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Senior living needs ‘substantial and immediate financial relief’ from COVID-19, leaders tell federal government

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Senior living operators require “substantial and immediate financial relief” from expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the leaders of four major associations representing operators of independent living, assisted living, memory care and continuing care retirement communities tell President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), with other House and Senate leaders copied, in new letters.

Congress and the administration should “prioritize the needs of the senior living industry, residents and front-line staff in the next federal legislative response package,” Argentum President and CEO James Balda, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan, National Center for Assisted Living Executive Director Scott Tittle, and American Seniors Housing Association President David Schless wrote in letters dated Thursday and Friday and shared with the media on Monday.

“Senior living operators are proud to be playing a critical role in helping to ‘flatten the curve’ and avoid further burdening our nation’s hospitals during this crisis,” they said. “However, these extraordinary efforts are leading to significant financial stress, largely due to enhanced infection control measures, acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE) and related supplies, COVID-19 testing, additional staffing and incentives, and loss of revenue associated with halting new residents moving into the communities.”

Members of Congress returned to work Monday with a goal of working on another coronavirus-related aid package. Other than some funds to eligible state Medicaid providers, which would include a small percentage of assisted living operators, announced in June, assisted living hasn’t been allocated any federal funding to fight COVID-19.

The senior living leaders had six requests:

  1. Increased funding for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (Provider Relief Fund). The financial impact on the industry is expected to be $45 billion to $57 billion over 12 months, Balda, Schless, Sloan and Tittle said.
  2. Priority access to PPE, such as masks, gowns and gloves, for senior living communities. “Many parts of the country have not had full access to meet all of their PPE needs,” they wrote. “The impending second wave will bring an even greater shortage, placing residents and staff at risk.”
  3. Access to and reimbursement for diagnostic and non-diagnostic testing of employees and residents. “While diagnostic testing costs may be covered by Medicare for residents and private insurance for employees, recurring non diagnostic testing conducted to screen employees and residents is not covered,” the leaders said. “These costs are simply unsustainable, especially when testing residents and staff with any meaningful frequency are required under federal guidelines.”
  4. Priority access to the vaccine, when one is ready.
  5. Small business loans through Paycheck Protection Program expansion. “The program is currently limited to businesses that employ less than 500 employees, with exceptions that allow that limit to be applied on a per-location basis for businesses that are assigned a North American Industry Classification System code beginning with 72,” they wrote. “We urge similar treatment for senior living by authorizing a waiver of the affiliation rules for NAIC codes beginning with 62, Health Care and Social Assistance. This exemption should also include coverage of senior independent living communities, classified under codes beginning with 52, specifically 531110 and 531311.”
  6. Inclusion of all senior living employees in “hero pay” proposals that would provide an additional $13 per hour wage increase and recruitment incentives to attract insecure the workforce. 

“[O]ur communities and the millions of seniors under our care must be prioritized to ensure that senior living remains a viable option for the foreseeable future,” Balda, Scless, Sloan and Tittle said, calling COVID-19-related costs “unsustainable.”

AHCA / NCAL makes additional requests

In separate action on Monday, the American Health Care Association / NCAL shared the results of public opinion research the organizations conducted among 600 women voters aged 35 to 64 to better understand their views about government support for long-term care facilities.

The research, AHCA / NCAL said, found that:

  • 62% said they believed that the government did not make long-term care facilities a top priority and, as a result, did not help protect the health and lives of older adults.
  • 71% said that long term care facilities need more support from the government so they can save lives and take care of loved ones.

Echoing some of the priorities enumerated in the letters to the federal government, AHCA / NCAL also made several requests of Congress for the next round of stimulus funding, among them:

  • Create a $5 billion fund to which assisted living communities, skilled nursing facilities and labs can apply to cover the cost of any testing ordered by a government entity,
  • Ensure that assisted living and skilled nursing facility residents and staff members are “the first and  highest priority for vaccine distribution since they are the most vulnerable and at risk” for COVID-19.
  • Provide access to funding for small, independent special needs plans (I-SNPs) focused on assisted living and nursing home residents to offset losses associated with COVID-19.
  • Protect Medicaid.
  • Offer limited immunity from liability for COVID-related activities. “This is an unprecedented public health crisis, and caregivers are doing everything they can with limited resources and information,” AHCA / NCAL said. “Providers or individual staff members who are following government guidance should not be held responsible for their good faith efforts during this once-in-a-generation pandemic.”

“Long term care facilities cannot fight COVID-19 alone. We urge Congress to make long term care a priority for funding, critical resources, and protections that will enable us to keep residents and staff safe,” the organizations said.

Article originally appeared on McKnight’s Senior Living here.

by: Lois A. Bowers  Lois A. Bowers

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NCOA: Senate GOP COVID-19 Relief Proposal Fails Older Americans

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Urgent Need for Food, Home Care, Employment, and Digital Health Supports are Ignored

Arlington, VA (July 28, 2020) – The National Council on Aging (NCOA), a trusted national leader working to ensure that every person can age well, released a statement regarding the Republican Senate COVID-19 proposal put forth this week:

“NCOA is deeply disappointed by the Senate Republican’s most recent attempt to address the grave and ever-growing COVID-19 pandemic affecting our country because it fails to support and protect older Americans,” said NCOA Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy Howard Bedlin. “Older adults are among the most vulnerable Americans in this pandemic because they are facing not just potentially deadly health complications but also catastrophic financial insecurity.”

NCOA urges Senators to include the following important priorities in the bill:

  • Increased federal assistance is needed to improve access to home care services so that frail seniors can get help to remain with their families and out of nursing homes and other institutions, and states can to meet increasing Medicaid demands arising from high unemployment rates.
  • Low-income older workers are facing unique employment barriers and additional investments in job training and placement are urgently needed.
  • The vast majority of older adults have one or more chronic conditions that put them at particular risk, and resources must be increased to support access to digital health promotion and disease prevention programs that help manage existing chronic illness, prevent the occurrence of new conditions, and mitigate social isolation and loneliness.
  • Access to food continues to be a serious problem for millions of older adults and more must be done to keep them from going hungry.  

Many of these concerns are addressed in the House Heroes Act. “NCOA, on behalf of millions of older adults, urges Senators to reflect upon the unique challenges this population is facing during this pandemic, and take steps to better respond to the serious threats impacting our nation’s aging population,” added Bedlin.

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a trusted national leader working to ensure that every person can age well. Since 1950, our mission has not changed: Improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. NCOA empowers people with the best solutions to improve their own health and economic security—and we strengthen government programs that we all depend on as we age. Every year, millions of people use our signature programs BenefitsCheckUp®, My Medicare Matters®, and the Aging Mastery Program® to age well. By offering online tools and collaborating with a nationwide network of partners, NCOA is working to improve the lives of 40 million older adults by 2030. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.

 

Contact:

Armando Trull, Media Relations Manager

202-709-2474;

armando.trull@ncoa.org

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Want Added Years? Try Volunteering

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SATURDAY, June 13, 2020 (HealthDay News) — If you’re older and you want to prolong your life, try volunteering, new research suggests.

“Humans are social creatures by nature. Perhaps this is why our minds and bodies are rewarded when we give to others,” said lead investigator Eric Kim. He is from the department of social and behavioral sciences and the Center for Health and Happiness at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in Boston.

