Caregiver Support Program

From Seasons Magazine Spring 2019

Many adults find themselves in a role as a caregiver. Caregiving may involve shopping, housekeeping, providing transportation, feeding, bathing, toilet assistance, dressing, walking, coordinating appointments and medical treatments, and managing a person’s finances. To provide unpaid care is often an act of love and devotion, but also a great drain on one’s physical and mental health. Caregivers frequently feel as though they are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which can cause great stress and anxiety. Their patients are mostly loved ones, most often a parent, spouse, or child with special medical needs. Caregivers must pay particular attention to their own needs and well-being, or they risk burning out and becoming less effective in the care of their loved one.

The Blair Senior Services, Inc. Caregiver Support Program is a unique program designed to provide support to these caregivers of functionally dependent people. It is unique in that it is one of the few programs targeted specifically for caregivers. The goal of the program is to reduce caregiver stress and reinforce the care being provided to the older persons at home.

“The Caregiver Support Program is designed to provide assistance to an unpaid caregiver who provides routine care for a person 60 years of age or older.  The caregiver and care recipient may reside in the same household or in different homes”, says Lisa Moyer, Blair Senior Services’ Long Term Living Program Supervisor. She continues, “This program assists eligible caregivers through education on caregiving techniques, information about services available in their communities, and provides limited financial reimbursement for caregiving expenses.  The program would begin with a comprehensive assessment to determine which benefits best meet the needs of the caregiver and the person receiving care.”  The Blair Senior Services’ Care Manager will help guide you through the process by providing information about the Caregiver Support Program, including the benefits that are available and the options you may choose.

In addition, assistance may be available to caregivers of individuals aged 18-59 who have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other chronic dementia.  Caregivers who are 55 years of age or older, who reside with and care for a related adult aged 18 to 59 who has a non-dementia related disability may also participate in the program.  The care receiver cannot be the biological or adopted child of the caregiver or be receiving Medicaid Waiver services while participating.

Caregivers who are accepted into the program may be eligible to receive up to $300 per month reimbursement for the purchase of supportive services and goods from a pre-authorized list. The level of reimbursement is determined on the basis of caregiver need, income, actual expenditures, and availability of funds.

The program can help with providing the caregiver a much needed break.  For example, reimbursement of the costs of in-home respite or Adult Daily Living services is available.  Caregivers may choose their own providers for the respite services – this allows flexibility for the family to hire individuals known to them, which is often more comfortable for the care receiver.  They may also utilize the service on a schedule that works for their family.  Some other programs require a set weekly schedule for the services, but a set schedule does not always meet the needs of every family. Adult Daily Living services provide the care receiver with socialization, meals, and daily care in a supervised setting, while the caregiver is taking a much needed break or perhaps running errands.  These options allow the caregiver peace of mind that their loved one is being cared for when they cannot be there.  Caregiving can be a full time job and regular time off helps to keep you well and able to serve as the caregiver.

The cost of the supplies that are sometimes involved in caregiving can add up very quickly.  Many caregivers find themselves spending a considerable amount of money each month on items that are necessary for their loved one’s hygiene needs, such as disposable undergarments, incontinence pads, gloves, and wipes.  They also may need to purchase nutritional supplements, such as Ensure or Boost drinks, to help their care receiver maintain their weight or manage a medical issue. The Caregiver Support Program can help reimburse the cost of these items to reduce the financial burden on the caregiver.

One-time reimbursements of up to $2,000 may be given to qualified families to modify the home or purchase assistive devices to accommodate the frail relative. Lisa Moyer explains, “For example, such adaptations might include installing a stair glide, a wheelchair ramp, or modifying a bathroom.” While the reimbursement may not cover the full cost of such a modification or piece of equipment, it may offset a large portion of the expense to the caregiver.

Also included in the Caregiver Support Program is the Grandparenting and Older Adult Relative Caregiver Program. Lisa states, “Significant life occurrences can happen.  The Grandparenting Program is designed to provide assistance to persons age 55 or older, who are caring for children (under age 18) related to them living in the same household, when their parents are unable to provide the care and do not live in the same household.  The Grandparenting Program is an ongoing effort to provide opportunities and develop stronger ties with educational and child-care networks with some reimbursement of expenses, such as services and educational supplies, up to possibly $300 a month.  A caregiver may receive reimbursement for services and supplies such as daycare costs, school supplies and equipment, clothing, and fees for extracurricular school activities.

