Area Agency on Aging: Senators focus on senior issues due to COVID-19

By Kay Kaylor
PREVIEW Columnist

I advocate for residents in extended care and assisted living residences as the region’s lead long-term care ombudsman. I also am a Senior Medicare Patrol and State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor, all as an employee of San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA). Information on the many aging and care concerns will be included here.

On May 21, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing with witnesses titled “Caring for Seniors Amid the COVID-19 Crisis,” chaired by Sen. Susan M. Collins with Ranking Member Bob Casey. Just over two hours, the hearing included statements by the leaders and testimony by three medical witnesses, followed by questions from several senators. The hearing can be watched at aging.senate.gov/hearings/caring-for-seniors-amid-the-covid-19-crisis. 

All of those who spoke pointed out the prevalence of COVID-19 deaths among elders, especially in long-term care homes. Many expressed the need to address the social isolation occurring and emphasized increased testing before symptoms appear. Some mentioned higher income for caregivers and increased staffing, as well as more protection for assisted and independent living residences, which are not federally regulated. 

Among notable statements from the three witnesses, Dr. Mark J. Mulligan emphasized virus vaccines tailored for elders, while Dr. Steven Landers expressed issues related to home health and hospice workers, such as supplying enough masks and other safety items. Dr. R. Tamara Konetzka told of the need for funding for more data, especially on how some individuals and facilities more successfully resist the virus. 

The senators mentioned several bills they have proposed with the intention to improve the situation for elders.

SJBAAA still here for you

Counseling for Medicare insurance and help with Medicare fraud or billing errors are still occurring. For an appointment, please call the number at the end of this column.

In addition, a few grants for the fiscal year ending June 30 are still available for residents of both Archuleta and Montezuma counties. In particular, the agency offers financial help with eyeglasses and dental treatment for those with the greatest need. Please call Debbie Herrera at 403-2164.

SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or on Medicare. For further information, please call or text 403-2165 or send an email to leadombudsman@sjbaaa.org.

This story was posted on June 8, 2020.