For the study, Kim’s team looked at nearly 13,000 people older than 50 who took part in the U.S. Health and Retirement Study and were tracked for four years between 2010 and 2016.

Compared to those who didn’t volunteer, those who volunteered at least 100 hours a year (about two hours per week) had a substantially reduced risk of death and of developing physical limitations during the study period, and higher levels of physical activity and improved sense of well-being.

The study was published online June 11 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“Our results show that volunteerism among older adults doesn’t just strengthen communities, but enriches our own lives by strengthening our bonds to others, helping us feel a sense of purpose and well-being, and protecting us from feelings of loneliness, depression and hopelessness,” Kim said in a journal news release.

“Regular altruistic activity reduces our risk of death, even though our study didn’t show any direct impact on a wide array of chronic conditions,” Kim added.

The study didn’t find connections between volunteering and improvements in chronic conditions such as diabeteshigh blood pressurestrokecancerheart disease, lung disease, arthritisobesity, mental impairment or chronic pain.

The study was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting need for social distancing, the researchers noted.

However, “now might be a particular moment in history when society needs your service the most. If you are able to do so while abiding by health guidelines, you not only can help to heal and repair the world, but you can help yourself as well,” Kim said.

“When the COVID-19 crisis finally subsides, we have a chance to create policies and civic structures that enable more giving in society,” he said. “Some cities were already pioneering this idea before the pandemic and quarantine, and I hope we have the willingness and resolve to do so in a post-COVID-19 society as well.”

— Robert Preidt

Article appeared originally on: medicinenet.com

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Copyright © 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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NCOA Study: 3 Million Low-Income Older Adults Face Systemic Obstacles to Programs that Help Pay for Health Care

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Policy solutions would make access to benefits easier for low-income individuals

Arlington, VA, June 22, 2020 — Today, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), a trusted national leader working to ensure that every person can age well, issued a study analyzing the systemic obstacles that keep nearly 3 million eligible older adults and people with disabilities from accessing programs designed to help pay for their health care and medicine. The issue brief also offers policy solutions to ensure that all eligible low-income individuals receive this critical assistance.

Millions of financially vulnerable older adults and people with disabilities who have trouble affording prescription drugs and health care qualify for Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs), which help pay for Medicare premiums and cost sharing, and the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) (also known as Extra Help), which helps pay for prescription drugs. However, almost 3 million of these eligible individuals are not enrolled in the programs.

The issue brief estimates eligibility, enrollment, and take-up rates in MSPs and LIS among the age 65 and older non-institutionalized population for even years between 2008 and 2014.

“About two-thirds of people eligible for MSPs are enrolled, but another 2.5 million Medicare beneficiaries are missing out on the benefits of this program,” said Dr. Susan Silberman, NCOA Senior Director, Research and Evaluation. “While some of these individuals may be making an informed decision to not apply, many are unaware that they are eligible or have found the enrollment process too intimidating to attempt or too difficult to complete.”

NCOA recommends a range of policy solutions that would improve access to these important Medicare low-income assistance programs. They include:

  • Loosening eligibility standards, which can have the dual effect of making more people eligible and making enrollment easier
  • Aligning eligibility standards more closely across programs, particularly between MSP and Part D LIS
  • Simplifying the enrollment process to make signing up as automatic as possible
  • Allocating more resources for benefits outreach and enrollment to find and assist eligible individuals in applying for the programs

The complete issue brief, Take-Up Rates in Medicare Savings Programs and the Part D Low-Income Subsidy Among Community-Dwelling Medicare Beneficiaries Age 65 and Older, is available online.

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a trusted national leader working to ensure that every person can age well. Since 1950, our mission has not changed: Improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. NCOA empowers people with the best solutions to improve their own health and economic security—and we strengthen government programs that we all depend on as we age. Every year, millions of people use our signature programs BenefitsCheckUp®, My Medicare Matters®, and the Aging Mastery Program® to age well. By offering online tools and collaborating with a nationwide network of partners, NCOA is working to improve the lives of 40 million older adults by 2030. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.

Article appeared origianlly on: NCOA.org.

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Staying Safe As Your City Reopens: Friends And Neighbors May Be Resuming Their Regular Activities—Should You?

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Cities and counties across the country are beginning to ease or even end the regulations that closed stores, restaurants, businesses, services, and schools back in March 2020. But adults 65 years and older and those with chronic health conditions are still at high risk for contracting COVID-19 and facing its most serious complications, including death.

If you have underlying medical conditions, particularly if they are not well controlled, the CDC suggests that it’s wise to continue to maintain the highest level of vigilance about going out and resuming your regular activities. Some of the specific underlying health conditions noted by the CDC include:

  • Chronic lung disease
  • Moderate to severe asthma
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Being “immunocompromised”
    • People who are immunocompromised have a reduced ability to fight infections and other diseases.  Many things can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications.
  • Severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease and undergoing dialysis
  • Liver disease

You can’t reduce your chances of contracting COVID-19 to zero. But if you understand the risks and use proven prevention measures, you may be able to help reduce the spread of the virus.

KEEP IN MIND: If you have COVID-19, have COVID-19 symptoms, or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you must stay home and away from other people. Talk to your healthcare provider about your specific precautions. When you can leave home and see others depends on different factors for different situations. Follow the CDC’s recommendations for your circumstances.

Here is the CDC’s science-based guidance for the best way to protect yourself as you begin to resume daily activities:

Before you venture out, ask yourself: Will my activity put me in close contact with others?

  • Practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from others). COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close physical contact with others.
  • Stay home if sick.
  • Use online services when available.
  • Wear a cloth face covering when running errands.
  • Use hand sanitizer after leaving stores.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home.

Protect yourself while shopping.

  • Order food and other items online for home delivery or curbside pickup (if possible).
  • Only go to the grocery store, or other stores selling household essentials, in person when you absolutely need to. This will limit your potential exposure to others and the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others while shopping and in lines.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering when you have to go out in public.
  • When you do have to shop in person, go during the early morning or later at night when fewer people will be there.
  • If you are at higher risk for severe illness, find out if the store has special hours for people at higher risk. If they do, try to shop during those hours. People at higher risk for severe illness include adults 65 or older and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions.
  • Disinfect the shopping cart. Use disinfecting wipes if available.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • If possible, use touchless payment (pay without touching money, a card, or a keypad). If you must handle money, a card, or use a keypad, use hand sanitizer right after paying.

Use hand sanitizer.

After leaving a store or completing an activity or task outside, use hand sanitizer.

Exercise caution when using public bathrooms

Bathrooms have a lot of high touch surfaces, including door handles, faucets, and stall doors. Viral transfer risk in this environment can be high. A recent report in the New York Times suggested that the virus can be transferred when the toilet is flushed. If possible, close the lid before flushing a public toilet. Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if hand washing is not possible. Avoid using automatic hand dryers. Keep your cloth face covering on when in the restroom.

Wash hands at home

When you get home from being outside or around others, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Be smart about deliveries & takeout.

  • Use delivery services when possible and limit in-person contact if possible.
  • If possible, pay online or on the phone when you order.
  • Accept deliveries without in-person contact whenever possible. Ask for deliveries to be left in a safe spot outside your house (such as your front porch or lobby), with no person-to-person interaction. Otherwise, stay at least 6 feet away from the delivery person.

Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after accepting deliveries or collecting mail.

  • After receiving deliveries or bringing home takeout food, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • After collecting mail from a post office or home mailbox, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Adjust how you do your banking.

  • Ask about telephone or virtual options for banking services.
  • Bank online whenever possible.
  • Use drive-thru banking services, automated teller machines (ATMs), or mobile banking apps for routine transactions that do not require face-to-face assistance as much as possible.
  • Look for any extra prevention practices being implemented by the bank, such as plexiglass barriers for tellers or bankers, staff wearing cloth face coverings, or physical distancing signs in the lobby.
  • Wear a cloth face covering when making any in-person transactions where you are unable to stay at least 6 feet apart from other people. Make sure that bank employees and other people inside the bank are also wearing cloth face coverings.
  • Use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol after any deposit, withdrawal, exchange, drive-thru visit, or use of an ATM.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly when you return.

Play it safe when getting gas.

  • If available, use disinfecting wipes on handles and buttons before you touch them.
  • After fueling, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds when you are able to access soap and water.

Stay Empowered, Stay Informed

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Photo Contest Showcases the Richness of Aging Well in America

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By: Armando Trull, Media Relations Manager, NCOA.org

Winners chosen for their artistic and dignified portraits of older adults

Arlington, VA, June 16, 2020 — For its 2020 Age+Action Virtual Conference, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) invited photographers and artists from around the country to submit work exploring the artistic expression of Aging Well for All—how older adults are making the most of their longevity.

“The winning entries beautifully showcase the richness of aging well in America,” said Ken Bracht, NCOA Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer. “The judges were amazed by the quality of all submissions—totaling more than 1,000 images—from both award-winning professionals and self-taught photographers.”

The winning photographs and artists were announced at NCOA’s 2020 Age+Action Virtual Conference, June 8-11, the first national gathering of aging services professionals in the COVID-19 era. The 4-day online event featured 150+ speakers and 100+ sessions designed to help community-based organizations better serve older adults.

First Place went to A Loving Touch, submitted by Allan Mestel of Longboat Key, FL. The black-and-white photo features an older interracial couple in an intimate moment.

“The judges chose this photo because of its artistry, poignancy, sensitivity, and dignity,” Bracht said. “I’m stunned I won first place,” Mestel said.

A Loving Touch © Allan Mestel

Second Place was awarded to Grandma Quality Time from Michael Paras of Maplewood, NJ. It’s a Norman Rockwell scene of a wide-eyed toddler and her grandmother enjoying a chocolate shake and each other.

Grandma Quality Time © Michael Paras

The Merit and Honorable Mention awards include photos of older adults of all races and backgrounds.

  • Merit: On The Bench, Mark Coggins; Bread Baker, Michael Paras; Pay Attention, Susan Sidebottom; and Work Out #3, Maria Trunk
  • Honorable Mention: Diane Bernard, Tom Atwood; Time To Go Home, Edward Boches; Hands On Chest, Marna Clarke; At The Park, Judi Iranyi; Memory, Charlotte Niel; One Day Like The Next, Charlotte Niel; Grandmom, Nickolas Nikolic; Ben, Leroy Skalstad; Red Door, John Tiedje; and Portraits Of Dementia, Joe Wallace

Two Honorable Mention artists have created photographic series that spotlight important issues in aging. Tom Atwood’s series Kings & Queens in Their Castles portrays the LGBTQ experience in the U.S. Portraits of Dementia by Joe Wallace features images of older adults with Alzheimer’s disease.

The public is invited to view the complete NCOA online gallery of all selected photographs and artists here: http://ncoagallery.org/link/AgingWellforAll.

This article originally appeared on NCOA.org.

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LeadingAge calls on HUD to release millions earmarked for affordable senior housing

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HUD Secretary Ben Carson

Critically needed COVID-19 relief funds provided by the CARES Act for affordable senior housing are long overdue to ensure the safety of at-risk populations and staff, according to LeadingAge.

Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, took the Department of Housing and Urban Development to task on Tuesday for not effectively distributing Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to assist providers of low-income, older adult housing.

“HUD-assisted communities for older adults living on low incomes serve a population at high risk for falling ill and dying during this pandemic,” Sloan said in a statement. “For months, starting in early March, LeadingAge has been advocating for congressional action to avert a COVID-elated disaster from reaching the more than one million older adults who reside in these homes nationwide.”

Although Congress allocated funding through the CARES Act in March for these providers, HUD has yet to deliver those funds. LeadingAge called on HUD to release $50 million from the CARES Act for the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program as well as the remaining $200 million of Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance funds. 

“These communities operate on lean budgets and generally do not set aside money for infectious disease control,” Sloan said. “As HUD dithers, providers are spending thousands a month on COVID-19 costs, using funds that are earmarked for fixing the roof and the air conditioning, just so that they can support residents and staff with extra cleaning and disinfecting, personal protective equipment and services like security and meals, and extra staffing support.”

In a June 4 letter to Carson, Sloan stated that more than 1.1 million older adults live in HUD-subsidized apartment buildings and face “triple jeopardy during this public health crisis” — they are older, they have low incomes and they experience health disparities.

In testimony Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, HUD Secretary Benjamin S. Carson Sr. said in the coming weeks that HUD will continue to expedite getting funding provided by the CARES Act into the hands of communities.

HUD announces allocation of $2.96 billion in emergency grant funding

Carson also announced on Tuesday the allocation of $4 billion total in Emergency Solutions Grants targeted toward communities with high homeless populations or individuals at risk of becoming homeless, including low-income older adults.

The announcement includes an additional $2.96 billion in funding to support homeless Americans and individuals at risk of becoming homeless due to job loss, wage reductions or illness due to COVID-19. This funding is in addition to $1 billion in ESG grants announced within a week of President Trump signing the CARES Act.

The $2.96 billion in funding will be used to make more emergency shelters available, operate emergency shelters, provide hotel/motel vouchers, provide essential services to the homeless and prevent homelessness by rapidly rehousing homeless individuals.

“Homelessness was a major issue in some cities across our nation long before this pandemic occurred, and unfortunately the dire living conditions of our most vulnerable Americans left many without a home to isolate in or proper medical and healthcare resources to defend themselves against this invisible enemy,” Carson said. 

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Get Moving, Seniors: It’s Good For Your Brain

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By Robert Preidt (HealthDay News)

Want to give your brain a boost? Go for a swim, take a walk, or spin your partner on the living room floor.

A new study finds that aerobic exercise can improve older adults’ thinking and memory, even if they’re longtime couch potatoes.

This type of exercise increases blood flow to the brain and counters the effects of normal aging, according to the study published online May 13 in the journal Neurology.

“As we all find out eventually, we lose a bit mentally and physically as we age. But even if you start an exercise program later in life, the benefit to your brain may be immense,” said study author Marc Poulin, of the University of Calgary School of Medicine in Canada.

“Sure, aerobic exercise gets blood moving through your body. As our study found, it may also get blood moving to your brain, particularly in areas responsible for verbal fluency and executive functions. Our finding may be important, especially for older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias and brain disease,” Poulin said in a journal news release.

The study included 206 adults, average age 66, with no history of memory or heart problems.

For six months, they took part in supervised exercise program three times a week. As they progressed, their workout increased from an average 20 minutes a day to least 40 minutes. They were also asked to work out on their own once a week.

