Fall 2017 Newsletter
Tompkins County Office for the Aging
214 West Martin Luther King Jr. / State St.
Ithaca, New York 14850
(607) 274-5482
Upcoming Events & Important Deadlines
Department of Assessment
128 East Buffalo Street
Director-Jay Franklin
Assistance Director- Irene Kehoe
Homeowners who reach the age of 65 at anytime during the calendar year may be eligible for Partial Tax Exemption for Senior Citizens (from Town, City, Village & County and School Taxes) or Enhanced STAR Exemptions (an exemption of $66,800 assessment from School Tax).
However, the application for these exemptions must be filed in the office of the Tompkins County Department of Assessment by March 1, 2018. The office is located at 128 E. Buffalo St. Ithaca NY, second floor.
Renewal applications for Partial Tax Exemption for Senior Citizens will be mailed out to Senior Citizens who filed for exemption in the previous year on December 15, 2017. The Department of Assessment reported that many seniors responded to the renewal application immediately, while others are putting it off for later.

They are urging all seniors to file the renewal application by the March 1, 2018 deadline. Supporting documentation, such as income tax return forms, can be submitted up until April 15, 2018 so long as the application is filed by March 1, 2018. The application and income information do not have to be submitted at the same time.

Senior Citizens, whose total household income exceeds the limit for Partial Tax Exemption for Senior Citizens, may still qualify for Enhanced STAR Exemption if their income is at/or below $86,000. If a property owner is unsure whether they would qualify or not, they are urged to contact the Department of Assessment for assistance.
Many Enhanced STAR recipients signed up for automatic renewal for 2018 through the Income Verification Program. The NYS Department of Taxation will determine their qualification for the exemption, and on December 15, 2017 the Department of Assessment will mail the state’s determination to each property owner. The determination will specify what, if any, new documentation would be needed to process the Enhanced STAR. It is imperative that seniors respond to this notice by April 15, 2018, if they want to receive the exemption or contest the denial. 
For a new application, questions, and/or comments regarding any assessment subject, please call the Department of Assessment at (607) 274-5517, or visit their website http://www.tompkinscountyny.gov/assessment
Tompkins County office for the Aging seeks to Recognize the Contributions of Volunteers in Our Community

Do you know an older adult age 60+ who has done something special for the community?

The Tompkins County Office for the Aging is not accepting nominations for volunteers who have made significant contributions to the community though civic engagement. Awards will be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Office for the Aging in May, 2018

Nominations should be in the form of a letter and should include activities, achievements and the reasons that the individual should receive the award. Please include contact information for both the nominator and the nominee in the letter

Send your nominations to the Tompkins County Office for the Aging, 214 W. Martin Luther King Jr./State St., Ithaca NY 14850 (email: lmonroe@tompkins-co.org or fax 274-5495) by Friday, January 12, 2018. contact the Tomkins County Office for the Aging at 274-5482 for more information.
* Past awardees include:
Joel Abrams, Phyllis Allen, John Anderson, Fred Antil, Irene Asay, Joan Barber, Barbra Barry, Ardie Bennett, Nancy Bereano, Beverly Blanchard, Lucy Brown, Mary Cambrecco, Joseph Cimmino, Joe Anna Deas, Elizabeth Doppel, Ann Doren, Frances Eastman, William Eisenhardt, Rebecca Elgie, Charles Elliot, Carina Emerson, Martha Ferger, Bernie Ferrerly, Fred Fladd, Richard Flavill, Sue Ford, Helen Garvey, Gertrude Gray, Gladys Hamilton, John "Holly" Hollingsworth, Jean Hyde, Nancy Istock, Leon Lawrence, Debra Levline, Ilma Levine, Harriet London, Paul McGraw, Mary Mente, Ray Oglesby, Joan Ormondroyd, Jean Robinson, Ken Robinson, Theresa Robinson, Marie Romano, Frank Schaefer, Bill Sherwood, Ted Sobel, Robert Spaulding, Phyllis Stout, Richard Tabor, Eunice Tabor and Jack Warren.
Aging In the News
Older adults with Medicare encouraged to review current health plan and prescription drug coverage options
New Medicare cards to be issued in 2018
Albany, NY—New York State Office for the Aging acting director Greg Olsen reminds older New Yorkers that the Medicare open enrollment period runs from October 15 through December 7, 2017. Medicare health and prescription drug plans can make changes each year to costs, coverage, and what providers and pharmacies are in their networks. The open enrollment period is when all people with Medicare can change their health plans and prescription drug coverage for the following year to better meet their needs. Plan changes take effect January 1, 2018.
“People’s health and financial status can change over the course of a year. At the same time, plans can change what they will cover and also adjust the cost to the beneficiary. This is an important time of year for older adults to review their plans—what they cover and what they cost—to ensure they are getting the best deal for themselves,” said Olsen. “Health Insurance Information, Counseling and Assistance Program (HIICAP) counselors at each local office for the aging can provide older New Yorkers with the information needed to make an informed choice about a plan that is a good value and meets their health care and prescription drug coverage needs.”
Several resources are available to help Medicare beneficiaries and their families review and compare current plan coverage with new plan offerings:
·  Medicare.gov has comprehensive information for people interested in signing up or changing their plans.
The Medicare Plan Finder tool provides a personalized comparison of plan choices.
· 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) offers around-the-clock assistance for those who want to find
out more about coverage options. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. Multilingual counseling is available.

