Christopher A. Fernlund
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s staff hosted a public forum in Grand Rapids as part of a statewide Serving our Seniors staff tour. Klobuchar’s staff highlighted resources and services currently available to Minnesota seniors and discussed Klobuchar’s policy priorities to help aging Americans and their caregivers.
The open forum began with a video from Sen. Klobuchar highlighting her work and concern for elderly persons in Minnesota. Sen. Klobuchar was not present because of obligations in Washington D.C.
“In 2015, about 15 percent of the U.S. population was over age 65; by 2050 about 88 million will be 65 or older,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “The Serving our Seniors staff tour is an opportunity for members of my staff to connect with Minnesota seniors from across the state.”
Minneapolis Office of Sen. Klobuchar Outreach Director Megan Sharp, Minneapolis Office of Sen. Klobuchar Constituent Advocate Elyse Ruiz, and Virginia Office of Sen. Klobuchar Regional Outreach Director Ida Rukavina, were joined by American Association of Retired Persons, inc. (AARP) Minnesota Communications Director Seth Boffeli, Itasca County Public Health Division Manager Kelly Chandler, and the Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging Information, Assistance and Counseling Specialist Alicia Arnold in a roundtable discussion about state offered services for the elderly.
“We take case work very seriously... last year, in 2015, we worked on over 6,500 cases on behalf of Minnesota,” said Constituent Advocate Ruiz. “During the senator’s entire tenure we worked on nearly 60,000 cases.”
Ruiz shared how her office can help educate and provide information about various government processes and appeals.
“We can go in and sign a congressional inquiry we can check on the status of that appeal, how its moving along, if there is other things, materials, documents that the constituent needs to submit to help that appeal,” said Ruiz.
Chandler of Itasca County Public Health shared information about an “elderly waiver,” a process with eligibility requirements to help pay for things like Meals on Wheels, homemaking, breast fit, senior companions, day stay, and other similar services.
“There are financial guidelines,” said Chandler.
Another service offered by Itasca County Public Health includes “alternative care” which shares the cost of keeping a person in their home.
The Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging helps seniors with Medicare questions, cost effective plans, medications, and helps people connect to county resources, according to Arnold.
AARP Minnesota Communications Director Boffeli shares the company’s support for caregivers at the federal level supporting the RAYS act, and the CARE act which extends educational opportunities to caregivers particularly in a hospital setting.
“[Caregivers] don’t have the training to know what to do,” said Boffeli referring to the process of discharging patients. “It leads to a situation where a lot of the information is over the caregiver’s head.” Boffeli had concerns about caregivers doing work meant for nursing staff.
Boffeli also mentioned the fight for Social Security Tax Cuts saying the original tax has not been adjusted for inflation.
“Minnesota is one of about five or six states that taxes social security to the highest amount allowable by the Federal Government,” said Boffeli.
Lastly, ElderCircle was invited to share what services they offered the elderly population highlighting the RSVP program. Standing for “Respond to Service; Volunteer with Purpose,” RSVP engages more than 400,000 members age 55 and older in a diverse range of volunteer activities according to ElderCircle.
The presenters ended the meeting by making themselves available to addressing personal questions and issues of the audience members connecting them with the resources they need to persevere through their troubles.