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6 “Must-Do”s This Fall

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

By Mason Crane-Bolton

Let’s get ready for fall! | photo via Pixabay.com

 

6 “Must-Do”s This Fall
 

Fall is a wonderful time of year: fall strolls, warm cups of tea, falling leaves, and it’s the perfect time to get things done! Whether you have a to-do list already, or you’re planning only on basking in the cooler season, we have some items you should make room for on your itinerary.
 

  1. Get Your Home Ready for Winter.Get your home prepared for winter before cold temperatures and bad weather come knocking at the door! This fall do an inspection of your home inside and outside for projects that need to be finished for your own comfort and safety. Note any places where ice might accumulate around your door or walkway, as well as any cracks or gaps in walkways and steps that could trip you, and get them fixed before it’s too cold (or they’re covered in snow!). 

2. Do an Energy Audit of Your Home.The high cost of winter heating bills is a burden for many older adults in New Jersey. Now is a great time to see how you can potentially lower your bills by giving your home an energy audit. Look for places where you might lose the most heat, such as: drafty or older windows and doors, gaps under doorways, or uninsulated attics and pipes. Ways to rectify these heat-losers include installing draft guards and installing temporary insulation on your windows and doors. Of course, you don’t have to do an energy audit alone! Your heat or energy service provider may be able to provide you with weatherization programs and consultations, or connect you with money-saving programs. For more information on energy providers and their services, watch this recent episode of Aging InsightsAging Insights 89- Keeping the Lights On and More! 

3. Get Involved in Your Community.Fall and winter can be difficult seasons for many people, especially older adults and individuals with mobility difficulties. The shorter hours of the seasons and the weather challenges of winter can make it harder for people to socialize, and the work of fall and winter chores like raking leaves and shoveling snow can be difficult or dangerous for many individuals. Fall is a great time to get out and connect with others in your community to help prevent “winter blues” down the road! Utilize your current social networks or make new ones by checking out local resources like libraries, town halls and municipal buildings, and community centers for older adults. Check in on neighbors and connect with those who could lend a helping hand or might need one. Need help with outside chores like raking leaves and shoveling snow? Ask your community center for older adults or senior center if they have volunteers they can connect you with OR ask a neighbor and trade services (you can ask for assistance with chores and help them with a skill of your own, including life advice!), it will be a win-win for everyone. 

4Get Your Documents in Order.There’s no time like the present when it comes to preparation, and preparing for your and your family’s future is no exception. Although preparing for legal and medical care and end-of-life care can be complicated and difficult for many, waiting offers no benefit—going through an emergency or end-of-life care without carefully laid plans in place will only make the process more difficult for everyone. Make sure you have a willpower of attorney, and a medical decision-making document (such as a Practitioner Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form, though there are many others). We know this is a complicated decision for many and to help we recently aired this episode of Aging Insight to help you understand what you need and why: Aging Insights 96- The Three Most Important Documents 

5. Create a Disaster Plan.Don’t wait until blizzard season and sub-freezing temperatures to make a disaster plan! The worst time to need a disaster plan and not have one is when you’re in the middle of an emergency. Each September is National Preparedness Month, a time when you should review your disaster plans or create one if you don’t have one already. It may seem daunting to create a disaster preparation plan, but there are many resources to help you figure out what you need to include in your own plan and how to do so. Back in September 2018, we at NJFA created a blog post to specifically address the need for disaster preparedness and how you can prepare, which you can read here: NJFA Blog: Planning Ahead for Disaster and Staying Safe!. We’re not the only resource out there—we’d also recommend gov, the governmental website dedicated to disaster preparation.  

6. Sign Up for Assistance Programs.Assistance programs can carry a certain stigma with them; many people don’t want to sign up for assistance programs because they feel uncomfortable receiving help, or believe they won’t qualify. While not everyone qualifies for each program due to qualification restrictions imposed by state and federal guidelines, many programs suffer from underenrollment (in NJ only 48% of eligible persons are signed up for SNAP benefits!). The process can be confusing and complicated or plain daunting, especially when receiving assistance from different programs may require a separate application for each program. However, the recent development of the NJ Save application has made applying for programs a little easier through combining several different applications into one, easier-to-use online application. On a recent Aging Insights we spoke to two representatives from the NJ Division of Aging Services, who explained to us what NJ Save is and how to use it: Aging Insights 91- NJ Save Saves You!. Currently NJ Save covers several, but not all, assistance programs; be sure to investigate what other programs you might be eligible for, some of which are listed in our most recent blog post: NJFA Blog: The Importance of Programs. 

