Category Archives: Senior Assistance

Protect Your Elders


Basic CMYK

Elder abuse and crimes targeting older people are a real issue that come in many forms, including neglect, physical, financial and sexual abuse.   Learn how to stay safe and report suspected abusers.

Statewide elder abuse hotline: (800) 490-8505 

Any person who believes that an older adult is being abused, neglected, exploited or abandoned may call the elder abuse hotline.  The hotline is open 24 hours a day.

GECAC Erie County Elder Abuse Hotlines:
8AM to 4PM weekedays call (814) 459-4581 ext 400 or 480
After hours you can call (814) 451-1520 

If you have concerns about the quality of care an older person is receiving from a facility or a caregiver, please call GECAC/Are Agency On Aging for guidance.

Signs of elder abuse – Although these signs do not always mean elder abuse, it is important to be aware that elder abuse can occur at anytime to anyone:

  • Bruises or broken bones
  • Weight loss
  • Dementia may be blamed on “old age” when the real cause is malnutrition or drug interactions or side effects.
  • The older person never goes outside or never sees visitors
  • Withdrawing large sums of money from a savings account without apparent reason
  • Signing over his or her home to a relative



Help For Heat

liheapThe Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is open from November 1, 2012 through March 29, 2013.

A family of four with a gross annual income of $34,575 qualifies for a grant. A household size of one with a gross annual income of $16,755 qualifies for a grant.

Download this LIHEAP Poster to see a table of qualifying household sizes and requirements and the steps to take to receive assistance.


Brown University Study Shows Reduction In Low-Care Nursing Home Residences Due To MOW

brown-logoCopied below is the full text of a recent press release from Brown University. It references their study which you can download here.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — The more states spend on home-delivered meals under the Older Americans Act, the more likely they are to help people who don’t need nursing home care to stay in their homes, according to a newly published Brown University statistical analysis of a decade of spending and nursing home resident data.

“Despite efforts to rebalance long-term care, there are still many nursing home residents who have the functional capacity to live in a less restrictive environment,” wrote gerontology researchers Kali Thomas and Vincent Mor in the journal Health Services Research. “States that have invested in their community-based service networks, particularly home-delivered meals, have proportionally fewer of these people than do those states that have not.”

Nationwide in 2009, 12.6 percent of nursing home residents were considered “low-care,” meaning they did not need much of the suite of services that a nursing home provides. That proportion had declined from 17.9 percent in 2000 because of a variety of efforts, including OAA programs as well as Medicaid-sponsored home- and community-based services (HCBS).

Answering their own doorbell
Lead author Kali Thomas, a Meals-on-Wheels volunteer, knows that delivering meals addresses solvable problems — arthritis that makes cooking difficult, limited options for transportation without a car — and supports seniors in their own living quarters.But the percentages every year vary widely between the states. A major reason for that state-to-state variation turns out to be the difference that home-delivered meals can make. The researchers wrote that their analysis boils down to this ratio: For every $25 per year per older adult above the national average that states spend on home-delivered meals, they could reduce their percentage of low-care nursing home residents compared to the national average by 1 percentage point.

Thomas and Mor’s calculations didn’t merely associate each state’s meals spending with its percentage of low-care residents in nursing homes. They also statistically controlled for the overall decline over time and a wide variety of factors that might also have affected the rates. Those factors included state spending on Medicaid HCBS, as well as a variety of long-term care market pressures, such as excess capacity or nursing home reimbursement rates, that could create incentives for nursing homes in different states to pursue or forgo relatively profitable low-care residents.

The data included state spending on OAA programs and performance information from each state between 2000 and 2009 as well as variety of public health and nursing home data sources compiled by Brown University’s Shaping Long-Term Care in America Project. In all, 16,030 nursing homes were included in the research.

After all the analysis, home-based meals, which served more than 868,000 people in fiscal 2010, emerged as the only statistically significant factor among OAA programs that affected state-to-state differences in low-care nursing home population. Home-delivered meals account for the bulk of OAA spending.

Other factors keeping low-care residents out of nursing homes in some states included a high proportion of residents receiving skilled nursing care, which provides nursing homes with higher revenues. Factors that drove more low-care residents of some states into homes included high nursing home capacity and a high percentage of residents with not-so-lucrative Medicaid funding.

Meals mean a lot

Lead author Thomas said that as a Rhode Island Meals on Wheels volunteer and the granddaughter of a Meals on Wheels beneficiary, she was not surprised to see that the program has such a significant impact.

