AGEnet lists top legislative priorities

AGEnet stands for Alaska Geriatric Exchange Network, primarily made up of private non-profit organizations founded in Alaska. AGEnet’s goal is to help older Alaskans age in place, supporting them to live safely in their own homes and communities for as long as possible and avoid costly institutional care, such as hospitals and nursing homes.

Community grants help Alaska’s seniors to age in place. Not only do older Alaskans prefer to stay in their own homes, it is also the least costly type of care.

Last year, 19,000 older Alaskans benefited from senior grants at a cost of only $925 per year per senior. In contrast, only 1,062 patients were served in Alaska nursing homes at a cost of $159,367 per year per person.

Between the grants and nursing home care, there is a third option: the Alaskans Living Independently or ALI Waiver, which pays for home and community-based care. To qualify, seniors must be financially eligible and meet nursing facility level of care. Last year, 2,262 benefited from this Medicaid Waiver at a cost of $34,379 per year per person. Very few seniors are eligible for this program compared to the grants, although the cost to care for this vulnerable population is less than a fourth of what a nursing home would cost.

Ideally, older Alaskans enter the continuum of care when they are active and healthy, becoming familiar with the various services designed to help them maintain their independent living.

Community-based services include nutritious meals, public transportation, exercise classes. As they age or develop disabilities, they may need home-based services such as home-delivered meals, shopping assistance or light-housekeeping.

The last phase of services to help Alaskans live independently can be called intensive home and community-based services, such as adult day services, assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing or dressing, and support services for unpaid family caregivers.

Most of our member agencies depend on grants to pay for staff and other expenses associated with senior services. Our members receive funding from local municipalities, the State of Alaska, and the federal government.

In fact, many senior services, originate with the federal Older Americans Act. These grants flow to the states, then to local community agencies, with the stipulation that the senior service agencies cannot charge the seniors for the service.

The Alaska Senior and Disabilities community grants that are critical to helping local seniors remain safe in their own homes and communities include Nutrition, Transportation and Support; Adult Day; Senior In-Home; Family Caregiver Support; Health Promotion & Disease Prevention; ADRD (Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias); Medicare Counseling and Outreach; Center for Independent Living Grants; Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC).

AGEnet 2023 legislative priorities

AGEnet members urge the following action during the 2023 Session of the Alaska Legislature:

Support the Governor’s $1,498.2 proposed increase in Senior and Disabilities Community Based grants. Community grants serve Alaskans all over the state from Anchorage to Nome to Juneau and Ketchikan, allowing seniors to live in the community of their choice. Last year, the legislature supported this increase to make up for years of flat funding and two years of inflation.

Support an additional 6.5 percent increase in SDS Community Based grants. The number of seniors in Alaska is growing by at least 10% each year across the state with certain areas such as Mat-Su increasing by 25%. These grants have not increased since 2015 while the number of recipients seeking services and inflation costs have increased greatly. Community grants only pay a minimum of one third of actual cost in delivery of services.

Support $500,000 in GF funding for community transportation. Older Alaskans depend on transportation providers to access the senior center for lunch, the adult day program, the store, the doctor, church, etc. The Human Services Grant program through Alaska Dept. of TransporationOT offers funding for replacement vans and operating assistance for local providers. The General Funds would help community transportation providers to meet the local match required by the grants.

Marianne Mills is the AGEnet president. Contact her at 907-723-0226.