 

Whether or not you came here with plans for fall, now’s the time to make time for each item on this list! Don’t let the fall pass you by, and don’t let winter come with you un- or under-prepared. By reading this list you’ve taken the first step in becoming informed so now, before you jump into preparations, take a minute to breathe in that cool, crisp air and watch a few leaves float gently to the ground. Happy Fall everyone! 

 

If you have feedback or would like to be part of the conversation, leave us a comment below or email us as [email protected].

Come back for our next blog! New posts are published on the first and third Thursdays of each month.


Mason Crane-Bolton is Communications Manager for the New Jersey Foundation for Aging. His writing has appeared in EpiphanyUU WorldTo Wake/To Rise, and others. 

The Importance of Programs

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

By Mason Crane-Bolton

Have questions about what services are available to you? We have answers! | via Pixabay

 

The Importance of Programs

There are many programs available for eligible older adults, but not everyone is signed up for them. Some people aren’t aware of the types and specific programs available and others may know the programs, but don’t believe they’ll qualify for assistance. In today’s blog post we’ll take a brief overview of the types of programs available and why they’re important.

Why are these programs important? Often, due to a number of circumstances, including unforeseen medical costs, outliving one’s planned savings, needing to leave the workforce early or for lengthy periods due to medical or caregiving needs (and so on), older adults often find themselves with far fewer financial resources than they need to survive. The impacts of these problems are especially noticeable in a high-cost state such as New Jersey. Research on the issue, such as the Elder Economic Security Index (EESI), has repeatedly showcased the difficulties faced by older adults continuing to age in New Jersey. Older adults face higher risks of homelessness, hunger, and delayed or neglected medical care due to their financial means. Although the programs listed below help to combat these disturbing trends, these programs are also often threatened by financial cuts, changes in eligibility requirements, and lack of legislative or community support.

Food Assistance

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may the one of the most well-known of the food assistance programs. Another popular program is the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), which “promotes nutritional health among New Jersey’s senior citizens by providing them with locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs.”

Check your eligibility and apply for SNAP here: Apply for SNAP

Medical Assistance

In addition to Medicare, there are several other programs for older adults, including prescription assistance. The Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged & Disabled program (PAAD) is a state-funded program that helps eligible seniors and individuals with disabilities save money on their prescription drug costs.

To learn more about applying for Medicare go to the Social Security Administration’s website here: Social Security Administration: Medicare

To learn more about applying for PAAD, the Senior Gold Prescription Discount Program, and other Medicare savings programs, continue to the section on the new NJ Save application and follow this link: NJ Save Application

Assistance for Homeowners

For eligible homeowners, assistance is available with your property taxes. The Property Tax Reimbursement Program (popularly known as the Senior Freeze Program) and the Homestead Benefit Program are available to older adults who qualify.

Learn more about the eligibility requirements and how to apply for the Property Tax Reimbursement Program here: NJ Property Tax Reimbursement Program a.k.a. “Senior Freeze”

Heating and Cooling Assistance

The Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) “helps very low-income residents with their heating and cooling bills, and makes provisions for emergency heating system services and emergency fuel assistance within the Home Energy Assistance Program.”

Check your eligibility and download the application for LIHEAP here: Apply for LIHEAP

Multi-Program Savings and Application

New Jersey’s new application NJ Save allows eligible older adults and those with disabilities to apply and enroll in the following programs simultaneously:

-Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled (PAAD)

-Senior Gold Prescription Discount Program

-Lifeline Utility Assistance

-Medicare Savings Programs (SLMB & QI-1)

-Medicare Part D’s Low Income Subsidy (aka “Extra Help”)

-Hearing Aid Assistance to the Aged and Disabled (HAAAD)

The application is also used to screen for LIHEAP, SNAP, and Universal Service Fund (USF). In addition, individuals who qualify for PAAD and Lifeline Utility Assistance through NJ Save may also be eligible for Property Tax Freeze (“Senior Freeze”), reduced motor vehicle fees, and low-cost spay/neuter for pets.

