly worthy goals and inspiring rhetoric. However, given the commonwealth’s political realities, the fierce pushback on the conservative front against existing, not to mention additional, managed medical care programs (e.g., Obamacare), and the current state budget impasse, we are justified in asking just how realistic these laudable goals are. We can surely hope that over the period of the proposed three-year rollout for CHC, circumstances will change for the better and enable this program with its much-needed benefits for seniors and other vulnerable populations to become a reality. Stayed tuned.

More information on Pennsylvania’s CHC plan is available here: http://www.dhs.pa.gov/citizens/communityhealthchoices/index.htm

Participants needed for research study on breast cancer and lesbian communities

Survey participants are being recruited to participate in a study about the sexuality of both lesbian survivors of breast cancer and lesbian women who have not been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Participants must be 21 years of age or older and identify as a member of the lesbian community (Both lesbian women without a breast cancer history and lesbian survivors of breast cancer can participate. "Woman" and "Lesbian" are broadly defined).​​

This study has been approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of Widener University. Please contact the study’s Principal Investigator, Rosara Torrisi, at 516-690-6779 or RRTorrisi@mail.widener.edu with any questions.

Friday, February 5, 2016

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is February 7th

By Sabia Prescott, EI blogger

February 7th is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), founded in 1999 as a national HIV testing initiative aimed at addressing the prominence of HIV/AIDS within black American communities. Now in its 16th year, NBHAAD leverages a national platform to educate and bring awareness to communities across the country as well as mobilize platforms for disease prevention.

The initiative’s four main goals are to get communities educated, involved, tested, and treated. These goals are met through engaging stakeholders and leaders in communities ranging from major metropolitan cities to the country’s most rural areas, to collaborate in the fight against HIV.

In addition to its many public health platforms, NBHAAD also encourages the community to get involved themselves. Partner organizations across the country, ranging from nonprofit services to college campuses, host a wide variety of events throughout the year focused ultimately on NBHAAD’s mission. For a list of upcoming events in the Philadelphia area, or to register an event, please visit the NBHAAD website.

NBHAAD is recognized by the US Department of Health and Human Services. More information, including locations of free testing services, can be found at www.AIDS.gov. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @NatBlackAIDSDay or @AIDSgov.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Affordable Care Act yields positive results for adults ages 50-64

By Joe Cotter, EI blogger

For all of the criticism (some fair) and misinformation surrounding the Affordable Care Act, it appears that early returns have been positive. The system seems to have improved since its rollout and is beginning to fulfill its promise of significantly reducing the number of uninsured Americans.  The Urban Institute and AARP have released the results of a study examining how the ACA is affecting 50-64 year-olds and the findings have been encouraging. This report, “Fewer Americans Ages 50–64 Have Difficulty Paying Family Medical Bills after Early ACA Marketplace Implementation,” has revealed the following:
  • The uninsured rate for adults age 50-64 has dropped 47.5% since 2013 and was lowest in states that chose to expand their Medicaid programs.
  • More individuals aged 50-64 report having a usual source of care other than the emergency room and fewer report having trouble accessing care, compared to 2013.
  • Individuals in that same age bracket reported having fewer unmet needs due to cost, less difficulty paying medical bills, and less difficulty getting an appointment.

This is not to say that there isn’t more work to be done.  For all of the gains made by this particular age bracket, the study also indicates that individuals who are low income, Hispanic, or in fair or poor health still have disproportionately high rates of being uninsured and having difficulty accessing healthcare services.

The complete report from the Urban Institute and AARP Public Policy Institute is available here

Huffington Post: Will the LGBT Community Be Able to Retire?

From the Huffington Post

January 27, 2016

By David Rae

Is there a Pending LGBT Retirement Crisis?

While the LGBT community is benefiting from increasing financial prosperity and legal recognition, many economic challenges hit us harder than they do for straight citizens. Like everyone else, we are currently facing a retirement planning crisis but one that may well go beyond the risks of the rest of America.

News flash, baby boomers did not die before they got old. In fact, an estimated 10,000 boomers turn 65 every day. Unfortunately, we're in the midst of pending retirement crisis because many people in this country do not have a plan to cover their basic living expenses through what could easily be 30 years of retirement, not to mention medical costs or the inevitable challenges that come with advancing years. The ripple effect of this lack of a financial safety net, and trust me, Social Security is not going to come to the rescue here -- for such a huge population could well spell an economic catastrophe in the years to come.

As a group the LGBT community faces a slew of additional retirement issues, and appears to be even less prepared than some of our straight counterparts, whose fiscal responsibility is nothing to write home about to begin with.