Food delivery as a point of contact
Regular deliveries of food also provide a chance to check in and chat with seniors.Until her grandmother died in October, she was able to live at home despite suffering from macular degeneration that made it impossible for her to cook.

“My 98-year-old granny was able to remain at home, independent in her house until she died, and we have always, even before I did this research, attributed that to Meals on Wheels,” Thomas said. “She lived four hours away from any family and refused to leave her house. We had comfort in knowing that every day someone was in her house to see how things are.”

Drivers, after all, not only bring food every day but also observe the condition of their clients. If the elderly beneficiary doesn’t answer a delivery, drivers report that. The volunteers therefore provide food and a “safety check” for many older adults.

For retired journalist and state worker Bill McNamara, 90, of Warwick, R.I., Meals on Wheels helps because he and his wife Catherine, also 90, have developed arthritis in recent years that makes food preparation too difficult. Since 2009 they have lived in an in-law unit of their son’s house, but because his son and daughter-in-law both work, McNamara said, asking them to prepare all their meals would be a significant burden.

Instead, Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island provides that service, McNamara said. The food is great and the drivers work hard to ensure consistent and timely delivery, he said. They even faithfully worked around the recent obstacle of the road being closed for a time.

“We feel it’s even better than we would have anticipated,” McNamara said. “We look forward to hearing the bell ring.”

For many seniors, especially those who don’t live with such a supportive family like the McNamaras, research shows that meal delivery is what allows them to remain where the ring of the doorbell is for their own door.

The National Institute on Aging (grant PO1AG027296) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (grant 5T32HS000011) supported the research.

Say NO to Asset Test for SNAP

As you may have heard, Gov. Tom Corbett plans to bar Pennsylvania families with modest savings from getting SNAP (food stamps) starting May 1.

Families with as little as $2,000 in savings ($3,250 for seniors and people with disabilities) would no longer qualify for benefits. Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians would be cut from the program in this tough economy.

Speaking in terms of pure economic value, all this asset test would do is speed the depletion of those very important savings of low and no income people. And once that’s done, they will qualify for SNAP anyway so what will be be gained? This plan says, “The poor must get poorer before we help them,” and it will systematically drive those who cannot afford meals – before or after the asset test – deeper into poverty.

This test runs completely counter to the improvements made to the national welfare system in 1997 that specifically allowed people to keep more assets until their income grew. Financial limits only keep people in the welfare system. So why is this test even being considered?

Thank you for your support in the fight against hunger. For more information about SNAP and the asset test, please visit, click on SNAP Campaign on the menu bar and scroll down to the link to an article in the Patriot-News called This Test Is No Asset.

Senior Hunger Myth #1

According to Enid Borden, Executive Director of Meals On Wheels Association of America (MOWAA), in her Huffington Post article in July 2011, there are four enduring myths about senior hunger in America.

In a four part series I will discuss each myth separately. Subscribe to our blog (the Sign Me Up button is in the right hand column) to be notified of future posts.


Myth #1 – Seniors are not going hungry in the U.S. 

FACT – As of 2009, there were almost 1 million seniors in the U.S. who go hungry because they cannot afford to buy food. Another 5 million seniors in the U.S. faced the threat of hunger. In one of the world’s richest nations, no older American should be going hungry. However instead, in recent years, hunger rates have more than doubled for poor seniors in the country, and it is likely to get worse as the older population is the fastest growing cohort of the U.S. population.

The people we serve here in Erie are the oldest and most frail in our population. There are approximately 7,536 elderly aged 65 or older in metro Erie. An unacceptable 24% poverty rate in Erie could potentially affect 1,808 of those seniors. We serve 370 daily. Clearly, more needs to be done. I will tackle how we can accomplish this in future posts. Keep your eyes on the road.

Helping Hungry Seniors Get The Food They Deserve

Jo Ann Jenkins from AARP Foundation recently wrote on the AARP website:

An astonishing 6 million seniors are going hungry in the United States today, and nearly 40 percent of Americans aged 65+ live on less than $21,000 per year. The recession has slammed millions of older Americans into near poverty, as counted-on retirement funds have shrunk or disappeared. 

Help is available, but most seniors aren’t using it. Just one-third of older people eligible for SNAP, the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, receive benefits. Other age groups participate at roughly twice that rate.

Why do so few seniors apply? Many don’t know it exists, or are too embarrassed or proud to ask for help — even though their taxes support it. To reduce hunger among seniors, we need to increase their participation in SNAP. That means raising their awareness and, even more important, reducing the stigma of asking for help.

To learn more about SNAP (the renamed food stamps program) in your area, go here.