At the end of the exercise program, participants had a 5.7% improvement on tests of executive function, which includes mental abilities used to focus, plan, recall instructions and multi-task. They also had 2.4% increase in verbal fluency, a measure of how quickly a person can retrieve information.

“This change in verbal fluency is what you’d expect to see in someone five years younger,” Poulin said.

On average, blood flow to their brain increased 2.8% — a gain tied to a number of improvements in types of thinking that typically decline with age.

“Our study showed that six months’ worth of vigorous exercise may pump blood to regions of the brain that specifically improve your verbal skills as well as memory and mental sharpness,” Poulin said.

“At a time when these results would be expected to be decreasing due to normal aging, to have these types of increases is exciting,” he said.

Original Aricle: link

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COVID Test Scam Targets Elderly

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COVID test scam targets elderly

by Geebo via Greg’s Corner

During the current crisis, the elderly are not only the most vulnerable to the virus but could also be the most vulnerable to coronavirus related scams. Once again, an old scam has been repurposed for the global pandemic and it involves seniors’ healthcare.

According to the Better Business Bureau, scammers are posing as Medicare employees offering coronavirus home testing kits. They ask their victims for personal information including seniors’ Medicare information. Tests are sent to the victims but again, no home test has been approved for use by the FDA. The BBB says that these scammers are more than likely committing Medicare fraud and are billing these tests to Medicare. If Medicare is paying the scammers for these tests, this could affect Medicare coverage for future coronavirus testing by doctors.

If you receive one of these calls or possibly an email from someone claiming to be from Medicare offering you a test kit, either hang up on the call or delete the email. Whatever you do, please do not respond to any of these offers. Keep in mind that if Medicare was actually calling you, they wouldn’t need to ask for your Medicare number.

This also goes for people on private health insurance as well. Your insurance company isn’t going to offer you an at-home test kit and won’t ask you for your ID number. If your insurance company ever does need to call you, they’ll already have that information on hand.

Both Medicare and private insurances mostly communicate with patients by postal mail. Anybody claiming to be them with some kind of offer is either an identity thief or an insurance fraudster.

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The True Scope of Financial Insecurity in Retirement

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by Jean VanRyzin via NCOA

Much has been written about the retirement crisis facing Americans—how people are living longer but saving less. NCOA worked with the LeadingAge LTSS Center @ UMass Boston and Nationwide to examine both the challenge and potential solutions.

The 80%: The True Scope of Financial Insecurity in Retirement

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New analysis by researchers at NCOA and the LeadingAge LTSS Center @ UMass Boston sheds a surprising new light on the full extent of this societal challenge.

To better understand the financial landscape of older Americans, NCOA and UMass researchers analyzed the latest data from the Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal panel study that surveys a representative sample of approximately 20,000 people in America, supported by the National Institute on Aging and Social Security Administration.

The analysis discovered that 80% of households with older adults—or 32 million—are financially struggling today or are at risk of falling into economic insecurity as they age. Moreover, this trend is worsening over time, as 90% of older households experienced decreases in income and net value of wealth between 2014 and 2016.

The 80%: Four Ways to Help Retirees Make Their Money Last

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Today’s 65-year-old can expect to live another 20 years, according to the Social Security Administration. This unprecedented gift of longevity brings with it exciting opportunities—and a price tag. Unlike their parents and grandparents, today’s pre-retirees and retirees face a vastly different retirement security landscape. The traditional three pillars of retirement income are changing.

Combined together, longer lives and lower savings are fueling a retirement security crisis for millions of Americans. It is exacerbated by inflation, rising health care costs, and the fact that someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports in their lifetime. Long-term care is expensive and not covered by Medicare.

This white paper by NCOA and Nationwide offers four ways to help retirees make their money last in retirement.

The 80%: Infographic Summary

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This infographic is a visual summary of the two issue briefs.

The post The 80%: Addressing the Nation’s Retirement Crisis appeared first on NCOA.

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White House Offers ‘Practically Nothing’ to Assisted Living, Pledges Nursing Home Aid

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President Donald Trump praised his administration’s efforts in protecting older adults from Covid-19 — but LeadingAge, an association of non-profit senior service providers, believes far more must be done.

Trump announced the federal government’s newest move to aid older adults living in nursing homes during a White House event titled “Protecting America’s Seniors” Thursday. Included in those plans are the formation of a special nursing home task force, and an initiative from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deliver two “care packages” consisting of one week’s worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) to 15,400 nursing homes across the country.

“We are deploying every tool, resource and power at our disposal to protect our seniors and Americans of every age and background,” Trump said during the event.

Responding to Trump’s remarks, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan’s message was clear: talk less and do more. Specifically, Sloan said that little was being done to protect older adults who live in settings other than nursing homes.

“For the millions of other older Americans being cared for outside of nursing homes—in assisted living, HUD-assisted housing for low-income older adults, life plan communities, hospices, and in our homes and communities—the government offered practically nothing today,” said Sloan.

Sloan took issue with the fact that, as state economies reopen, little is being done to prioritize older adults, “who must now compete with nail salons and gyms for life-protecting supplies on the open market.” And, older adults are not given the same priority as hospital patients when it comes to Covid-19 testing, a fact that is worrisome given the disease’s history of spreading asymptomatically, Sloan said.

With regard to PPE — which has been in short supply since the outset of the pandemic — Sloan believes that the government’s plan to send two one-week shipments of gowns, masks, and gloves is “wholly insufficient.” Some nursing homes stand to receive just eight masks per staff member under the plan. And, the equipment is only set to go to nursing homes, leaving out many other places where older adults reside, including senior living communities, she added.

“Pretending a symbolic one-week supply of PPE for select nursing homes is a meaningful solution is an insult to millions of vulnerable Americans, their families, and their caregivers,” Sloan wrote. “Life-saving equipment that was promised weeks ago has been further delayed, leaving caregivers to keep fighting and scrounging for every mask and gown they can muster.”

James Balda, President and CEO of senior living trade association Argentum, said that, while the organization is grateful for new attention on the issue, there is still much more that needs to be done for senior living communities.

“Like nursing homes, senior living communities have critical needs right now, including expanded testing, PPE and financial relief,” Balda said in a statement. “We are urging the administration not to overlook senior living communities, which are a critical part of the health care continuum and are acting right now as a critical backstop to hospitals.”

American Health Care Association (AHCA) president and CEO Mark Parkinson praised the administration’s moves as an “important step forward to ensure long term care facilities receive the vital support needed during this unprecedented public health crisis.”

Parkinson also acknowledged that the industry faces an “uphill battle” in mitigating the effects of Covid-19.

“What we need now is for everyone to rally around nursing homes and assisted living communities the same way we have around hospitals,” Parkinson said. “And that means continuing our focus on testing, PPE, staffing and funding just as health care providers have received.”

The post White House Offers ‘Practically Nothing’ to Assisted Living, Pledges Nursing Home Aid appeared first on Senior Housing News.

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Tech Can Ease the Pain of Pandemic

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How you can help staff streamline external communication efforts during COVID-19.

By Michael Eidsaune, CEO, Carely

It’s been more than five weeks since family members have been able to visit their loved ones in senior living facilities due to coronavirus, creating a sense of helplessness and worry among spouses, children and other loved ones.

