Hamilton County Elderly Services Program reopens for limited enrollment

Monday, May 12, 2014

After being closed to all new enrollments for two months, the Hamilton County Elderly Services Program has re-opened to people in certain emergency circumstances.

To reduce costs, Council on Aging temporarily closed the program on March 10, 2014.

The two-month closure and other cost-saving measures have had the desired effect, but enrollment will remain limited to people who meet certain emergency criteria and the pace of enrollment will be slow.

The program can allow one new person on for every four who leave. That pace may increase as the budget situation improves.Clients leave the program because they have died, moved to a nursing home, enrolled in another program, moved away, or their health has improved and they no longer need the services.

The Elderly Services Program provides in-home care services to nearly 7,000 frail seniors a year. Services such as home-delivered meals, transportation, and help with bathing and personal care supplement what families can provide and help keep people from unnecessary placement in nursing homes.

The program is funded by a county tax levy, which was last renewed by voters in November, 2012. Levy funding is limited and the program cannot incur a deficit.

As demand for the program has grown, Council on Aging has taken – and continues to implement – a number of cost-saving measures. For example, eligibility is now restricted to people with a high level of impairment or disability – those at greatest risk of nursing home placement. Council on Aging has also used competitive provider bidding to contain rates for delivering services. And, we established a waiting list for the program in June 2013.

The reopening of the program is limited only to people who meet emergency criteria, as determined by Council on Aging. The waiting list will remain.
Our Aging and Disability Resource Connections (ADRC) department continues to screen callers and place people on the waiting list. Callers receive a letter explaining the situation and encouraging them to seek other options by talking with an ADRC specialist or via our online Resource Directory.

ADRC also asks callers whether they would like to consider paying privately for services, if possible, and can give people lists of providers by type of service.

“The Elderly Services Program is vital to the lives of thousands of seniors as well as to the family members who help take care of them, said Ken Wilson, Council on Aging Director of Program Operations. “It is very unfortunate to have a waiting list and we know it is hard on people who don’t know where else to turn for help. The financial reality is that the funding falls short of the need but we must do what we have to do to keep the program within its budget.”