Learn more about NJ Save and apply here: Apply Through NJ Save

Programs aimed to assist our most vulnerable often seem out of reach for many, and while it may be true that these programs all have eligibility requirements, many programs are under utilized. Remember that only 48% of eligible older adults in New Jersey are currently receiving SNAP benefits. Rather than assume you don’t meet the eligibility requirements, look into the requirements for each program (or use the NJ Save application) and apply for all the programs you meet the criteria for. Regardless of what assistance level you might receive from an individual program, each benefit can help you and even small benefit amounts can quickly add up to substantial assistance across several programs!

 

If you have feedback or would like to be part of the conversation, leave us a comment below or email us as [email protected].

Come back for our next blog! New posts are published on the first and third Thursdays of each month.


Mason Crane-Bolton is Communications Manager for the New Jersey Foundation for Aging. His writing has appeared in EpiphanyUU WorldTo Wake/To Rise, and others. 

Medicare Fraud. How We Can Fight it.

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

Today we bring you a blog post from guest blogger and NJFA friend Charles Clarkson, Project Director of the Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey.


By Charles Clarkson, Project Director, Senior Medicare Patrol of NJ

 

Medicare fraud is estimated to cost American taxpayers $60 billion a year, monies that are siphoned off and are not available for legitimate Medicare services. At the Senior Medicare Patrol of NJ (SMP), which is a federally funded program, we want to educate Medicare beneficiaries so they do not become victims of Medicare fraud. There are steps Medicare beneficiaries can take to fight this fraud. The most important step is to protect your Medicare number. Even though Medicare issued new Medicare cards to all beneficiaries with randomly generated numbers and letters and removed the social security number from the cards, the Medicare number (now known as the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier) is still very valuable to fraudsters who can use it to bill Medicare. Beneficiaries should not give out their Medicare numbers to anyone they don’t trust. This is especially true for the many beneficiaries who receive robo calls on a constant basis. The rule of thumb is to never pick up the phone if you do not recognize the telephone number on your message machine. Let the message machine screen all of your calls and then you can decide to return the call or not. Most beneficiaries will find that no message is left and they can then ignore the call.

The next step is to always read your Medicare Summary Notice (MSN), the document a beneficiary receives from Medicare usually 3 months after seeing a Medicare provider. It is important for beneficiaries to review their MSN, not just because of fraud but because mistakes can also happen.

Step three is to keep a personal health care journal or calendar. Record every time you see a medical provider, take a test or have other services provided. When you get your MSN compare it with your journal or calendar. Make sure you are not being scammed. If you are not sure something is fraud or you have a question about the billing, call your provider and ask for an explanation.

Step four is to report any suspected fraud or error. This step is vitally important. Failure to report will translate into the provider getting away with any fraud or errors. Remember, this is your money. You pay Medicare premiums, co-pays, co-insurance, deductibles and other charges. If you need assistance in fighting Medicare fraud, as you were unable to resolve it yourself, call the SMP. Our telephone number is 732-777-1940 and our hot-line number if 877-SMP-4359. A beneficiary can also use our web-site to report a fraud on the form provided. Visit seniormedicarepatrolnj.org

Even if you are not sure if it is fraud but need questions answered, call us. We are a free service and we are here to help. Every beneficiary should feel empowered to help fight Medicare fraud. At the SMP we want to keep Medicare as a viable program that is there for every beneficiary.


Charles Clarkson is Project Director of the Senior Medicare Patrol of NJ

Proposed SNAP Cuts-What You Need to Know

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

By Mason Crane-Bolton

 

At NJFA we are very disturbed by the effects of this proposed cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP (food stamps). New Jersey is directly and especially impacted by reductions to SNAP. In our high-cost state, reductions and restrictions to SNAP would eliminate tens of thousands of individuals and families from the program who desperately need food assistance in order to eat regularly; this number includes over an estimated 15,000 individuals over 60 years old.

