What’s available for seniors in Douglas County | RecordCourier.com

What’s available for seniors in Douglas County

Lorna McDaniel

Providing for the needs of the old and the aging is a challenge and will be even more difficult in the future.

One factor contributing to complications is the decline in public assistance programs like Medicare, Welfare and Social Security, according to Bobbi Lazzarone, a post-retirement researcher from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Also, the senior population expected to double by the year 2020.

Helping to double of the elderly population will be the baby boomers, the largest segment of people to move through the population.

In 1995, baby boomers made up 36.3 percent of the population in Douglas County, according to the master plan.

People are living longer, Lazzarone said.

Because twice the amount of people will be using the health care system, costs will rise, she said.

With this trend in mind, young adults should start planning for retirement in their 30s, advised Lazzarone.

In the past, people had good benefits through the companies they worked for, she added. These workers who are now seniors – 13.2 percent of Douglas County’s population – can continue their health plans after retirement.

Chuck Robertson, 76, is one of those seniors. He and his wife, Esther, 74, moved to Carson Valley to retire in 1981.

He has a pension from 40 years of employment at an aircraft plant in Southern California. He also gets Social Security.

Health insurance is not as readily available as it used to be, Lazzarone said, adding, “Nevada has the highest percentage of people in the United States who are uninsured.”

She explained that many of the people who work in the casinos are not covered until after they have been employed for one year, but by that time they get laid off because of seasonal business shifts.

Ways people can combat the changing trends to prepare for their golden years are to:

n Supplement retirement with a 401k plan or Individual Retirement Account.

n Invest in growth stocks from a mutual fund company that will diversify the investment.

n Think about self-insurance to build up cash value and leave to your family without tax penalties.

n Have your home paid for. This can become a financial resource.

Robertson said, “I grew up during the Depression and didn’t have a thing,” he said, “so I was always careful of where I spent my money.”

He invested in property, he said.

“Rental property has been good to me,” he said, adding that he would recommend this type of investment.

“However, I know it’s real hard for young people to do that,” he said.

Robertson said he is not worried about paying for long-term care for himself and his wife because of the combination of his insurance and Medicare.

But according to the Douglas County Master Plan, the highest share of households in Douglas in 1995 considered extremely low or low income were elderly, aged 62-plus.

n How seniors cope

How are some seniors coping with the costs of assisted living, health care and long-term care?

Lazzarone said an amazing amount of people are not paying for care, with the federal, state and county governments picking up the tab.

Mary Liveratti, deputy administrator for the Nevada Division of Aging Services, said it is cheaper for seniors to stay at home.

“We are trying to get people to stay independent for as long as possible,” she said. “We try to keep people in the least restrictive setting. If they don’t need to be in an institution, then we try to help support them at home.”

She added that some people who go into a nursing home do not need medical care, only help with day-to-day activities.

Aging services provides this support through grants to senior centers that run transportation, housekeeping assistance and senior nutrition including Meals on Wheels.

Call Young at Heart Senior Center in Gardnerville at 782-8267, the Dresslerville Senior Center at 265-6426 and the Tahoe Douglas Senior Center in Zephyr Cove at 588-5140 for information.

Aging services also offers the community home-based initiatives program (CHIP).

CHIP is available to seniors who are at risk of being placed in a nursing home and can provide case management, personal care and housekeeping.

It also offers an adult day care center and adult companions to provide respite for the primary care-giver.

People qualifying for CHIP must be 65 years or older and have an income of $1,452 or less per month, assets of $2,000 or less, and patient liability over $970. For information call, 687-4210.

Nevada Welfare also provides personal care for low-income seniors. Call 688-2200 for information.

Aging services also protects seniors and provides information to seniors through their free long-term care and community ombudsman programs.

The long-term care ombudsman is required under the Older Americans Act of 1976.

The ombudsman advocates for the rights of residents of long-term care facilities. Allegation of abuse or neglect and complaints by residents and their families can be heard by the ombudsman. An ombudsman can be reached at 1-800-AGED-NEV.

