Alaska Commission on Aging meets, hosts joint advocacy event
February 1, 2018
The Alaska Commission on Aging (ACoA) will meet February 5-9 in Juneau for a face to-face board meeting that will include meetings with legislators and their staff as well as visits to rural communities in Southeast Alaska. In addition, the commission is hosting the “Partnering in Advocacy for Alaska Seniors” as a special joint advocacy meeting bringing in representatives from various senior advocacy organizations including AgeNet, the Pioneer Home Advisory Board, and AARP Alaska. This unique event, scheduled for the morning of Feb. 6, will offer various organizations the chance to share legislative advocacy priorities as well as updates with the goal of enhancing advocacy efforts for seniors this legislative session. In addition, the national AARP office will make a presentation about the “2017 AARP Long-Term Services and Support Scorecard for Alaska,” released in July, to inspire discussion about strategies to improve long-term support services in Alaska.
In reference to the Advocate Partnership meeting, “We wanted to provide an opportunity to all be on the same page,” said Denise Daniello, Executive Director of the ACoA. “We’ll be spending time looking at common issues and what we want to improve in the future to continue to allow seniors to age with dignity.”
As always the meetings are open to the public. Group teleconference sites will be hosted at the Anchorage Senior Activities Center, the North Star Council on Aging Senior Center in Fairbanks, the Ketchikan Pioneer Home, Mat-Su Senior Services in Palmer, Soldotna Senior Center and Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center throughout the week, and seniors statewide are encouraged to call in toll-free using 1-800-315-6338, passcode 53250#.
Starting Feb. 5, the ACoA will be holding their quarterly meeting to review the ACoA Senior Snapshot, listen to reports from various ACoA committee members, and discuss local issues affecting seniors in addition to preparing for legislative visits.
Public comment is scheduled at 1:45 p.m. and will be followed by presentations from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Division of Senior and Disabilities Services, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation Office (AHFC) Senior Housing Office, Alaska Training Cooperative, and other partner agencies.
On Feb. 7, commissioners will meet with legislators on Capitol Hill to discuss senior issues and legislative advocacy priorities. On Feb. 8, the commission plans to conduct rural site visits in the Southeast area with a focus on Wrangell, Sitka, Hoonah and Juneau. The first Elder-Senior Listening Session is a needs assessment activity to prepare for the upcoming Alaska State Plan for Senior Services, FY2020-FY2023. The week concludes on Feb. 9 with wrap up and debriefing on legislative meetings and the rural outreach visits.
Updates from the ACoA, the Alaska Pioneer Homes and AARP
The ACoA has many priorities that it seeks to address this legislative season. HB 236, sponsored by Rep. Kawasaki, plans to extend the sunset clause of the Senior Benefits Program to 2022. According to Daniello, Governor Walker has included funding to continue the program at its current operating level in the most recent version of the state’s operating budget for FY 2019, but without the extension the program will end on July 1, 2018.
“Around 11,400 seniors currently participate in Senior Benefits,” said Daniello. “Lower income seniors especially need the assistance for groceries, expensive things like fruits and vegetables, heating expenses, transportation and prescription medicine - just making ends meet. The risk of living in poverty increases with age as older people spend more of their fixed income on health care and living expenses. Senior Benefits is a very important program for many seniors statewide.”
The commission also seeks protecting funding for the “Senior Safety Net” that includes services used by seniors such as the Alaskans Living Independently Medicaid Waiver, Personal Care Services AHFC Senior Citizen Housing Development Fund, the Alaska Pioneer Homes, elder protection, and other general services regarding the Senior Safety Net.
Additionally, the commission is also attempting to increase support and training for family caregivers and encourages the adoption of a uniform assessment tool to determine unmet needs of family caregivers that can be used to develop a personalized plan of care. The commission is also concerned about strengthening supports for Alaskans with Alzheimer’s and other related dementias by including assistive technology and cuing and supervision as optional services under Medicaid-funded services.
“Caregivers are the foundation of long term care in our state and in our nation,” said Daniello.
“The amount of care they provide is astounding. The cost of long term care in our state would be much higher without their support.”
The Alaska Pioneer Homes’ main legislative goal will be to maintain existing funds, said Pioneer Home director, Amanda Lofgren.
“The ACoA and AgeNet will be advocating for the continuation of our already existing funds, but we will also be sharing what our advisory board has been working on to the senior community,” added Lofgren. “We currently have plans to add a seismic stabilization program for our Ketchikan Home and to renovate our Anchorage neighborhood for our elders with Alzheimer’s and dementia. We have also started a nursing apprenticeship specializing in dementia care and will see our first cohort graduate from the program in the spring.”
AARP Alaska will be giving a presentation on the AARP 2017 Long-Term Services and Support Scorecard for Alaska. A compilation of state data and analysis that showcases state performance regarding long term care services, the scorecards come out every two to three years and inform states on their long term care performances across five different categories. This year Alaska scored number five in the nation.
“We were fourth for overall quality of life and quality of care, sixth for choice of provider and setting, seventh for caregiver and support services, sixth for warm transitions between home, nursing home and hospital and 23rd in easy to find and affordable services,” said Daniello. “That’s not surprising, though, seeing that Alaska has the highest cost for nursing care in the country.”
“Overall, it’s a unique meeting,” added Daniello. “It gives us all a chance to come together and share notes about legislative advocacy. The AARP presentation will be an eye opener for some people, and I am looking forward to it.”
For information regarding the Joint Advocacy Meeting, call (907) 465-3250 or visit http://www.alaskaaging.org, and for more information on Alaska’s 2017 AARP Scorecard visit http://longtermscorecard.org/databystate/state?state=AK.