Quality relationships are just as important as quality care, but fielding phone calls from each member of the family not only takes precious time, but also takes time away from the residents themselves. It’s a hard balance to achieve. While managing a senior living community is a demanding job, proactive communication goes a long way toward building a sense of caring and trust, especially in unknown times like these.

Luckily, advanced technology can be a force multiplier for any organization, especially in long-term healthcare. With shrinking margins and tighter CMS restrictions, technology can be a saving grace for the organizations that utilize it.

With the right technology, staff can provide regular updates and give families peace of mind — all while doing their best work and keeping residents safe and healthy.

Ensure family concerns are received and attended to

Normally when a drop-in visit from a family member leads to a concern about a resident, too often that concern has either no one to be directed to, or it ends up on a post-it note on an executive director’s desk. With a simple technology platform, these messages are not only easier for the family to deliver, especially when they are offsite, but they are much easier to track and deliver to the appropriate staff member.

Calls are dramatically reduced

As senior living communities continue to quarantine their residents to prevent coronavirus spread, family members who have been physically cut off have become increasingly worried about their loved one’s well being. Many of them will call the facility and ask for updates. However, by adopting a social technology solution — and encouraging family members to use it — families are empowered to communicate better amongst themselves. This leads to fewer instances of multiple family members calling for the same update.

Some solutions are low cost or free

In the past, most long-term care software was complex and expensive. In many cases that is still true today (just look at your electronic medical records invoice). However, there are many solutions that have become mainstream outside of the long-term care industry that can be quickly adopted and easily implemented at negligible cost compared to the older, legacy systems.

Take Slack, for example. Many organizations have adopted this text chat solution to use with administrative staff across multiple communities. This software is intuitive and can be utilized for free.

Technology is increasingly supplementing our day-to-day communication. Zoom became a household name almost overnight since the stay-at-home orders were put in place, and the rate of smartphone adoption gets closer to 100 percent everyday. As a result, families have become more reliant on technology as a means to receive information and connect.

In long-term care settings, adoption of tech-based communication tools can have a tremendous impact, especially with most organizations on mandatory lockdowns nationwide.

Families who were once able to visit and see their loved ones in person are able to utilize video conferencing technology, like FaceTime and Google Duo, to talk to their loved ones and show support. Additionally, with CMS lifting restrictions on teleconferencing and telehealth, staff members at senior living facilities have been able to leverage personal devices to connect with families on the outside.

During this time of increased isolation, families are more dependent than ever on the collaboration of their loved one’s care team. That’s why it’s important to consider incorporating this technology now, as it will help streamline communication, save staff time and help alleviate some of the worries of family caregivers.

 

Michael Eidsaune is the founder and CEO of Carely, a platform of resources that helps families and seniors housing professional care providers collaborate.

 
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Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in Retirement Communities and Independent Living Facilities

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by CDC.gov

A retirement community or independent living facility is a residential or housing community that is usually age-restricted (e.g., aged 55 and older) with residents who are partially or fully retired and can generally care for themselves without regular nursing or other routine medical assistance.   Communal facilities, community activities, meals, transportation, and socialization opportunities may be provided.  Different types of independent housing with support services for older adults include:

  • Public housing for low- to-moderate income elderly
  • Assisted living homes that do not provide medical services
  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities, which include a range of housing options including independent living.

Who is this guidance for?

This guidance is for owners, administrators, operators, workers, volunteers, visitors, and residents of retirement communities and ILF that are not healthcare facilities. Guidance for long-term care facilities (LTCF) that offer medical services, i.e., nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and adult day care programs to older adults can be found here.

Additionally, a checklistpdf icon is available for use by long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities to assess and improve their preparedness for responding to COVID-19. Retirement communities and ILF can adapt this checklist to meet their needs and circumstances.

Information relevant to retirement communities and ILF can also be found in guidance documents  for older adults and people with serious chronic medical conditions and for community-based organizations.

Why is this guidance being issued?

COVID-19 is being increasingly reported in communities across the United States. It is likely that the novel coronavirus is circulating in most communities even if cases have not yet been reported. Residents in retirement communities and ILF are considered to be at higher risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes because of older age and because they may have underlying health conditions, such as chronic heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease. They also may be at higher risk of getting and spreading the virus because of community characteristics, such as frequent social activities, and shared dining facilities and communal spaces. Guidance specific to retirement and independent living communities can help the residents, and those who help serve them, slow the spread of the virus and prevent serious illness.

This guidance takes into account that residents in retirement communities generally care for themselves. Retirement communities and ILF can also consider adopting the more stringent recommendations for long-term care facilities or nursing homes, especially if they are a continuing care retirement community that includes a long-term care facility.  Either way, retirement community and ILF owners, administrators, or operators have an important role, working together with residents, workers, volunteers, and the local health departments in slowing the spread of diseases and helping ensure residents are safe.

What owners, operators, or administrators can do:

Owners, administrators, operators and can help slow the spreading of the virus and prevent severe illness within communities by following the guidance below.

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Cancel all public or non-essential group activities and events.

For essential group activities that cannot be canceled, implementing the following social distancing measures can help:

  • Alter schedules to reduce mixing (e.g., stagger meal, activity, arrival/departure times)
  • Limit programs with external staff
  • Limit the number of attendees at a given time to fewer than ten people and ask participants to maintain a distance of at least six feet from one another.
  • Place chairs and tables at least 6 feet apart during communal dining or similar events.

Because canceling social interaction may increase risk of adverse mental health outcomes, particularly during a stressful event of a disease outbreak, administrators can provide information to help  support residents in managing stress and anxiety during this COVID-19 outbreak.

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Clean and disinfect all common areas and shared facilities.

  • Clean and disinfect common spaces daily
  • Give special attention to high-touch surfaces, including, but not limited to, door handles, faucets, toilet handles, light switches, elevator buttons, handrails, countertops, chairs, tables, remote controls, shared electronic equipment, and shared exercise equipment.
  • Ensure staff follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, necessary personal protective equipment, etc.). A list of products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 is available hereexternal iconexternal icon.
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Inform residents, workers, volunteers, and visitors about COVID-19.

Sharing the facts about COVID-19 and ensuring that residents, workers, volunteers, and visitors are aware of the symptoms of COVID-19, health conditions that may put them at higher risk of becoming very sick with COVID-19, its health risks, and what to do if they become ill can make an outbreak less stressful and help prevent or slow the spread of disease.

Administrators can support residents who have no or limited access to the internet by

  • Delivering print materials to their residences. Printable materials for community-based settings are available on the CDC website.
  • Providing easy to understand handouts and high-visibility posters in high-traffic locations.
  • Ensuring educational materials and information are provided for non-English speakers and low literacy persons.
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Encourage personal protective measures

Workers, contractors (such as barbers, hairdressers, sitters, and housekeepers), and volunteers providing care in multiple homes or facilities can serve as a source of coronavirus transmission between residences in these facilities. These persons should be advised to limit the number of people they interact with who are at higherrisk of serious complications from COVID-19, and retain distance of >6 feet when interacting.

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Help residents establish a “buddy” system to ensure they stay connected.

Owners, administrators, and operators of retirement communities and ILF may want to identify residents who have unique medical needs (including behavioral health needs), and access and functional needs to encourage them to develop a plan if they or their primary caretaker(s) become ill.

