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10 Government Programs You Can Access for Your Elderly Parents


From AgingCare.com By 

Caregiving for an aging parent may stretch the budget as well as the caregiver’s endurance — that is, if you aren’t aware of scores of federal, state and even local government programs.

Access to assistance is as close as your computer, and, in most cases, you can apply online. Start by accessing two sites:

www.Govbenefits.gov – Gather up all the information you can on your elderly parent’s health, disability, income, wealth (as in property owned), whether a military veteran, education level and more. Access this site and answer every question that you can. Then, push the button and, within minutes, the site will respond with a list, details and access information for many, even scores, of beneficial government programs, supplements and/or services.

www.Benefitscheckup.org – This non-profit site will ask many of the same questions but may report added programs, details and contacts.

Here is a guide to the top 10 programs everyone who is caring for an aging parent should know about.

1. Medicare

There is more to Medicare than just the Part A hospital and Part B medical insurance coverage. If your aging parent is 65 or older and collecting Social Security, the insurance premiums are deducted from monthly benefits. Part D prescription drug coverage is subsidized by Medicare through payments to private company insurers who then fund an average of 90 percent of the cost of prescription drugs. If your parent is considered low income, receiving only Social Security, Medicare may subsidize all but about $10 of the monthly premiums. Ask and you may find a great cost saving for your parent.Medicare:www.medicare.gov Medicare Part D

2. Social Security

If your parent’s Social Security benefits were earned based on lower-paying jobs, and if the benefits are the only source of income, there may be a larger monthly benefit available by applying for its Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. The program may be operated federally or in conjunction with your state government. The welfare-based Medicaid program is also administered through the Social Security Administration, though the operation may be directed by your state government.

3. Administration on Aging (AoA)

The AoA administers many national programs and services for elders, including health insurance counseling, legal assistance, protection from elder abuse and long-term care. The banner on the website has a link to Elders and Families, your starting point. This section also offers a specific link and service For Caregivers (see the left hand column.)
www.aoa.gov

4. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

If your aging parent is a military veteran and has a service-related disability, you may be able to apply for an increase in benefits, particularly if the disability has worsened over time. If he or she needs continuing medical care because of the disability, an application for medical benefits, hospitalization and prescription drugs may be submitted. There are several types and levels of VA compensation and pension programs. The VA has been slow in processing claims the past few years, but there is continuing pressure by Congress and the Administration to speed up its service.
www.va.gov

5. HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1966 provides your elderly parent privacy of his or her medical records. It is a regulation and restriction program on health care providers. The protection should be of concern to you and other family members because, unless your parent signs a form designating each of you as approved to discuss your medical concerns with the physician, he or she cannot do such, even if you prove your family connection. Better sooner than later, access the HIPAA website for the information and forms, or secure the forms from a physician, and file copies with every health care professional involved in your parent’s care. HIPAA.gov

6. United States Department of Justice

If your parent has a disability, particularly with physical movement, learn about the Americans With Disability Act administered by the U.S. Department of Justice. Its ADA website offers briefings and cost-free publications on the regulations to grant universal access to the disabled.

7. Food and Drug Administration

Your aging parent is probably taking five to as many as 10 different prescription drugs, perhaps prescribed by different doctors. As caregiver, you should be aware of every one of the drugs, know its mission in the body and, particularly the side effects and conflicts with other medications. You want to watch for a danger known as polypharmacy. The federal Food and Drug Administration offers a giant database on every drug approved by the agency, listing active ingredients, purpose or mission of the medication, dosing recommendations and the side effects and conflicts.
www.fda.gov/cder/index.html

8. Your U.S. Senator

Every senator has a staff specialist on elder affairs, programs and services, probably in major cities of your state plus in Washington, D.C. The staff person can both advise and advocate for benefits or services for your parent. Know that bureaucrats listen immediately to an aide for a United States Senator.
www.senate.gov (Click the Senators link)

9. Your Congressional Representative

Most Representatives in the United States Congress also have staff specialists on elder affairs, programs and services and can provide both information and advocacy.
www.house.gov (Click the Representatives by State link)

10. Area Agency on Aging

There is a federally-mandated Area Agency on Aging in your county or city. This agency is staffed by professionals who know every elder program and service, including available funding sources, in your area. Staff is often aided by volunteers who serve as drivers for transport and Meals-on-Wheels, for respite services and other duties. Gather up the same information you collected for the two sites detailing the national, and even state, programs for which your parent may qualify and make an appointment to meet with a counselor at the Area Agency on Aging. The staff person can advise regarding programs and qualifications and even help prepare the necessary applications and documentation. Often, the counselor will even call a recommended agency, program or service to advise that your application is headed their way. Access your Area Agency on Aging through your telephone book and call the office for an appointment, at which time you should also ask if they have a website that you can access in advance of an in-person visit.

