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Caregiving 101: for those who are new to the role

Friday, November 13th, 2020


November is National Family Caregivers Month. We’d like to thank Caregivers of New Jersey (CNJ) for providing this guest blog.

Many families and loved ones across the nation are held together by the support of their caregivers. Day in and day out, these brave individuals are the ones making the sacrifice to ensure the well-being of so many.

According to “2020 Report: Caregiving in the U.S.,” a May 2020 research report from AARP, there are an estimated 63 million caregivers in the United States, and this community continues to grow. With aging generations needing more to support their healthcare, many people are finding themselves becoming caregivers.

An intimidating role to step into, being a caregiver is no easy task – especially during a global pandemic. There are many struggles and challenges to face. However, as a nation and as a caregiving community, we are united in resilience to meet them head-on.

Over the years, the caregiving community, healthcare community, government and so many others have come together to bring resources to our bravest individuals – our caregivers. Whether in our homes or on our frontlines, there is always help. Let us show you.

Getting Started
The caregiver role can take many shapes. It could be someone caring for an aging parent, a loved one with a disability or even a young adult caring for a relative. You could be getting groceries, helping with physical therapy, arranging appointments, administering prescriptions/medical care and much more. No matter what role a caregiver has, there are several first steps that every caregiver should take:

Get a solid diagnosis: Having an accurate distinction of the disability or medical condition your loved one is facing will help you become a better caregiver. You will have more of an understanding of what you can do and what you should research to provide the best standard of care.

Research: The more you know about the condition/disability, the better. This will prepare you for the care you can provide and allow you to have deeper communication with medical staff. Additionally, you can find and connect with caregiving resources that are more central to the needs you find (see below).

Talk with Family/Loved Ones: It is important to include those who are relevant to your loved one throughout this process. The treatment your loved one receives and how the process is handled can become very personal, and tough decisions may need to be made. Having open and honest discussions can create a better circle of support and understanding as you all go through this together.

Finances: There should be clear outlines of a financial plan to care for your loved one. Again, this involves talking with those who are relevant to the person needing care, as well as medical providers and insurance. Creating a well-thought-out budget will help you focus on the more important parts of being a caregiver, which will minimize stress.

Complete Legal Paperwork: This might include a Power of Attorney, Advance Medical Directives, POLST form, wills, etc. Having these documents completed ahead of time will provide answers to questions down the road if the condition worsens, and alleviate stress. It is always better to be prepared, even if these are difficult conversations to have.

Connect with your Local Community
There are 63 million caregivers nationwide, and you are never far from help. All across the country, there are people just like you who have come together to create resources for the community. Doing some research to find out what is available in your area can be extremely helpful when it comes to answering questions, finding the best care or even just finding someone to listen to. Locating your closest caregiving coalition, such as Caregivers of New Jersey, can provide you with a more personal level of support and resources.

Caring for YOU
Caring for someone 24/7 is no easy job. When you spend so much time caring for others, you may forget to take care of the most important part of caregiving – YOU!

According to a 2020 AARP survey, 26% percent of family caregivers described their situation as “highly stressful.” High levels of stress can take an immense toll on personal health. As AARP notes in their updated May 2020 article, titled “Caregiver Burnout: Steps for Coping with Stress,” 4 in 10 caregivers experience depression, mood swings and resentment due to their position.

There are many resources that can help you avoid this burnout. One of the main things caregivers need is simply time away. This is where respite care steps in. Respite care is short-term or temporary substitute care to relieve the primary caregiver. This can be found through Caregivers of New Jersey, some senior residential facilities, Veteran’s associations, local adult daycares, your local Area Agency on Aging, or even just family and friends.

Do not be afraid to ask for help! The help is there; you just need to speak up for yourself. You cannot be a good caregiver if you cannot care for yourself first. Practicing this “put-your-oxygen-mask-on-first” metaphor is not only better for you but better for your loved one.


Caregivers of New Jersey (CNJ) (njcaregivers.org) is dedicated to providing a central point of contact on caregiving issues, resulting in more effective information dissemination, increased support, awareness and advocacy. CNJ offers a wide array of resources for the caregiving community in counties across NJ, including support coordination, coalitions, and advocacy, as well as training and events. CNJ always puts the caregiver’s best interest at the heart of everything we do.

Caregivers of New Jersey was formed in response to the growing number of caregivers within the state. With more than 1.3 million caregivers in the state, CNJ will work to shed light on the mounting needs of caregivers and the increased need for support.

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.