They can assist in finding volunteers to assist residents who may need extra assistance in getting the medical help they need and train these volunteers in following personal protective measures. These volunteers should not be persons who are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19. Volunteers can also consider checking up on residents via electronic means if appropriate.

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Consider limiting the number of non-essential visitors.

Retirement communities and ILF may want to consider limiting visitation (e.g., maximum of one visitor per resident per day, restricting visitors with recent travel and those with symptoms of COVID-19), especially in common areas, to workers, volunteers, and visitors who are essential to preserving the health, including mental health, well-being, and safety of residents. Advise persons that maintaining social distancing (at least 6 feet) can help reduce coronavirus transmission.

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Screen, when possible, and advise workers and essential volunteers.

When possible, administrators may want to consider screening workers and essential volunteers who will be interacting with residents for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. This includes actively taking each person’s temperature using a no-touch thermometer, and asking whether or not the person is experiencing shortness of breath or has a cough. They should be advised that if they develop fever or symptoms of respiratory infection while at work, they should immediately put on a facemask, inform their supervisor, and leave the workplace.

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Follow guidance for businesses and employers

This guidance also can be helpful for owners, administrators, and operators of retirement communities and ILF and is found here. It includes:

  • Actively encouraging sick employees to stay home
  • Implementing flexible sick-leave policies and to the extent possible flexible attendance policies (e.g., telework, staggered shifts)
  • Emphasizing respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene
  • Ensuring hand hygiene supplies are readily available in all buildings.

What residents can do:

Residents can follow the recommendations for persons at higher-risk of COVID-19 to protect themselves and others:

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Residents can follow the recommendations for persons at higher-risk of COVID-19 to protect themselves and others:

  • Clean your hands often
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place/common area.
  • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
  • Wash your hands after touching surfaces in public places.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, and eyes.

Additionally, they can avoid close contact:

  • Stay in your homes or outdoors away from groups of people, as much as possible.
  • Limit visitors to persons essential to maintaining their health, well-being, and safety. Social interaction is important; however, in-person social interactions are associated with increased risk of infection.
  • Learn and practice alternative ways to interact, including replacing in-person group interactions with video or telephone calls.
  • Learn more about managing stress and anxiety during COVID-19.
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Establish a “buddy” system to ensure they stay connected.

Residents can seek out a “buddy” who will regularly check on them (using preferably non-face-to-face communication) and help care for them if they get sick. This person cannot be a person who is at higher risk of complications if they become ill with COVID-19.

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Ensure continuity of the regular care and medical services they receive.

Residents can work with their primary caretakers to identify alternative caretakers to ensure continuity of care should there be any interruptions to the regular services they receive. Telemedicine services may be available to them. They can work with their medical providers to determine if any elective procedures or non-emergent services can be delayed without negatively impacting their health. They can ask their medical providers if they have a formal “telehealth” system for their regular appointments and, if not, ask if they can still communicate by telephone (instead of visits) to reduce the number of face-to-face interactions.

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Have medication and supplies on hand.

Residents may want to consult with their healthcare providers and, if possible, plan to keep an extra supply of their regular prescriptions. Mail-order medications also could be considered as an alternative for those unable to get longer supplies of medication. They can ensure that they have an adequate supply of food and everyday essentials in their homes should a disruption occur for an extended period.

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Keep their homes clean and disinfected.

It is important that residents keep their homes clean and disinfected by following these instructions. If they become ill or if they are caring for someone who is ill, they can follow the guidance found here.

What volunteers and visitors can do:

There are many ways volunteer or visitors can reduce the spread of illness:

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Avoid entering the facility, the premises, or private residences unless your presence is essential to preserving the health, including mental health, well-being, and safety of residents.

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Follow personal protective measures found here and the recommendations set forth by the facility they are visiting.

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Maintain social distance of at least six feet from residents can reduce transmission. Do not visit if you recently had contact with persons who have symptoms of COVID-19 or if you recently traveled. Most importantly, do not enter the retirement community or ILF if you are sick.

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Avoid large groups and travel, especially on planes and cruise ships.

If you, as a volunteer, regularly visit the retirement community and ILF, consider taking greater precaution to protect the residents because they are higher-risk persons. These precautions include avoiding large group gatherings and crowds, delaying non-essential travel including plane trips, and avoiding embarking on cruise ships. Volunteers and visitors who have recently traveled should avoid visiting the retirement community and ILF.

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Watch for symptoms of illness and follow the recommended steps if you get sick.

If you develop respiratory illness symptoms while at the retirement community or ILF, immediately put on a facemask when possible, leave if possible, self-isolate, and notify the residents you visited and administrators. If you were there with a volunteer organization, notify the organization. Additional guidance on what you can do if you get sick can be found here.

What workers can do:

As a worker, you can follow the same recommendations as for volunteers and visitors, plus:

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Follow standard infection prevention and control practices, basic personal protective recommendations and any other site- and task-specific infection prevention and control measures implemented by their employer.

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Maintain social distance of at least six feet from residents whenever possible. Outside of work, avoid contact with persons who have symptoms of COVID-19.

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Watch for symptoms of illness and follow the recommended steps if you get sick.

Stay home if you are sick and notify your supervisors if you become sick outside of work hours. If you become sick while at the facility or on the premises, put on a facemask, leave immediately, and notify your supervisor. Additional guidance on what you can do if you get sick can be found here.

When a case has been confirmed in the retirement facility or ILF

If a person with COVID-19 resides in or recently has been to a retirement community or ILF, CDC recommends the following additional measures:

Owners, administrators and operators can take the following additional measures to help prevent or slow further spread of COVID-19:

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Coordinate with local health officials.

  • Upon learning that a resident, worker, volunteer, or visitor of the retirement community or the ILF has COVID-19, ask the person to self-isolate and contact local health officials.
  • Notify the local health department about any clusters of residents or workers with respiratory illness (e.g., 3 or more persons with onset of respiratory symptoms within 72 hours).

Local health officials will help determine the appropriate course of action for risk assessment and public health management in the facility or community.

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Communicate with residents, workers, volunteers, and visitors.

In coordination with local health officials, communicate the possible COVID-19 exposure to all residents and workers, volunteers, and visitors. This can be done by placing signage in common areas and entrances/exists and by letter to all residents. Residents could be advised to inform their recent personal visitors of potential exposure.

  • Maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA.
  • Messages should attempt to counter potential stigma and discrimination
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Ask residents to self-monitor for 14 days and take action, if sick.

Self-monitoring means a person takes his/her temperature twice a day and pays attention to cough or difficulty breathing. If a resident feels feverish or their temperature is 100.4°F/38°C or higher, they have a cough, or difficulty breathing during the self-monitoring period, the following actions will help prevent spreading further illness:

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Clean and disinfect thoroughly. Additional information on cleaning and disinfection of community facilities can be found on CDC’s website.

Download the CDC’s guide in PDF at the link below:

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2020 Appropriations Provides HUD Funding Increases

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Excerpts from blog published by Peter Lawrence on Wednesday, December 18, 2019

On Dec. 17, the House passed H.R. 1865 and H.R. 1158, the two comprehensive fiscal year (FY) 2020 spending bills covering $1.3 trillion in funding for all federal agencies, including Treasury and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), averting a potential federal government shutdown that would have begun after the temporary stop-gap funding bill, the Continuing Resolution (CR) was scheduled to expire on Dec. 20. The Senate is expected to pass both FY 2020 spending bills soon and the president is expected to sign the legislation before the CR expires at the end of the week.