 The Medicare & You handbook includes a summary of Medicare benefits, rights, and protections; lists
of available health and drug plans; and answers to frequently asked questions about Medicare.
· One-on-one counseling assistance is available from HIICAP counselors the Tompkins County Office for the Aging at 274-5482; Lifelong at 273-1511
or through the HIICAP toll free line: 1-800-701-0501.

Medicare recipients who have limited incomes and resources may qualify for extra help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs . Older adults may apply online or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778 to find out more.)
During the open enrollment period, NYSOFA and Medicare also remind older adults to treat their Medicare number as they do their social security number and credit card information. People with Medicare should never give their personal information to anyone arriving at their home uninvited or making unsolicited phone calls selling Medicare-related products or services. Beneficiaries who believe they are a victim of fraud or identity theft should contact Medicare. More information is available at Help fight Medicare fraud.

New Medicare Cards Coming in 2018. Medicare will be mailing new Medicare cards between April 2018 and April 2019. New cards will have a new Medicare number that’s unique to each person, instead of a Social Security number. This will help older adults protect their identity. Below are some helpful tips for Medicare recipients about the new card:
· There is no need to take any action to get the new Medicare card.
· The new card won’t change Medicare coverage or benefits.
·  There’s no charge for the new card.
· Medicare will never ask for personal or private information for someone to get the new Medicare
number and card. This is a scam.
· If someone calls and asks for a recipient’s Medicare number or other personal information, hang up
and call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). 

Let it Snow
It’s not too early to think about snow! With winter weather coming upon us, the Tompkins County Office for the Aging is updating its listing of snow shovelers. Deep snow and icy sidewalks are dangerous for everyone but can be especially problematic for older adults. Many are not able to remove the snow from their sidewalks or driveways without assistance. If you need assistance with this task, please contact the Tompkins County Office for the Aging at 274-5482. Likewise, if you are interested in assisting older adults by shoveling or plowing, on either a paid or volunteer basis, please call our office at 274-5482.  
Staying Safe: Cold Weather Safety & Prevention Tips for Seniors

With cool weather moving in and winter at our heels, autumn is a perfect time to slow down and take stock of your home and your safety. Cold weather, while usually forcing us to remain cozy indoors, can also bring many fall risks for older Americans. According to the National Institute of Health , 6 out of every 10 falls happen in or around the home. Making small changes, both to your home and your lifestyle, can prevent many of these falls.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 experience a fall each year, which has been attributed to over 2.3 million annual trips to the ER. One of our main goals at Medical Guardian is to help people become more proactive about their risks, rather than reactive after an accident has occurred through elderly fall prevention. These small changes in and around your home can make all the difference to your long-term health.

Inside the House
These simple fixes inside your home can help you continue preventing slips, trips and falls at home:
  • Improve Your Lighting. Installing brighter lights and night lights in hallways and bathrooms can make a huge difference when it comes to your safety. Dim lighting in high traffic areas and inadequate lighting at night opens the door to harmful falls. Make sure you use bulbs with the highest wattage recommended for lamps and light fixtures.
  • Rearrange Furniture. While your space may benefit from some new Feng Shui, it’s more important to rearrange furniture to ensure that you have a clear path to walk freely. This also means creating clutter-free zones on stairways, hallways, and high-traffic pathways.

Use Non-Slip Strips. These easy to install strips can be found at a local hardware store and are great for the stairs, the bathroom, and the kitchen. If you’d prefer not to put the strips in the bathroom and kitchen, you can also use rubber mats in areas that typically get wet to help you maintain your balance.
Add Safety Rails for Stability. Handrails on stairs, grab bars in the shower or tub and near the toilet can help you to avoid falls as well. You can use them to help you securely balance when you are in higher risk areas of the house.