If the proposed cuts were to pass it is estimated 3.1 million people nationwide would lose their SNAP coverage, and while our focus is always on the state of New Jersey at NJFA, we cannot allow or afford to let hundreds of thousands of older adults and families lose their SNAP coverage and risk malnutrition and hunger.

Additionally, we must consider how the reductions in SNAP benefits would affect the rest of New Jersey. It is estimated that $33 million dollars would be lost in money going to local businesses as a result of the reduction in SNAP dollars coming into New Jersey. These are local businesses that not only help the state help seniors through a stronger economy, but they are also community contributors who help improve the quality of life for older adults in New Jersey.

Today we urge you to learn more about the proposed cuts to SNAP and to speak out about your thoughts on SNAP. Speak within and outside of your circles about how the proposed cuts directly impact older adults in New Jersey and nationwide.

We also urge you to watch for our official statement on these proposed cuts to SNAP. In the meantime, we highly recommend you read the information from Hunger Free New Jersey (see below) explaining the proposed cuts to SNAP and how they impact the state and, perhaps, you.

 

Hunger Free New Jersey: Proposal threatens SNAP assistance to children, families, elderly

 

If you have feedback or would like to be part of the conversation, leave us a comment below or email us as [email protected].

Come back for our next blog! New posts are published on the first and third Thursdays of each month.


Mason Crane-Bolton is Communications Manager for the New Jersey Foundation for Aging. His writing has appeared in EpiphanyUU WorldTo Wake/To Rise, and others. 

What’s in the Works—Policy Updates in NJ

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

By Mason Crane-Bolton

What policies will affect you? | Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

 

Life moves at a busy pace and it can be easy to lose track of the important governmental and legislative changes going on around you. It’s extremely important, however, to know what’s going on in public policy and what potential or impending changes will directly affect you. There are many legislative updates for older adults in New Jersey, either new policies or older policies changing and policies coming up for a vote. Below we’ve written a summary of several public policy updates from this past year and some that may come in the near future.

 

Earned Sick Leave: Earned Sick Leave: Effective as of October 29, 2018, employees in New Jersey are entitled to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year for care for themselves or a family member. This new law covers most employees in the state, whether they are full-time, part-time, or temporary, and covers employees regardless of the size of their employer’s organization (there’s no minimum number of employees required for compliance).

Sick time may be used for oneself or a family member to care for physical or mental health or injury, to address domestic or sexual violence or assault (including legal proceedings), to attend a child’s school-related meeting/conference/event, or to take care of children when school or child care is closed due to a public health emergency. Employers cannot require documentation (a “doctor’s note”) as to the reason for your use of sick time unless you use three or more consecutive days of sick time. Employers may not retaliate against an employee (e.g., write up a disciplinary note, threaten you, suspend or fire) for their lawful use of sick leave.

Earned Sick Leave also greatly expands the definition of “family member” under the law. Under the law, employees may take off to care for family members in addition to themselves. Family members, as defined by the Earned Sick Leave law, include an employee’s: child (biological, adopted, foster, stepchild, legal ward, or child of a domestic or civil union partner), grandchild, sibling, spouse, domestic or civil union partner, parent, grandparent, spouse/domestic partner/civil union partner of the employee’s parent or grandparent, sibling of an employee’s spouse/domestic partner/civil union partner, any other individual related by blood, or any individual whose close association is the equivalent of family.
This expanded definition of family is groundbreaking and a game changer for many older adults and caregivers; not only are a spouse’s/partner’s family now included in the definition of family, but so are those who are close enough to the employee to be considered family by the individual. These protections are a huge boon to those who care for a partner’s family or those without nearby family who rely on a network of friends and loved ones (sometimes called “found family”) to help provide care. This is especially beneficial to some older adults who may be less likely to have close relationships to biological family or may not have biological family, such as those in the LGBTQ community and older adults without children or who did not marry.

You can also learn more about Earned Sick Leave and other paid time off options for New Jersey employees on the latest Aging Insights here: Aging Insights, “Take the Time You Need”  and visit the official Department of Labor website at https://mysickdays.nj.gov.

