Posts Tagged ‘programs’

Detour the Dumpster‚ A Better Approach to Overwhelming Clutter

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

By Guest Bloggers Carolyn Quinn and Jaime Angelini

Do you have too much stuff?

Do you have too much stuff?

The people we meet who have “too much stuff” won’t ever be followed by a camera crew that captures shots of perilous, towering stacks of papers, bins or boxes. There will never be split screen comparisons of their house or apartment before and after workers and family members arrived.

That’s because clean outs are not our approach.

Though clean outs are good for TV ratings and achieving an immediate solution to a problem, it’s not what we do. Sure, it’s rewarding for viewers to stay tuned and see those transformed tidy, neat living spaces during the final minutes of the show. And, truth be told, we prefer tidy homes for those living in unsafe situations, but the means we employ to get to that goal do not include a dumpster.

The reason why we don’t endorse clean outs is often highlighted in those shows: it’s distressing. People who are strongly emotionally tied to their possessions have big emotional responses. Sometimes a dumpster-style clean out can be a trigger that leads to a setback of collecting – often ending up worse than the original hoard. They begin the behavior again; re-accumulating and filling up all that prime, vacant new real estate.

A confession…In the past–in another job many years ago–one of the authors of this blog, has been “guilty” of these clean outs. While assisting people under the threat of eviction, she cleaned up and cleaned out while working as a residential case manager. (So, cable TV, we are not picking on you unfairly. One of us has evolved from that thinking.)

We are better educated and better informed today. Older and wiser, as they say. The practices we teach now are rooted in successful programs that were proven to work long-term on changing behaviors for individuals living with hoarding disorder, also sometimes called Finders/Keepers, which is a modern term we prefer to use.

Can you identify your rooms on this chart?

Can you identify your rooms on this chart?

How it started

We originally sought out help for people in Atlantic County, following Hurricane Sandy, when we met and identified storm survivors who couldn’t part with their wet belongings. We saw firsthand people who did not get rid of their water-logged possessions weeks–even months–after the storm. They were stuck; and we worried about their health and safety as we observed layers of hazards in their living situation.

Jaime (left) and Carolyn (right) as part of The Atlantic County Hoarding Task Force

There was another glitch, a big one.

In our area no one local was working with people who lived with hoarding disorder. We called and asked…a lot. No one.

The results of online searching and researching led us to a successful initiative in Boston (now called the Metro Housing Boston’s Hoarding Training Institute). Luckily, the forward-thinking, helpful professionals there were willing to teach others, like us. Fast-forward through conferences, training, long-distance phone calls, more training and meetings.

The Mental Health Association in Atlantic County started its, “Too Much Stuff? Hoarding Tendency Initiative,” based on Boston’s successful model. We have been working with people referred to us by code enforcement officials, social workers, nurses, pest control and other professionals who have become partners in our effort to connect help to those who need it and accept it.

Individuals who are ready to make a change start out by attending our “Too Much Stuff,” support groups, which are bi-weekly meetings. During a typical meeting, people at various stages in their own pursuits to declutter are working their way through the process togetherTough topics, like how their possessions affect social relationships, are discussed openly and honestly among peers who understand and offer suggestions based on their experience.

We also provide in-home services to those who are ready for one-on-one support from staff. Each week staff spends about an hour to offer guidance on sorting/discarding, non-acquiring exercises and practicing other skills critical to manage clutter.

Some of those tips for decluttering include:

  • Start with 15 minutes a day. It’s emotionally draining, so the recommendation is to work in small, daily increments to prevent feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.
  • Resist the urge to do more or “get ahead” in a single day. The downside is that you may not return to the task the next day because of exhaustion.
  • Use a timer.
  • Sort in three piles: “Keep,” “Discard,” and “Maybe.” By the end of the session, assign the “maybes” to either “discard” or “keep.”
  • Work in the same room/space. Do not wander from room to room.
  • Maintain the space that is cleared. Mark the cleared space with painter’s tape as a visual cue to prevent the clutter from accumulating again.
  • Use black trash bags to hold items destined for trash or donation.

    Use signs like these for your ‘Keep,’ ‘Maybe,’ and ‘Discard’ piles!

What we know

Many people with “too much stuff” want to change. They’d like to make healthier lifestyle changes–such as not buying more stuff, not collecting free stuff, or not saving mail and other ways that commonly lead to a house that is cluttered and unsafe. We also recognize that, if these people could have changed their behaviors on their own, they would.

The reasons behind these behaviors are complex and individualized, and talking about them among peers helps.

We also know that talking about it all–the impact on family and friends, the challenges, and the successes–is an important part of the process. People feel less alone; they feel understood. Peer support helps.

Time and time again, we see that working toward the weekly goals is rewarding and worth the effort. Based on our experience and what’s been reported, this yields positive results and leads to success.

Science and research have come a long way for individuals with too much stuff. We understand that there is still a way to go to chip away at stigma associated with clutter. Shame and embarrassment can keep people frozen in place. We also know that this blog can make a difference to someone who reads it and shares it.