Jim Roorda is Nevada’s community ombudsman, a position created by the Legislature in 1995.

He said that even with all the public programs available there is still a huge gap of seniors not getting the services they need.

“We still don’t have all our bases covered,” he said.

He said some services are not available.

For example, “getting dental service is virtually impossible,” he said.

He added that many seniors who move to Nevada from California are covered for dentistry under Medical and expect the same service – or same level of service – and find it is not available. Medicaid, a federal health care insurance program, does not cover non-emergency dental care.

He said other problems related to service is that people don’t qualify or can’t afford it.

Lazzarone said seniors who aren’t getting public assistance are being cared for by their children.

Marie Lordes, 95, lives alone but her son and his wife help her to stay independent.

“Betty (Lordes) takes me everywhere,” Marie said.

Betty said Marie is doing beautifully.

“Without Betty I couldn’t do it,” Marie added.

However, Marie remains completely financially independent.

“I love it,” Marie said.

Betty said the Lordes are prepared to move Marie in with them if needed.

“Hopefully not for another 25 or 30 years,” Marie added.

n Filling in the gaps

Many volunteer organizations are filling in the gap in senior services.

The RSVP Home Companion Program provides senior volunteers to help seniors.

Bea Jones, 87, Douglas’s RSVP area representative, said the volunteers can spend as much time with their elderly companion as they wish.

The volunteers are meant to be just friends and are not allowed to lift or give medications to their companion, she added.

She said some volunteers will write letters or read to the elderly. The program has five volunteers visiting with residents of the Cottonwood Care Center in the Ranchos.

The TRIAD program is a working committee comprised of members of the American Association of Retired Persons, the East Fork Fire and Paramedics District and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department.

The purpose is to reduce crimes against the elderly and improve senior’s quality of life, said Greg Hubbard of the DCSO.

The TRIAD committee reinstalled the RUOK system, implemented by Soroptimist International of Carson Valley 10 years ago, last year after the hardware crashed.

The system calls participating seniors who are living alone once a day, Hubbard said. An answer assures the computer all is OK.

If nobody picks up the call, friends or relatives of the senior are alerted. A sheriff’s deputy will be sent to check on the senior if friends or relatives can’t be reached. Call 782-9935 for information.

Douglas County has 20 people using the system, Hubbard added

n Directory for seniors

Another volunteer group is the 10-member Eldercare Coalition which put together the Douglas County Senior Services Directory, organizer Elaine Agnason said.

The free directory contains information and phone numbers for services including aging agencies, consumer assistance, education, employment, government information, health services, home care, nursing homes, religious community and support groups.

The 1997 directory will come out in March. It is available in public places such as the senior centers, doctors’ offices and libraries.

The coalition also runs the Sunshine Program, where members send hand-made birthday cards to Meals on Wheels recipients.

“We are trying to provide service that a lot of the larger groups don’t,” Agnason said.

The coalition also coordinates a free monthly movie, donated by the Video Connection.

One of the members of the coalition will bake cookies for the movie day.

“We do little things that make things nicer for seniors,” Agnason said.

The coalition is funded through donations and fund-raisers. For information on how to help call Agnason at 782-7282.

Seniors who don’t qualify for public assistance or don’t have nearby relatives can pay for assistance out-of-pocket.

Debra Ross started Senior Services Plus this year.

“In my mind I try to be like the adult child that can’t be here,” Ross said.

She agrees with keeping seniors independent through assisted living, if they can find somebody they can trust.

Ross offers a 24-hour service for all non-medical emergencies, such as help in the middle of the night for plumbing, heating problems.

She will also assist seniors with errands, bathing, cooking and housekeeping at various levels. For information and prices, call 265-2642.

Another senior assistance service offered in Douglas County is the Lend-A-Hand.

The service provides non-medical assistance to 40 clients in Douglas, according to Joe Stella, manager.

Rates start at $13.50 per hour with a three-hour minimum, Stella said.

Wednesday: Senior housing