 

SNAP: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known by the acronym SNAP) is a federal program that provides supplemental food assistance to a great number of people, including a significant number of older adults. However, underenrollment in the program is both a state- and nationwide problem.

Although not everyone will qualify for SNAP, the program can provide even small benefits to many older adults who are not currently enrolled. These seemingly small benefits could also have a major impact on the food security and happiness of many older adults. Don’t assume you don’t qualify. To learn more and apply for SNAP, go to: https://www.nj.gov/humanservices/dfd/programs/njsnap/

 

Workplace Age Discrimination (Bill S3799): Legislation to ban age discrimination in the workplace in New Jersey is underway. Although still in progress, if passed, Bill S3799 would forbid employers in New Jersey from practicing workplace age discrimination on employees aged 70 or older (currently explicitly allowed in the state’s Anti-Discrimination Law). This new law would:

 

1) Eliminate current law that allows employers not to hire or promote workers over 70 years old.

2) Close a loophole for governmental employers that allows them to require an employee to retire when they reach a certain age.

3) Get rid of a law that allows institutions of higher education to require tenured employees to retire when they turn 70.

4) Amend the current law against discrimination to ensure that an employee who is unlawfully required to retire because of age has available all remedies provided by law. Unlike every other form of discrimination, those illegally forced to retire are currently limited to filing a complaint with the Attorney General and have relief limited to reinstatement with back pay and interest.

 

Older Americans Act: The current iteration of the Older Americans Act is set to expire on September 30, 2019. The Older Americans Act is a key and vital piece of legislation in funding critical services for older adults, including meal services, professional training, caregiver support, senior centers, transportation services, health promotion and outreach programs, benefits enrollment and assistance, and more.

If you support the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, now is the perfect time to speak to you local and national legislators and advocates to let them know you want the Older Americans Act to be renewed. Without reauthorization, the Older Americans Act will expire (leaving the funding and state of the above programs uncertain) on September 30, 2019.

To learn more about the Older Americans Act and the efforts for its reauthorization, visit the National Council on Aging’s website at: https://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/older-americans-act/

 

Linda’s Law: On July 5th, 2018, Linda Daniels of Newark died of congestive heart failure after her power was cut off on a sweltering 90? day. Linda’s power was terminated for nonpayment, which then cut off her air conditioning and her electrified oxygen tank, a device she used to help her breathe. Despite frantic efforts on the part of Linda’s family, power failed to restore in time and Linda Daniels passed away at age 68. On July 5th, 2019, one year to the date of Linda’s death, Governor Murphy signed a package of legislation dubbed “Linda’s Law” that requires all New Jersey utility companies to determine and check with all residential customers if they use life-sustaining equipment that relies on the use of electricity. Residential customers who use such equipment cannot have their service shut off for 90 days after nonpayment and are now banned from doing so by the state.

 

Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act: On April 12, 2019, Governor Murphy signed the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act into law. The law makes New Jersey the eighth state to have a death with dignity statute. The law, which has many stipulations and restrictions, will allow terminally ill individuals (who have received a terminal diagnosis from two separate physicians) to be prescribed a medication that will allow them to end their life as long as they have the ability to swallow. Death with dignity advocates have championed the law as a win for terminally ill patients who face needless suffering. Many groups have also opposed the controversial bill, and some legislators have introduced opposition to attempt to halt the bill before it goes into effect.

The law is set to go into effect on August 1st, 2019.

 

Thank you for reading and catching up on the latest policy updates! As always, we’ll update you throughout the year on any important changes—to follow policy and other updates, follow us on Facebook @njfoundationforaging, Twitter @njaging, Instagram @njaging, and LinkedIn @NJ Foundation for Aging.

 

If you have feedback or would like to be part of the conversation, leave us a comment below or email us as [email protected].

Come back for our next blog! New posts are published on the first and third Thursdays of each month.


Mason Crane-Bolton is Communications Manager for the New Jersey Foundation for Aging. His writing has appeared in EpiphanyUU WorldTo Wake/To Rise, and others.