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Legally Speaking


Issue: December, 2007
Author: Beverly J. Morrow

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Resources for Older and Disabled Adults in Wyoming

Those who work in the field of services for older and disabled adults frequently hear the comment, “I didn’t know we have a program like that here!” Public education about, and awareness of, available resources is one of the great challenges faced by government agencies and service providers in our state. Wyoming is fortunate to have an array of services in place that can be very valuable to people with special needs and their families, but many people still don’t know much about them, or how to access them.

The Aging Division of the Wyoming Department of Health serves as a focal point for the aging network by administering, through grants to local service providers, the state and federal funding it receives. These funds make it possible to develop and maintain a comprehensive network of services to meet the needs of our older population, as well as adults with disabilities. Since Wyoming is one of the most rapidly "aging" states in the country, there is a clear challenge for the future to use resources in the most effective way to meet the changing needs of a growing and diverse population of elders and adults with disabilities.

The overarching mission of the aging and disabled network of services is to provide a flexible and responsive continuum of services to ensure that people have the opportunity to age with dignity, have choices in managing their own lives, and remain as healthy, active and independent as possible within their communities. Accomplishing this mission requires a broad network of quality providers of home and community-based care for older persons and their caregivers. It also requires a population that is knowledgeable about available services, health issues and options, their rights and responsibilities, and how to access assistance.

Most of the service programs for older persons in Wyoming receive funding/payment through the Aging Division. The Aging Division program managers and other staff work closely with community providers throughout the state.

The Population Is Aging
Due to a number of interesting demographic factors in the state, Wyoming’s population is aging quickly. It will be particularly intensified in about ten years as the Baby Boom cohort reaches retirement, which will put enormous pressure on the state due to possible labor shortages and increased needs for healthcare and social services. By 2010, Wyoming’s expected median age of 39.3 years will be 2.3 years older than the national level.

A 2006 study by AARP projected that, by the year 2020, Wyoming will rank third in the nation for the percentage of people age 65+. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that Wyoming will rank second in the nation for the percentage of people age 65+ by the year 2030 -- behind only Florida. It is quite possible that within the next 20 years, one in four people in Wyoming will be over the age of 60. Clearly, our state will be greatly impacted by the aging of the Baby Boom cohort. We can expect large increases in the numbers of older citizens who require special services in housing, transportation, recreation, education, health and nutrition.

Programs for Older and Disabled Persons
Following is a brief listing of the major programs that are funded through the Aging Division.

Older Americans Act (OAA)/Administration on Aging (AoA)

The following OAA programs are funded through the AoA to the Aging Division, and the State of Wyoming provides matching funds. The funds are then made available to local organizations in Wyoming through a competitive grant process and contracts. There are no income eligibility requirements for these programs, but donations may be suggested. Any senior over the age of 60 may receive services, although there is special emphasis on serving low-income and minority seniors, as well as seniors with special needs. The National Family Caregiver Support Program also serves family caregivers who are helping a relative over the age of 60, plus seniors age 55+ who are primary caregivers for related children.

- Title III B – Supportive Services and Senior Centers
- Title III C – Nutrition Services
Subpart 1 – Congregate Nutrition Services
Subpart 2 – Home Delivered Nutrition Services
- Title III D – Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Services
- Title III E – National Family Caregiver Support Program
- Title VII A – Allotments for Vulnerable Elder Rights Protection Activities
Chapter 2 – Ombudsman Programs (Long Term Care)
Chapter 3 – Programs for Prevention of Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation
Chapter 4 – State Legal Assistance Development Program

Other Aging Division Programs

State Funded Programs

- Community Based In-Home Services Program (CBIHS) - 100% state funded program that provides services to adults of any age who need assistance with personal care and household tasks. There are no income eligibility requirements, and clients are charged based on a sliding-fee scale.

- National Senior Service Corps Programs - This federal initiative consists of three programs: Foster Grandparent Program (FGP), Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), and the Senior Companion Program (SCP). State funds are provided to support the efforts of these federal volunteer programs.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Funded Programs

- Home and Community Based Services Waivers – The Long Term Care (LTC) and Assisted Living Facility (ALF) waiver programs provide a wide array of services at home (or in the ALF) to adults who are functionally and financially eligible for Medicaid reimbursed nursing home care.
- Long Term Care (Skilled Nursing Facilities) Program - Wyoming has a total of 39 licensed long-term care/skilled nursing facilities, or “nursing homes,” which serve about 2,400 residents per year.
- Project Out (Nursing Facilities Transition/Diversion Program) - Project Out is a key component of Wyoming’s Olmstead Plan, and provides Medicaid eligible individuals, who are residing in nursing homes or are at risk of residing in a nursing home, the opportunity to live in the community, rather than in an institution.

Support for Wyoming’s Caregivers Is Essential
A recent report issued by the Alzheimer’s Association details, among other things, the latest findings about the escalation in the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and what that may mean for the future of each state. What is particularly startling to some people is the news that Wyoming is projected to see a 43% increase in the number of Alzheimer’s disease cases from the year 2000 to 2010. A recent AARP report projects that the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease will have increased by 114% by the year 2025. As we consider the implications of this trend, and think about the impacts on our state, we have to look carefully at the role that caregivers play regarding in-home care. This applies, generally, to all vulnerable people who have long term care needs, but it is especially important when considering the care for people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

At some point in their lives, the majority of people in this country will become caregivers, or will need a caregiver. That care may be needed for months or years, and can take an emotional, physical and financial toll on care giving families. Caregivers are very often unaware of the availability of support services, and don’t know how to access those services. Services are available that can be very helpful for caregivers in their efforts to keep caring for a loved one at home, including such things as respite care, support groups, home-delivered meals, home modifications, and much more. It is imperative that caregivers’ efforts are supported.

Protecting Elderly and Vulnerable Adults from Abuse, Fraud and Exploitation
Under current Wyoming Statute, a vulnerable adult is defined as a person eighteen years of age or older who is unable to manage and take care of himself or his property without assistance as a result of advanced age or physical or mental disability. Within the state of Wyoming, we are all mandatory reporters of adult abuse. As the population ages, and the trend continues toward in-home services, the number of vulnerable adults who are at-risk for abuse, neglect, fraud, exploitation and intimidation will continue to rise. There is assistance available for these victims, and it is imperative that all professionals help them access such resources.

Beverly J. Morrow is the Administrator of the Wyoming Department of Health’s Aging Division. She received both a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Wyoming. She can be reached at (307) 777-7986 or by e-mail at Beverly.morrow@health.wyo.gov.

Copyright © 2007 – Wyoming State Bar