US HUD BUDGET FY20-21

For HUD, H.R. 1158 provides gross appropriations of $56.5 billion, a $2.77 billion (5.1 percent) increase from FY 2019, a $12.4 billion (28.1 percent) more than the FY 2020 request, $969 million (1.7 percent) less than the FY 2020 House THUD bill passed before the budget agreement, and $482 million (0.9 percent) more than the Senate FY 2020 THUD bill. In general, the bill’s funding level rejects most of the administration’s cuts and sustains the major HUD funding increases enacted in FY 2018 and FY 2019, as well as providing a few programs with increases.

This overall funding allocation was made possible by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (BBA19), which set a cap of $622 billion for FY 2020 non defense spending, which is $25 billion (4.2 percent) more than the FY 2019 cap, but $79 billion (14.5 percent) more than the FY 2020 non defense cap prior to the BBA19. As noted above, this budget agreement was finalized after the House set its FY 2020 spending allocations for each bill, so it was not surprising that the final program funding levels were closer to the Senate bill rather than the House bill.

The final bill provides $793 million for the Housing for the Elderly (Section 202) program, $115 million (17 percent) more than FY 2019, $149 million (23.1 percent) more than the request, $10 million (1.2 percent) less than the House bill, and $97 million (13.9 percent) more than the Senate bill. The bill also provides $90 million for new capital advances or rental assistance contracts (SPRACs), which is $39 million more than FY 2019, but only the third time Congress has provided such funding since 2011.

Choice Neighborhoods Initiative

The final bill does not agree to eliminate the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, which is designed to comprehensively revitalize high-poverty public and assisted housing communities, as proposed by the administration’s request. Instead, the bill provides $175 million, $25 million (16.7 percent) more than FY2019, $75 million (75 percent) more than the Senate bill, but $125 million (41.7 percent) less than the House bill.

That being said, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., has expressed his intent to consider comprehensive infrastructure legislation in 2020, which could provide an opportunity to advance affordable housing and community development-related tax incentives, including a new federal infrastructure tax credit, permanence for the NMTC, and many, if not all, AHCIA provisions, through the House floor and represent the opening bid for such legislation in early 2021, when it likely would have a better chance at enactment in the first term of a new Democratic president or second term of a newly re-elected president Trump.

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Is it Time to Change the Federal Budget Process for Affordable Senior Housing?

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By Steve Protulis, EHDOC President and CEO

Steve Protulis, EHDOC President and CEO

For too many years, the federal budget process has been dysfunctional for funding affordable senior housing and most other federal programs. While the annual budget process should be complete by the end of September in time for the next fiscal year that begins on October 1st, unfortunately, this rarely happens.

In recent years, the annual budget rush has resulted in either last-minute intense partisan brinkmanship threatening or actual government shutdowns, or a series of delaying tactics through Continuing Resolutions (CR), or by consolidating many (if not all) appropriations bills into an omnibus appropriations bill that risks possible vetoes. It has also resulted in presidential rescissions seeking to send the money back or shift the use of the funds for other purposes, such as recent shifts from defense and disaster aid to the construction of the southern border wall.

Rather than having routine, dependable annual federal funding that EHDOC and other non-profit organizations can rely upon to develop and operate affordable senior housing for low-income seniors, we too often experience uncertainty of when and if funds will be provided. This uncertainty with funding level and time frame also makes it difficult to align these federal funds as part of a multi-funding development process, including state time frame for tax credits. As stated in my earlier article (Housing with a Heart, Spring, 2019), this is no way to run a government.

Yet, here we go again. Prior to their August recess, the House had passed ten of its twelve FY2020 appropriations bills (including HUD that provides funding for affordable housing). Unfortunately, the Senate had not passed a single bill. The Senate strategy was not to proceed with their appropriations bills until after an agreement was reached with the White House on the overall budget caps, which was passed on August 1st. The next day, President Trump reluctantly signed the comprehensive two-year budget bill (PL 116-37) that would not only raise the budget caps that were imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), but also suspend the federal debt ceiling caps until July 31, 2021 (after the 2020 election.) The budget bill would increase military and domestic spending levels by approximately $160 billion for FY2020 and again for FY2021, significantly above the Administration’s fiscal 2020 budget request. The 2011 Budget Control Act will expire at the end of FY2021.

The House needed to reduce appropriations bills by $15 billion to reflect the budget caps agreement. Most of their appropriations bills had higher budget cap levels, including the House-passed HUD bill (part of a 5-bill omnibus appropriations) that would have provided $803 million for Section 202 senior housing, including $140 million for new development.

The Senate passed funding for HUD in October that would have provided $696 million for Section 202, but no additional funds for new development. The House and Senate resolved differences between their bills only a few days before the December 20th deadline provided by the 2nd continuing resolution. The consoli-dated FY2020 Appropriations provided $793 for Section 202, including $90 million for new construction.

After threatening another veto that would have shut down the federal government, President Trump signed the bill just before the midnight deadline. Last year, disagreement over funding border wall construction was a key factor to the veto of in the omnibus appropriations bill that led to the historic 35-day government shutdown that began shortly before last Christmas. Congress passed the Consolidated FY2020 Appropriations the same week that the House voted to impeach President Trump, and then recessed for the holidays to return only a few weeks before the Administration was scheduled to release its proposed FY2021 budget the first week of February when the annual process starts all over again.

Given these delays and disruptions, is it time to explore whether there is a better way to provide timing and steady funding for crucial federal programs such as affordable senior housing? There are several legislative efforts being considered to reform the federal budget process. One could be to revise and strengthen the use of the annual Congressional Budget Resolution that sets limits on total spending and revenue (including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – about two-thirds of the federal budget.) Under a Budget Resolution, the House and Senate Budget Committees each pass a budget resolution setting spending targets for the upcoming fiscal year. After a compromise budget resolution is reached, changes to existing laws can be made through an expedited reconciliation process to conform tax and spending levels to the levels set in the budget resolution.

Unfortunately, Congress has had difficulties adopting budget resolutions because of partisan differences between the House and Senate. The Budget Resolution was used only three times in the past nine years, and then for the sole purpose of achieving partisan GOP objectives through use of the reconciliation process: 1) attempts to repeal Obamacare in FY2016 and FY2017; and 2) tax cuts in FY2018. With the budget process broken and overdue for changes, there is an opportunity to reform and use the Budget Resolution, including multi-year budgets to address cross-cutting issues, such as affordable senior housing linked with health care and supportive services.

During this time of possible changes to the budget process, it is critical that members of Congress, especially congressional and presidential candidates, understand the need for affordable senior housing, as well as the cost-effectiveness of investing in affordable senior housing as part of a health and long-term care strategy that may be achieved through a reform budget process that includes mandatory (Medicare and Medicaid) and discretionary funding for affordable senior housing.

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EHDOC Wins Award for $2M+ HUD Section 202 Funds

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In April 2019 HUD released a Notice of Funds Available (“NOFA”) encouraging 501(c)3 non-profit organizations across the country to apply for $50M of Section 202 Funds out of the total $251M appropriated by Congress in recent years. EHDOC submitted its application in late August 2019 for 40 additional units in Albuquerque New Mexico, Edward Romero Terrace Phase II. On Friday, February 7, 2020, HUD announced $51.5 million in awards to 18 organizations to build and operate affordable housing for very low income older adults. Of the 18, EHODC was one of them!   