Outside the House
While you can’t change the weather, you can change how you react to the weather outside of your house to ensure your safety this winter:
  • Hire Some Help. When bad weather strikes, it’s not safe for you to be out there shoveling snow after a certain age. Hire a local snow removal company or a neighbor to help you with getting rid of snow this winter.
  • Keep Supplies on Hand. Keeping a big bag of salt to help melt ice (especially black ice!) and ice removal tools in your garage or shed will prove to be useful in nasty weather. Laying salt before a potentially big storm can help mitigate your damage afterwards.
  • Improve Your Lighting. Similar to the suggested change for inside the house, providing good lighting along clear pathways and walking areas can end up being a life saver.
  • Invest in Solid Footwear. Shoes or boots that provide traction on snow and ice are the best for winter fall prevention. In the same vein, you should avoid shoes or boots that have smooth soles or high heels.

Whether inside or outside the house, we also recommend paying close attention to where you are placing your feet when you are walking. Distractions such as smart phones and conversations with friends can be enough to cause a tumble. Stay warm and safe this winter!

Dear Long Term Care Ombudsman:

My father’s diabetic condition got worse and worse, and he got big. My family and I couldn’t get him to the toilet and it got too hard for all of us to have him home.

Now Dad lives in a nursing home where they can have several people and a piece of equipment when they move him around. He says he is okay with that because they know what they are doing and how to handle him gently.

Last time I visited Dad, he said a pressure ulcer showed up. The sore is on his heel and bandaged so I can’t see it. I have heard awful things about pressure ulcers. If he is getting 24-hour skilled care, how could this happen? What do I do to help him?

Signed:  Ouch


Dear Ouch :

It is good to hear that your father is pleased with his care in the nursing home. Yes, pressure ulcers are a health risk for people in nursing homes, and they can develop on hospital patients and people who live at home too.

Federal data about pressure ulcers indicate that close to 85% of nursing home residents risk getting pressure ulcers, and 7.3% have them. Nursing home staff try to keep residents from getting pressure ulcers and are responsible to take care of the residents who do develop pressure ulcers. 

You can look at the Nursing Home Compare web site to check the rates of pressure ulcers for specific licensed nursing homes. The Long Term Care Community Coalition here in New York has a web site (where the above statistics came from) that has useful information.  

You can help your father by being clear with him about how he wants you to be involved. Sometimes he may be tired or want privacy, so it is always best to ask him what he prefers, when it suits him to have you visit, and let him tell you openly if it’s not a good time for him.

If your father designated you as his Health Care Proxy, the physician and staff of the nursing home can talk to you about your father’s medical condition and what the plan of care is. Even if you are not listed as a Health Care Proxy, your father can tell the nursing home staff that he wants them to talk to you about his medical condition. 

Since the pressure ulcer is a new condition for your father, he could ask for a Care Plan Meeting. Your father would participate in the meeting if he wanted to and he could invite you and other people who he wanted to know about his condition and his care. If your father wanted, he could also invite the Long Term Care Ombudsman who would advocate for what your father wants.

It helps to be prepared for the care plan meeting to ask questions, take notes, and be specific and clear about how and when the new care plan will be implemented. For example, diet is very important in management of pressure ulcers! Say your father would like to stop eating pasta. During the care plan meeting, the dietician can outline what other options he has and when the new menu will be ready for him. 

By the end of the meeting, know which staff are responsible for what, and the dates that the changes will happen. The Long Term Care Ombudsman can help focus on the details. The Ombudsman can follow up with staff to see that changes have happened, and check with your father to see how he feels about the changes.

If you have more questions, please call the Long Term Care Ombudsman and we will be glad to talk with you.

Residents of nursing homes or adult homes or their family and friends can contact the Long Term Care Ombudsman any time with their concerns. Call 607-274-5498.

Aging in Place: Making Your Home’s Main Entrance Accessible

One of the first areas to address when modifying your home in preparation to age in place is the main entrance and the exterior walkways leading to and from this door.

If you are looking to update your current home or relocate due to age-related concerns, take the entry specifications and features below into consideration.

Threshold Height
Doorways, especially the main entrance to your home, should be step-less and have no threshold or a minimal threshold of no more than half an inch tall.

Door Width
Doorways should be no less than 32 inches wide, but a minimum of 36 inches is ideal. A standard wheelchair is approximately 24-27 inches wide. A simple alternative to widening a doorway is installing offset or expandable door hinges that could add up to 2 inches of width to a doorway.

