Adding Life To Years

Seniors Need to Stand Up and Be Heard

February 2017 marks the time where the Nevada State Legislature convenes. According to Governor Sandoval’s state of the state address on January 17th, Nevada is setting very well financially. He even mentioned seniors in his address and included enhancing nutrition by $1.5 million, home and community based waiver services by $11.5 million across the state for needed seniors, and $43 million for building the Veteran’s home in Reno.  This budget enhancement request is reflective of the awareness that our elective officials at all levels of government (state, county, and city) have of the elder care needs. So it is time to stand up and be heard.

I have a couple of roles that expose me to having an impact on identifying and promoting elder issues. The first is as chair of the Washoe County Senior Services Advisory Board. The Advisory Board welcomes input from the community as to what is needed and we help guide the county senior services administrators to helping those seniors in most need. In addition, I serve on the Governor’s Commission on Aging Subcommittee Concerning Legislative Issues. The subcommittee consists of five members – Jeff Klein, Chair, Diane Ross, Co-Chair, Sally Ramm, Mary Liveratti, and myself. This subcommittee also welcomes help from the community in promoting and improving elder programs throughout the state.

The Nevada Commission on Aging Subcommittee Concerning Legislative Issues recognizes that Nevada’s aging population is one of the fastest growing 65+ populations in the country. At all public and private levels we have not been able to keep up with needed services with this explosion. Given that most of us want to remain in the community and independent, we need to provide affordable home and community based services.  We need services that meet the needs of those that develop chronic illnesses and limit independence, and also services that help to prevent institutionalization. Therefore, the subcommittee has developed five area issues that address these concerns: Access to Services; Behavioral, Cognitive, and Mental Health; Family Caregivers; Legal Rights; and Medicaid Managed Long Term Services and Supports.

The first elder issue addresses Access to Services. Two areas are recommended by the subcommittee to be addressed – Increase reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers of community based long term care services, which have not seen increases in fifteen years, and increase the numbers of frail elders who can receive home and community based services and supports.

The second issue addresses Behavioral, Cognitive and Mental Health. The incidence of mental health disorders among 65+ elders has been estimated at 20-25% and about 11% have a cognitive disorder, and 50% of the 85+ elders. Nevada does not have an adequate mental health care system to effectively meet the needs of elders. We do not have trained providers or caregivers that can effectively treat or manage behavior or mental health issues of elders, nor do we have the evidence based programs that can treat them. Therefore, we have to develop and fund evidence based behavioral, cognitive, and mental health demonstration programs that can serve elders.

The third issue area addresses Family Caregivers. Approximately one-half million Nevadans provide about 400 million of hours of unpaid caregiving services.  Those unpaid caregivers save about $4 billion for Nevadan tax payers. Most of these caregivers are women and are employed with significant stress. What is needed is more home and community based services that support the caregivers, training and education for the family caregivers that empower them to make good decisions, and respite services to give them a break.

The fourth issue addresses Legal Rights. There are too many elders that are being maltreated, neglected, and abused. The penalties for neglecting an elder, causing physical or mental harm or even death are too lenient. The subcommittee makes several specific recommendations to strengthen the laws.

The fifth issue area addresses Medicaid Managed Long Term Services and Supports. Individuals need to have a choice of plan and providers, requiring person-centered processes, requiring state planning processes, creating an independent beneficiary support system that helps elders navigate the service delivery system, and payment methods that improve the health of populations.

The detail of these issues that need legislative attention are addressed in “Elder Issues in Nevada” by the Commission on Aging Subcommittee Concerning Legislative Issues 2017 and can be found on the website for the Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division ( Please educate yourself and advocate for our elders that are in need at all levels. On February 23, 2017 there is a very special event – “Nevada Senior Issues Day” – at the Nevada Legislature building – Room 3100 from 7:30am to 3:00. For information contact Susan Hirsch (702)333-1549. What better way to stand up and be heard and add life to years for yourself and our elders.

Lawrence J. Weiss, Ph.D. is CEO of the Center for Healthy Aging. Dr. Weiss welcomes your comments on this column. Write to him at or c/o Center for Healthy Aging, 11 Fillmore Way, Reno, NV 89519.

On January 26th, 2017, posted in: Adding Life To Years by
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