Congratulations to Roland Broussard for his outstanding efforts and to the EHDOC team in celebrating this victory as we continue to work tirelessly for more affordable housing. Thankfully, programs like HUD’s Section 202 program exist to provide affordable, quality housing with on-site Service Coordinators to help residents age in their community. Since the program’s revival in the fiscal year 2017 HUD appropriations bill, Congress has provided a total of $251 million for new Section 202 homes (FY17, $5 million; FY18, $105 million; FY19, $51 million; FY20, $90 million). This first $51.5 million released is expected to result in 575 new homes with Project Rental Assistance Contracts (PRAC) as their operating subsidy. Because the communities also use other funding sources, these 575 Section 202 homes will be in developments that comprise a total of 1,100 homes. HUD expects to announce the competition for the remaining Section 202 dollars in Spring 2020.

Congratulations to all the recipients:

Connecticut: New Samaritan Corporation

Georgia: National Church Residences

Maryland: Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc.

Maryland: CSI Support & Development Services

Massachusetts: 2Life Communities

Minnesota: Volunteers of America

New Mexico: Elderly Housing Development and Operations Corporation

Ohio: The McGregor Foundation

Ohio: National Church Residences

Pennsylvania: Catholic Housing and Community Services

Washington: HumanGood Affordable Housing

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Grant aims to aid low income seniors

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BY RICK NATHANSON / JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A recently awarded grant of nearly $2.1 million gets the Elderly Housing Development and Operations Corp., or EHDOC, halfway to building another 40-unit apartment complex for low income elderly people in Albuquerque.

The building will be located on a vacant piece of property adjacent to its Ed Romero Terrace at Texas and Central SE, just down the block from the Albuquerque Indian Center and the site of the now-under-construction Tiny Homes Village for the homeless.

The grant for $2,096,945 from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development was part of a larger allocation of $51 million in housing assistance awarded to nonprofit organizations nationwide to help finance the construction of affordable housing, as well as provide rental and supportive services assistance for low income seniors.

“We’re absolutely ecstatic to get this grant, primarily because there have been so few dollars made available in the last several federal legislative sessions for low income housing, especially for low income senior housing,” said Les Swindle, community manager for Ed Romero Terrace, the managing entity for EHDOC.

“We’re looking to the city and other funding sources to secure the balance of what’s needed in the next 12 to 14 months, after which construction will start,” Swindle said. He estimated the cost of the project at around $4 million. The 0.62-acre property is already owned by EHDOC.

Ed Romero Terrace is named for former U.S. Ambassador to Spain, Ed Romero, who is the vice president of the EHDOC Board of Directors and a native of Albuquerque. Of 58 EHDOC facilities around the country, the four-story Ed Romero Terrace is the only EHDOC property in New Mexico.

“Our mission is ‘housing with a heart,’ so we’re obviously most interested in taking care of low-income senior citizens, which is why we partnered with HUD to make low-income facilities available across the United States,” Swindle said.

EHDOC was formed in the late 1990s, “at a time when HUD had been mandated by Congress to throw off ownership of residential properties and concentrate on administration,” as well as establish a mechanism for building and supplying new properties for seniors, he said. With the assistance of HUD and other federal funding made available from the city, EHDOC bought the property at Central and Texas SE from the city about 10 years ago and built Ed Romero Terrace.

Under provisions of the federal Housing Act, the grants target low-income people age 62 and older so they can live independently and have access to support services. To qualify they must earn less than 50% of the median income for their area.

Lockdown Got You Feeling Low? Yoga May Help

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By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter, MedicineNet.com

News Picture: Lockdown Got You Feeling Low? Yoga May Help

THURSDAY, May 21, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Many people under stay-at-home orders have turned to online yoga as a way to manage the stress. And a new research review suggests they’re onto something.

The review, of 19 clinical trials, focused on the benefits of yoga for people with clinical mental health conditions ranging from anxiety disorders to alcohol dependence to schizophrenia. Overall, it found yoga classes helped ease those patients’ depression symptoms.

And while the trials focused on in-person classes for people with formal diagnoses, there are broader implications, the researchers said.

“Definitely, if you’ve thought about trying yoga, now is a great time to take the opportunity,” said Jacinta Brinsley, lead author on the review and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of South Australia School of Health Sciences in Adelaide.

With yoga teachers worldwide now offering live-stream classes, she noted, people have a chance to find something that is right for them in their own homes.

“Sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right type [of yoga],” Brinsley said. “Enjoyment is a really great indicator that it’s a good fit.”

In general, physical activity is a recommended part of managing mental health disorders, according to Brinsley. Yoga — which combines physical movement with breathing exercises, meditation and other “mindfulness” practices — has been the subject of many studies.

Some have found it can ease depression. That said, there are questions.

Yoga comes in many styles. Brinsley said it’s not clear whether particular ones are more or less beneficial for depression symptoms: How much depends on specifics of the physical movement: Is it vigorous or gentle? Does the practice need to include breathing exercises or meditation?

But in general, Brinsley said, there is evidence that both exercise alone, and mindfulness practices alone, can help ease depression.

“So we infer that these practices combined, as yoga, are effective,” she said.

The review, published May 18 online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, covered 19 clinical trials from six countries. All tested the effects of yoga among people diagnosed with psychiatric conditions like major depressionpost-traumatic stress disorderalcohol use disorders and schizophrenia.

The specifics varied, but each yoga program was at least 50% physical movement. Participants were randomly assigned to either add yoga to their usual treatment, go on a waitlist for yoga or to stick with standard care alone.

Overall, Brinsley’s team found, people practicing yoga showed a greater reduction in depression symptoms than those in the comparison groups.

Researchers said the average effect was “moderate,” not dramatic. And the studies were short-term, generally lasting a couple of months. So it’s not clear how long the benefits last, according to Brinsley.

But, she said, like other therapies, yoga is not a quick fix.

“Often, we don’t take a course of medication for 12 weeks and are cured, so we need to think about exercise and yoga and mindfulness in the same way,” Brinsley said. “It’s not necessarily a cure. To get the benefits, you’re going to have to keep doing it.”

Terri Miles is a registered yoga teacher in Culpeper, Va., who specializes in working with cancer patients and trauma survivors.

She agreed that consistency is crucial and stressed that yoga practice need not involve the “acrobatics” characteristic of some styles.

“Just the simple act of breathing properly can bring a change. You see it in people’s faces,” said Miles, a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists.

Even a series of simple poses, she said, can be powerful, partly because it “distracts the mind from whatever was bothering it,” and also because of the movement itself.

“If I cue someone to ‘feel the stability of your feet,’ and they feel it, that sends a message to the brain, ‘Hey, you’re OK. You’re grounded,'” Miles said.

She agreed that now could be a good time to find online opportunities for yoga — with some classes being offered for free. Miles urged prospective students to check out teachers’ credentials and find out if their yoga style is what you’re looking for.

She also encouraged people to keep an open mind.

“If you try a class and it works for you, fantastic,” Miles said. “If it doesn’t, it might be the style, or the teacher. Or you might not have been ready that day because you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. So try again tomorrow.”

Original article: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=232038

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