Door Swing
Exterior doors should open into the home. In-swing doors prevent a person form stepping backwards when opening the door to enter

Door Handles
Replace round doorknobs with levered handles. A loss of fine motor skills, arthritis pain and joint stiffness, and changes in vision can make the actions of twisting a doorknob or inserting the right key into the lock and turning difficult. Levered handles and key-less locks and entry systems can make the entry process easier.

Front Steps
The front stairway must feature secure and accessible handrails on both sides. The treads of each step should be deep and wide enough to safety accommodate you and a mobility aid.
All steps should drain properly. Accumulated water, snow, ice, or fungal growth can pose a serious slip and fall hazard.

Each step should be clearly defined as well. Ensuring proper visual cues are present is crucial. Adequate lighting and contrasting colors can help distinguish where the edge of each step is located to prevent tripping. Recessed lighting designed specifically for stairs can be installed to the face of each step or along a side wall to illuminate the entire area

A covered landing of some kind at the main entrance is ideal. It provides a flat, stable surface that is protected from the elements on which you can manage the front door and enter the home. Adding a bench or small shelf next to the door will provide a convenient place to set any items, allowing use of both hands to get inside. Sufficient lighting on the landing also allows you to more easily lock and unlock the door.

Ramps and Lifts
An alternative to using or modifying existing steps to the main entrance is installing a wide, sturdy ramp with handrails and a toe board that can accommodate a standard or power wheelchair. A U-shaped ramp may allow installation of a larger ramp in a smaller area. Pre-made portable or threshold ramps are low cost alternatives to permanent modifications and can be useful in cases where the threshold into the home is only a few inches high. A passenger or platform lift may be a good option for stilted or multi-level homes where installing an outdoor ramp is not feasible. Lift platforms can be open, feature a canopy, or be entirely enclosed to protect you from the elements. Permanent projects like this may require a building permit.

Outdoor Paths
All paths to and from the car, sidewalk, and street should be at least 36 inches wide, free or hazards, and slip resistant. Anti-slip paint, grit tape, or safety treads can be applied to these areas to help prevent accidents. If you live in a region that is prone to snow and ice, be sure to have a salt company service driveway, entrances and pathways. Keep salt in a handy container near the main entrance in order to easily de-ice the entrance and front path as needed.

Pathways to the entry should be assessed for damage. Tree roots, ice, and shifting earth can have a dramatic impact on the level surface of a driveway or walkway. Repairing the underlying problem is important, but clearly making these hazards can at least help to draw attention to these areas. Ensure the landscaping is regularly maintained to keep shrubs and trees trimmed on both sides of all pathways.
Lighting along paths is an addition that enhances the safety and convenience of coming and going at night. Motion-sensor lights are an excellent option for illuminating pathways and the main door.

Meet with a Specialist
These are baseline rues for the main entrance to a home and the walkways around it, but each resident has his or her own needs and concerns regarding aging in place. In order to devise a customized solution for your residence, consult with a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist and a licensed contractor to see what options are available to help you remain in your home.

Protecting Your Identity: Make the Time!

The following article written by Barbra M. Henza, AFC HR Representative in the Financial and Consumer Education program with Cornell Cooperative extension Cortland County lays out the steps that should be taken by individuals impacted by the recent Equifax breach.

The recent data breach at the Equifax Credit Bureau is a concern for almost everyone. The following are actions anyone can take to protect themselves from the unauthorized use of their personal information.

First, go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to see if you have been impacted by the breach. Once on the site, click on “Potential Impact” and either enter the information requested. The site will then tell you if you have been impacted or not by the breach.

Next, it is recommended that everyone, even those who the above site indicated were not impacted, check their credit reports and consider putting a fraud alert in place. The best place to get a credit report is
www.annualcreditreport.com . The site allows you to access your credit reports from all three of the credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian, and 
Equifax for free once every twelve months. A fraud alert can be requested from any of the three credit bureaus and they will then share it with the other two. Fraud alerts will remain in effect for 90 days, longer if you have been a victim of identity theft.

A credit freeze is also an option and is recommended to prevent identity theft. A credit or security freeze will prevent anyone but those already doing business with you from accessing your credit history. You will also be able to continue to access and review your credit files using the above site. You will be provided with a pin number to use if you need to unfreeze your files in the future. Be sure to file your pin number in a safe place where you can find it in the future. Below is the information on putting a credit freeze in place for each credit bureau:

Experian: call 1-888-397-3742 or go online at https://www.experian.com/freeze

A letter confirming the freeze will be sent to you with your pin number
TransUnion: They have two numbers that can be used: 1-88-909-8872 or 1-800-680-7289; or online at https://freeze.transunion.com

If you use the phone option, have a six-digit numerical pin ready, the prompt for this notes they will ask for it shortly and they do mean shortly. They also will mail you a letter confirming the freeze and including the pin number.