The Caregiver Support Program can also work in conjunction with services being provided by the care receiver.   The care receiver may qualify to receive services through the Options Program for free or low cost, or receive hospice or Veterans’ services.  While these services are intended to benefit the person receiving them, they also provide respite to the person’s caregiver.  The Caregiver Support program can assist with reimbursing care-related costs for services not available through the free or low-cost options.

Individuals participating in the Choices Program may qualify to submit the costs involved with the program through the Caregiver Support Program.  Choices provides a wide variety of privately paid service options that are not available through most other traditional programs.

For more information about the Options or Choices Programs, please call Blair Senior Services, Inc. at (814) 946-1235.

Blair Senior Services, Inc. Transportation Department Announces Awards

From Seasons Magazine Spring 2019

Blair Senior Services, Inc. Transportation Department held their annual Safety Training and Awards Meeting on December 10, 2018 at the Central Blair Senior Center in Altoona, PA. Recognitions included a long list of Accident Free Drivers Awards, the 2018 Rex Fahr Customer Service Award, and a special presentation of the Ecolane’s Pennsylvania Partner Award to Blair Senior Services, Inc. as Pennsylvania’s Transportation Provider of the Year.

Celebrating 2018 Blair Senior Services, Inc.’s Transportation Departments achievements are: Sean Ford, Nominee of the 2018 Rex Fahr Award for Consumer Service: Peter Harter, Recipient of the 2018 Rex Fahr Award for Consumer Service: Dennis Wisor, Transportation Program Manager, holding the 2018 Ecolane’s Pennsylvania Partner Award: Deb Lee and Robbin Snively. Nominees of the 2018 Rex Fahr Award for Consumer Service.

According to Dennis Wisor, Blair Senior Services’ Transportation Program Manager, the Transportation Department staff had a lot to celebrate this year. “In addition to the employee achievements, receiving Ecolane’s Pennsylvania Partner Award is a true honor,” shared Wisor. “I believe we have an incredible team who goes beyond the call of service, and exercises great communication across all of our departments, which is one of the reasons why we are one of the lowest cost per trip providers in Pennsylvania.”

Vehicle Operators One Year Accident Free: Bill Beck, Kevin Cowan, Kevin Hite, Vickie Killinger, William Kuny, Clark Liebegott, Rick MacIntyre, Raymond Nebelski, Melvin Pfahler, Bill Richard, Jim Settlemyer, and Larry Wagner

Safety awards were presented to the Transportation Department’s drivers in recognition of their accident free records. According to Wisor, “Our van drivers help to provide worry-free, safe transportation. Our consumers don’t have to become isolated because they aren’t able to drive themselves or they don’t have loved ones that are able to take them where they need to go.”

Awardees included:

  • Vehicle Operators One Year Accident Free: Bill Beck, Kevin Cowan, Kevin Hite, Vickie Killinger, William Kuny, Clark Liebegott, Rick MacIntyre, Raymond Nebelski, Melvin Pfahler, Bill Richard, Jim Settlemyer, and Larry Wagner
  • Vehicle Operators Two Years Accident Free: Terry Brumbaugh, Pete Bucci, Gregg Bunn, John Butler, Dan Novak, Craig Schaffer, and Clair Servello
  • Vehicle Operators Three Years Accident Free: CJ Brewbaker, John Scalzi, and Dennis Skorupa
  • Vehicle Operators Five Years Accident Free: Joe Will
Vehicle Operators Two Years Accident Free: Terry Brumbaugh, Pete Bucci, Gregg Bunn, John Butler, Dan Novak, Craig Schaffer, and Clair Servello.

Pete Harter was awarded the 2018 “Rex Fahr Award for Consumer Service” for consistently doing good work every day. According to Wisor, “The Rex Fahr Award was named in memory of the late Rex Fahr, a past Transportation Department driver from June 2013 to January 2016, who was well loved and respected for his exceptional work and personality.” Other nominees for the award included Sean Ford, Deb Lee, and Robbin Snively.

Vehicle Operators Three Years Accident Free: CJ Brewbaker, John Scalzi, and Dennis Skorupa.

Blair Senior Services, Inc. Transportation Program offers convenient and affordable door-to-door transportation services to Blair County residents through their fleet of thirty shared-ride vans. They provide more than 120,000 trips each year. Anyone can ride in the vans, regardless of age, and some programs help pay for transportation for certain individuals under age 60. Consumers age 60-64 are eligible for funded trips to medical appointments and federal buildings, such as the Social Security office. Consumers, age 65 and older can use the vans for any purpose, such as shopping, errands, visiting friends, and medical appointments. Pennsylvania Lottery funds pays 85% of the fare for consumers age 65 and older, while Blair Senior Services, Inc. shares part of the remaining 15% of the cost for most trips.