We don’t know all the answers, but we understand more than we did in recent decades. We keep looking for answers. And we’re confident that they’re not found in a dumpster.

We have a place for that idea: the “Discard” pile.

Like what you read here? Need help? Email [email protected] or call 609 916-1330


Carolyn and Jaime are co-developers of “Too Much Stuff? Hoarding Behaviors Initiative” at the Mental Health Association in Atlantic County.

Carolyn M. Quinn works at the Mental Health Association in Atlantic County as the ICE Wellness Program Manager, which provides peer-led support groups and a variety of wellness workshops to adults living with mental illness and co-occurring challenges. She also is a certified instructor for Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid as well as a certified Advance Level Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) Facilitator.

Jaime Angelini is the Director of Consumer Services at the Mental Health Association in Atlantic County where she provides support, education and advocacy to individuals living with mental illness, substance use disorders, and those experiencing homelessness. Jaime is a certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor, parent educator, Disaster Response Crisis Counselor and a trainer for law enforcement officials who respond to individuals with special needs.

 

 

Income Taxes and Your Social Security Benefits

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

Income Taxes and Your Social Security Benefits

David Vinokurov, District Manager, Trenton, NJ, Social Security Administration

With tax season upon us, many of you have asked about Income Taxes And Your Social Security Benefits. Some people have to pay federal income taxes on their Social Security benefits. This usually happens only if you have other substantial income (such as wages, self-employment, interest, dividends and other taxable income that must be reported on your tax return) in addition to your benefits.

Note: No one pays federal income tax on more than 85 percent of his or her Social Security benefits based on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules. If you:

  • file a federal tax return as an “individual” and your combined income* is
  • between $25,000 and $34,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits.
  • more than $34,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.
  • file a joint return, and you and your spouse have a combined income* that is
  • between $32,000 and $44,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits
  • more than $44,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.
  • are married and file a separate tax return, you probably will pay taxes on your benefits.

 

How can I get a form SSA-1099/1042S, Social Security Benefit Statement?

An SSA-1099 is a tax form we mail each year in January to people who receive Social Security benefits. It shows the total amount of benefits you received from Social Security in the previous year so you know how much Social Security income to report to IRS on your tax return.

If you are a noncitizen who lives outside of the United States and you received or repaid Social Security benefits last year, we will send you form SSA-1042S instead.

Note: The forms SSA-1099 and SSA-1042S are not available for people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If you currently live in the United States and you need a replacement form SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S, we have a new way for you to get an instant replacement quickly and easily beginning February 1st by:

Withholding Income Tax From Your Social Security Benefits

 

You can ask us to withhold federal taxes from your Social Security when you apply for benefits.

If you are already receiving benefits or if you want to change or stop your withholding, you’ll need a form W-4V from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

You can download the form, or call the IRS toll-free number 1-800-829-3676 and ask for Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request. (If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the IRS TTY number, 1-800-829-4059.)

When you complete the form, you will need to select the percentage of your monthly benefit amount you want withheld. You can have 7%, 10%, 15% or 25% of your monthly benefit withheld for taxes.

Note: Only these percentages can be withheld. Flat dollar amounts are not accepted.

 

Sign the form and return it to your local Social Security office by mail or in person.

If you need more information

If you need more information about tax withholding, read IRS Publication 554, Tax Guide for Seniors, and Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits.

If you have questions about your tax liability or want to request a Form W-4V, you can also call the IRS at 1-800-829-3676 (TTY 1-800-829-4059).

 

Medicare Coverage

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Medicare coverage

What does Medicare cover? It’s a common, but also complex question. Medicare has 2 basic parts, Part A, which is known as hospital insurance (we’ll define that in a minute) and Part B, which covers services, such as lab tests, doctor visits, etc. Part A and Part B together are known as Original Medicare.

Medicare recipients also have the choice to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan (also known as Part C) which is delivered by an HMO. This coverage differs from Original Medicare not only in the delivery of benefits but also what is covered. There are many different plan options under Medicare Advantage and you can learn more at medicare.gov

When it comes to Original Medicare, coverage works like this:

Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) covers inpatient hospital stays, care in a skilled nursing facility, hospice care, and some home health care. To sum it up, Part A covers:

  • Hospital care
  • Skilled nursing facility care or Nursing home care (as long as custodial care isn’t the only care you need)*
  • Hospice (provided by a Medicare approved program, either at home or an inpatient setting)**
  • Home health services

**Keep a look out for a blog post on Medicare Coverage of Hospice Services coming soon.

*This is where some of the complexity of Medicare comes in. When a patient is sent to a nursing home/rehab facility for rehabilitation, Medicare covers your stay on a short term basis. Medicare does not pay for “long term care” or “custodial care”. If needed, Medicare will cover your rehab stay for 20 days at 100%, on day 21 (should you still need to be there) you will be responsible for a 20% copay. The maximum amount of rehab time Medicare will pay for is 100 days, so from day 21 to day 100 you would pay 20% of the cost. If you or a loved one are in a situation where you have to be in a rehab facility for more than 20 days, you should definitely be thinking about your options and what your plan for long term care is. At that point you should have already had a meeting with the discharge planner if not an interdisciplinary team at the facility.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services. Part B covers 2 types of services:

  • Medically necessary services: Services or supplies that are needed to diagnose or treat your medical condition and that meet accepted standards of medical practice.
  • Preventive services: Health care to prevent illness (like the flu) or detect it at an early stage, when treatment is most likely to work best.