In Summary

Using these resources, caregivers can gain a world of vital information as well as increased income and services for their aging parents. And you just may find caregiving less stressful and demanding.

National Organization to Stop Elder Abuse and Guardianship Abuse


We are the National Organization to Stop Elder Abuse and Guardianship Abuse (NOTEGA).

This group was initially founded as the National Elder Abuse and Guardianship Victims Taskforce for Change in 2008. A Platfrom proposal resulted in Elder Abuse being addressed on the national platform.

Members of our group have pioneered the efforts to advance national guardianship reform.

A petition to Stop Elder Abuse and Guardianship Abuse posted by the group has over 1100 signatures and has been circulated to members of Congress, sub-committees and special committees since 2008. Over 1000 letters have been circulated to State and National Leaders.

In May 2010 the founder of NOTEGA (Latifa Ring) testified to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security on guardianship abuse and crimes against elderly and disabled citizens in guardianships.

Please join our group to continue to advance to call for real and meaningful reform and come back often to read accounts of victim’s cases.

Read real life stories at www.guardianshipgonebad.com

Visit Our Website at www.stopelderabuse.net

Guardianships putting thousands of elderly Texans at risk


Documents show they’re losing their rights

Repost from: The Houston Chronicle 

By LISE OLSEN

Updated 11:01 p.m., Thursday, November 3, 2011
 

Under a court-ordered guardianship, 86-year-old widow Helen Hale was plucked from the house she and her husband had built on wooded acreage in Cypress for their retirement and relocated to an unlicensed group home run by a caregiver with a criminal history.

Across Texas, 30,000 to 50,000 disabled and elderly people like Hale have lost the right to decide where they live, to choose a caretaker or to spend their life savings after being declared incapacitated and ordered into guardianships, according to new estimates obtained by the Houston Chronicle from the Texas Office of Court Administration and interviews with probate court officials statewide.

Nationally, the number of people declared “incapacitated” is rapidly increasing as the population ages. And so have reports about mistreatment, neglect and problems involving relatives and non-relatives appointed to protect them, according to warnings from the federal Government Accountability Office.

In August, Hale’s daughter Jane Goings dropped by the group home and found her mother ill.

“I just knew that there was something wrong with her. Her coloring didn’t look right. My mom looked like a limp noodle,” said Goings, who prior to Hale’s 2011 guardianship lived next door to her mother and shared her care with other siblings.

At Goings’ urging, Hale was rushed to a hospital where doctors found dangerously low potassium levels and a urinary tract infection, according to medical records and interviews with her children.

‘The living dead’

In some of the state’s largest counties, like Harris, Travis and Bexar, so many people are in guardianships that each probate judge oversees from 1,500 to 3,000 “wards” of the court. Yet most judges have only a single investigator to check out potential problems.

Across Texas, courts don’t have enough staffto visit wards even once a year. That means, in many places, that no one is guarding the guardians, though some judges recruit volunteers to do so.

“They lose their rights – they’re the living dead,” declared Houston advocate Latifa Ring, who has argued for reforms and pushed for increased oversight by Congress. “There’s a systemic problem in guardianships.”

GAO reports this year and in 2010 warned that many elderly and disabled people – including many veterans – had been exposed to neglect and rip-offs under guardianship.

Family usually steps in

In most Texas cases, relatives serve as unpaid guardians. Statewide, however, many courts are being forced to hire non-relatives or attorneys to oversee assets, care and other personal decisions because the family is unable or unwilling to do so.

Over the last 12 months, Texas judges ordered a total of $5 million in fees paid to guardians, new state data obtained by the Chronicle shows.

Bexar County has an unusually high number of guardianship cases – about 6,000, which is almost as many as Harris County – because so many military members retire to San Antonio, but have no children or relatives nearby, court officials say.

In some guardianship cases, including Hale’s, lawyers get appointed after families fight over the care of an elderly or disabled relative. Those guardians are paid out of the assets of disabled and elderly Texans.

Hale’s first lawyer guardian was Marcia Pevey, the highest-paid guardian in Texas in the last year, data analyzed by the Chronicle shows. From August 2010 to September 2011, Pevey collected more than $200,000 for guardianship services – more than anyone else statewide.

Pevey did not respond to requests for comment for this story. She was ordered to be paid $13,421 in October for acting as guardian for Hale, who receives only $1,700 monthly as a railroad widow.

Hale first ended up in Harris County probate court in February, a few months after the death of her husband Edward “Bunny” Hale, a longtime Southern Pacific Railroad employee.

Pevey was named guardian because of allegations that one of Hale’s sons had substance abuse problems and had failed to properly care for her, and that some of her children owed her money.

New home, guardian

Hale was removed in August from the group home Pevey selected, and now lives in another facility under another lawyer guardian. One of Hale’s six children hopes to regain control over their mother’s guardianship in a case set for next week. Meanwhile, records show that the total fees charged to Hale exceed $26,000.

 

lise.olsen@chron.com

 

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