Vehicle Operators Five Years Accident Free: Joe Will.

For more information contact the Blair Seniors Services, Inc. Transportation office at (814) 695-3500 or visit their website at www.blairsenior.org.

Ombudsman: Your Front Line Advocate

Unanswered calls for help, improper medication administration, discharge or eviction without a proper notice, lack of respect for residents—these are examples of complaints that may be made by residents of nursing and other residential care facilities to state and local long-term care Ombudsmen. The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program is a consumer advocacy model intended to improve quality of care by helping residents of nursing homes and other residential care facilities resolve complaints about their care and rights. It was established as part of the Older Americans Act in 1978.

The word “Ombudsman” is a Swedish term that means citizen representative. The Blair County Ombudsman serves as an advocate for the rights of all residents in personal care homes, nursing homes/long term care facilities, domiciliary care homes and adult day centers. The Blair County Ombudsman serves 43 facilities within Blair County that includes a total of 2,320 beds within the homes.

Jaime Rose is the Blair County Long Term Care Ombudsman.  She states, “The Ombudsman Program’s vision statement is ‘Advocate for those who can’t, support those who can, and ensure all long-term care consumers live with dignity and respect.’  I am responsible for resolving the problems of residents of nursing homes and residential care facilities. The Ombudsman provides an avenue for conflict resolution that may be otherwise unavailable to all residents.  We strive to ensure dignity, choice and quality of life for all individuals in long term care.  We can be their voice.  No problem or concern is too small. Complaints can include: improper food temperatures, daily routine times, missing belongings or problems with staff or other residents. The Ombudsman will help to resolve the issue with the resident’s consent to pursue the complaint or concern.”

A key to the Ombudsman function is regular facility and resident visitation by the Ombudsman and volunteer Ombudsmen. The Ombudsman Program will have unannounced quarterly visits to each facility. This alone helps to ensure quality of living.

Through their visits, Ombudsmen can act as an impartial third-party regarding quality of care and resident rights issues. Their interactions and familiarity with residents can provide a working relationship between residents and staff members. This can benefit both parties to ensure best practices. (Although, we cannot comment to staff without the consent of the residents). Their visits to facilities may also act as a deterrent to issues negatively affecting the quality of care and the lives of residents and prevent the need for costly interventions by state officials later.

Ombudsman availability in facilities can assist residents and family members in knowing the complaint process, how and when to report concerns about quality of care, and making reports promptly.

Ombudsmen stress the importance of their role as representatives of the community in facilities and the personal connection that they have with residents. Some describe the visible presence of Ombudsmen as crucial in assisting older people who are too frail or afraid to draw attention to problems with their care. Because many nursing home residents do not have informal support systems or families and friends who visit regularly, an independent advocate can play a critical role in helping residents with their care and rights.

Although investigation and resolution of complaints are their primary responsibilities, Ombudsmen also have other roles, such as educating residents and families about resident rights and acting as mediators between residents, facility staff and government agencies.  They may also assist residents who are making the transition if their facility closes and ensuring they are comfortable in their new home.

“Our job is to empower the residents to help themselves. We do a lot of education and training with the residents on their rights at the facilities.  An example is the Resident Rights Bingo we organize. The residents come to a bingo game we have at their facility that highlights their rights and assists to educate them.  They can win prizes just like in regular bingo games. This activity is received quite well with the residents of the different facilities and is a wonderful tool in educating them of their rights,” states Jaime Rose.

Along with the paid Ombudsman, the program relies heavily on volunteers.  Rose says, “Our program is unique because we have 9 volunteers that help us.  These volunteers help with visits to the facility, do paperwork and will report back when they notice something is wrong.  We could not do all that we do in this program without the help and dedication of these great volunteers.”

Another part of the Ombudsman Program is the PEER Program.  PEER stands for “Pennsylvania’s Empowered Expert Resident.”  A PEER is a long term care resident who is trained to advocate for themselves to improve the quality of their own lives and the home they live in.

The program begins with a training course during which residents learn about the laws, licensing and regulations governing nursing homes and assisted living residences both in the state and nationally.  It also teaches resolution steps and how to present their issues to the administration of a facility, the function of the Ombudsman, and more.

“Among the responsibilities of the PEER is to orient new residents to the facility, learn the proper personnel to contact for particular concerns, letting people know their rights, and being their support system,” explained Rose.

If you or someone you know could benefit from the Ombudsman Program or perhaps would be interested in volunteering for the program, please contact Jaime Rose at 814-296-6336.