Preventive services include screenings such as, mammograms, colonoscopies, bone mass measurements, and other cancer screenings, if your doctor thinks you are at risk. You also get a Welcome to Medicare visit within your first 12 months of enrollment, during this visit you can talk to your doctor about screenings and review your medical history. In addition to the Welcome to Medicare visit, you are entitled to an Annual Wellness visit. You pay nothing for most preventive services if you get the services from a health care provider who accepts assignment.

Part B covers things like:

  • Ambulance services
  • Durable medical equipment (DME)
  • Mental health
    • Inpatient
    • Outpatient
    • Partial hospitalization
  • Getting a second opinion before surgery
  • Limited outpatient prescription drugs

The fourth part of Medicare is Part D, which is prescription drug coverage. With Original Medicare prescriptions are not paid for, therefore you should obtain a separate Medicare Part D plan.

To learn more about all the parts of Medicare and to explore your options, such as, Original Medicare (Part A & B), Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D) visit https://www.medicare.gov/ or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

You can also contact your local SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program) through you County- find their contact information at: http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/home/sashipsite.html or call the SHIP Information Center at 1-800-792-8820.

 

medicare

Medicare Open Enrollment Starts Today (Oct. 15th)

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Medicare Open Enrollment Starts Today (Oct. 15th)

Open Enrollment is happening now. From October 15th to December 7th you can make changes to your Medicare coverage.

What changes can you make?

If you are enrolled in Original Medicare, you can join a Medicare Advantage plan with or without drug coverage. These plans are private companies that are approved by Medicare and give you the services of Original Medicare. If you join a Medicare Advantage plan, you do not need to have a supplement plan (also known as a Medigap policy) and if your Medicare Advantage plan has drug coverage, you will not need a Part D plan.

If you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or drop your Medicare Advantage Plan. If you decide to drop a plan and not switch to another plan, you will be enrolled in Original Medicare.   You should then consider enrolling in a supplement plan to cover the costs that Original Medicare does not pay for and enroll in a Part D plan for drug coverage.

If you are in Original Medicare with a Part D plan, you can stay in Original Medicare and switch your Part D plan.

If you are in Original Medicare and do not have a Part D plan, you can enroll in a Part D plan.

Why You Should Review Your Coverage

It’s important to review your coverage before making a decision. And remember just because your doctor and medications are covered in your Medicare Advantage plan, supplemental plan or drug plan this year doesn’t automatically mean they will be covered in the coming year. Research studies show that Medicare recipients can save money if they review their Part D coverage. Make sure to confirm cost, copays, coinsurance, covered providers, and prescription drugs. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Has your health changed in the last year?
  • Is your current plan still meeting all of your health needs?
  • How much have you paid out-of-pocket in the last year‚Äîand for what?
  • How is your plan changing for the coming year? How will that affect your out-of-pocket ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† costs?
  • Are there better options available to you now?

There are many ways you can get assistance with this process. You can contact Medicare directly at 1-800-MEDICARE or at www.medicare.gov

You can also contact your County SHIP (State Health Insurance Program) by calling 1-800-792-8820 or visit http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/services/ship/

NCOA (National Council on Aging) also has some useful information and tools. Like Medicare Quick Check, where you can answer some questions and you’ll get advice on choosing a new plan. Find it at https://medicarequickcheck.benefitscheckup.org/medicare-quick-check/?SID=543e7baa3cc91

In November, tune into Aging Insights to hear from the Senior Medicare Patrol of NJ, including Open Enrollment.

News-Open-enrollment-Oct-15th

Property Tax Reimbursement Program Deadline Extended

Friday, August 8th, 2014

 Property Tax Reimbursement Program Deadline Extended

More seniors can benefit from tax relief

Access to tax relief is still available for New Jersey residents. The filing deadline for applications to the Senior Freeze (Property Tax Reimbursement Program) has  been extended to September 15, 2014. The original deadline was June 2, 2014.

The NJ Elder Index indicates that 184,320 persons over age 65 who own their home in NJ have incomes below $48,204, which is well below the eligibility threshold for the Property Tax Reimbursement program which hovers around $80,000.  These are seniors who struggle each day to maintain their quality of life by trying to cover their basic needs. The Property Tax Reimbursement is a huge help to these seniors.

In order to be eligible for the reimbursement in 2014 these homeowners must have paid their property taxes by June 2013. The Division mailed reimbursement checks to eligible seniors and disabled residents who filed their 2013 applications by the original June 2 deadline in mid-July. Checks for eligible applicants who file 2013 applications after June 2 will be processed and delivered as quickly as possible thereafter.

For more information and details on how to apply visit: http://www.nj.gov/treasury/taxation/ptr/index.shtml or call 1-800-882-6597