Equifax: 1-800-349-9960 or 1-800-680-7289 or online at https://www.freeze.equifax.com
Levels of Care
NY connects

As we or our loved ones age, we may find it necessary to receive extra help or assistance in managing our daily living activities such as housekeeping, cooking, shipping, dressing, bathing, medication management, etc. Many people presume that family caregivers or nursing homes are the only options available to help us meet these needs.

Although family caregivers and nursing homes are valuable options, there are other options in between these two levels of care that may meet the needs of both the patient and the caregiver. The choice all depends on the level and type of care that is needed.

Most of us would prefer a level of care that allow one to remain safely in the home and as independent as possible. These options include:
  • Respite care: respite care can provide short-term care, giving the caregiver time to get away for a vacation, shopping, taking care of his/her own needs, or just a well needed break. Respite care can be provided in the home of the loved one/patient or at a facility that provides respite care services.
  • Home Care: Homecare can be provided by a licensed/registered agency, private care provider, or friends/family members. Homecare can assist the recipient in housekeeping and personal care tasks as well as healthcare tasks. Until the care receiver needs higher levels of care that cannot be provided or afforded in the home, this option allows the individual to remain in the home.
  • Adult Day Care: Adult Day Care is provided at a facility or location outside of the home and allows the family or caregiver time for a break or to hold  down a day job etc. The individual needing care continues to live in the home and is transported to the adult day care program. This plan provides socialization and activities for the care receiver as well as care giving. Some adult day care programs provide medical care as well as social daycare, while others provide social day care only.

When the level of care is beyond what can be provided or afforded for remaining in the home, facility based care may be considered. The level of care needed would determine which type of facility should be selected. These choices include:

  • Adult Care Homes/Enriched Living Facilities: adult homes and enriched living facilities provide housing to individuals who may need some assistance with daily tasks, but do not need the skilled care that is provided at a nursing facility. Staff is available 24 hours per day. Direct medical care is not provided at these facilities although medication management may be available. Entertainment, activities, and dining are provided at these facilities. Some of these facilities have memory care units as well.
  • Assisted Living: Assisted Living facilities combine residential and home-care services. Assisted living is an alternative for individuals who may otherwise go into a nursing facility for reasons other than medical. Room, board, housekeeping, supervision, personal care, case management and home health services are arranged and provided in assisted living.
  • Skilled Nursing Facility: These are facilities that are staffed with skilled nursed and are licensed to administer medical treatment. The facilities offer extensive nursing and rehabilitation services for patients who are admitted for short or long term maintenance, curative, or rehabilitation.

For more information on these or other levels of care, contact NY Connects at the Tompkins County Office for the Aging at 274-5482.
Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)
The regular HEAP season will begin November 13, 2017 and is anticipated to end on March 15, 2018.
The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) provides assistance with fuel and utility expenses for income-eligible homeowners and renters. The Tompkins County Office for the Aging processes HEAP applications for persons over age 60 and for those who receive SSI or SSD and do not receive Food Stamps.
The current income eligibility levels for HEAP in 2017-2018 are as follows:
Household Size Maximum Gross Monthly Income

1                                                            $2318

2                                                            $3031

3                                                            $3744

If you think you may be eligible for HEAP, contact the Tompkins County Office for the Aging (607) 274-5482 for more information.
  Tompkins County Office for the Aging and Doyle Medical Monitoring Present:

The Personal Emergency Response System
Are you concerned about the safety of a family member or friend? Is someone you know at risk of falling in their own home? The Tompkins County Office for the Aging can help. Outreach staff is available to answer your questions about personal emergency response devices. We will guide you in choosing the most suitable device to meet your needs.
The standard system includes a console unit and a wireless transmitter.
The console is powered through an electrical outlet and also has an internal back-up battery in case of power failure. The console requires use of a telephone.

The transmitter is both lightweight and waterproof and is worn as a necklace, or as a wristband.

Standard rental pricing is $25/month (prices may vary based on equipment and qualifying factors).

 No installation fee

 No fee for Service calls

A Fall Detection Unit is available for $5 more than the standard rate, a total of $30/month.

GPS Units are also available for $45/month and a one-time $40 activation fee.

Call the Tompkins County Office for the Aging today at (607) 274-5482.

We look forward to helping you!
Tompkins County Office for the Aging
Our mission is to assist older adults to remain independent in their homes as long as is possible and appropriate, and with a decent quality of life and human dignity .