Area Agency on Aging Offering Free Education Series for Family Caregivers

Allegheny dept of aging

The Allegheny County Department of Human Services’ Area Agency on Aging (AAA) is offering a free education series for caregivers of older adults. This series is for nonprofessional caregivers and is designed to help them gain an understanding of how to provide care for a loved one.

The series will run once a month in May, June, July and August, at the AAA offices, 2100 Wharton Street, Pittsburgh, second floor.  All sessions are from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Participants will receive information booklets on all topics covered. Registration is required and space is limited. Caregivers may sign up for one session or multiple sessions.

The following is a list of training dates and topics:

Friday, May 15
Topics: Home safety and general caregiving skills

Tuesday, June 9
Topics: Helping your loved one move and assisting with personal care

Thursday, July 16
Topics: Legal and financial issues and caring for the caregiver

Friday, August 14
Topics: Healthy eating and caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia

For more information, or to register, call 412-350-4996

Allegheny County Offers Tips & Information in Advance of Extreme Cold Weather

severe cold weather

With extreme cold weather in the forecast in the coming days, the Allegheny Departments of Emergency Services, Human Services and Health offers the following tips and information on how to prepare for the extreme cold, deal with it once here, and what you can do afterward:

Preparing for Extreme Cold

·         Make certain that you have an emergency kit which includes enough food, water, medicine and other supplies to last for at least 72 hours. Basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment and telephones may also be affected. Your supplies kit should contain items to help you manage during such outages. Consider sufficient heating fuel if you have a secondary source of heat, and also ensure that you have adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm.

·         Keep fire extinguishers on hand and make sure everyone in your household knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk as more people turn to alternate heating sources. The primary hazards to avoid when using alternate sources for electricity, heating or cooking are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock and fire.

·         Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. At no time should a cooking stove or oven be used for heat.

·         If a carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you. Don’t have a carbon monoxide alarm? The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.  If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call for help from a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door and remain there until emergency personnel arrives.

·         If your pipes freeze, allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather. Running water, even at a trickle, will prevent freezing.  As a precaution, you should also know how to shut off water valves in the event that a pipe bursts.

·         Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.

Dealing with the Extreme Cold

Stay indoors as much as possible. If you must go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellant. Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves. Wear a hat as you can lose as much as 50 percent of your body’s heat through the head. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.

If you are outdoors, watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia, the dangerous and sometimes fatal lowering of body temperatures. Frostbite includes loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion.

Marc Cherna, Director of the Department of Human Services, encourages all county residents to check on older neighbors to make sure they are safe during periods of severe weather and offers the following tips and guidelines:

·         Make sure seniors have a list of emergency telephone numbers that includes neighbors and family members who can help, if needed.

·         Check to see if the furnace is working if the home feels cold. Become alert to dangerous methods of heating a room, such as open flames or ovens.

·         Ensure that walkways and steps leading to their homes are cleared and that there is food and water in the house.

·         Go back later or the next day, if at all possible, to make sure everything is still alright. Remove your coat and stay at least 15 minutes to determine if the home is warm enough. This is also a great chance to share a cup of coffee (decaffeinated, of course), verify the pipes are not frozen, and check on pets.

·         Be particularly mindful of older neighbors during a power outage. Lack of electrical power not only presents dangers associated with lack of heat, but also risks associated with non-functioning vital medical equipment, such as oxygen systems, emergency lighting, stair glides and medication timers. If you cannot contact someone you believe is in the house, contact your local police or emergency services.

When weather circumstances dictate, the Area Agency on Aging and its contracted providers contact frail, isolated and high-risk consumers who are registered for care management. Care managers visit those at highest risk and ensure each home is well-heated and has enough food, water and medication to last for several days. Care managers also respond to emergency needs as they arise.

The Area Agency on Aging has already provided about 1,250 “Snowy Weather Boxes” to at-risk older adults who are registered with the agency and often live alone. The boxes include toilet paper, non-skid slipper socks, hand sanitizer, flashlight and batteries, peanut butter, crackers, tuna, fruit juice, bottled water, and other shelf-stable meals and drinks.

After Extreme Cold

If your home loses power or heat during periods of extreme cold, public shelters are typically opened and information on such openings will be provided online, and through the media.

Continue to protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.

Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal. Temporarily close off heat to some rooms.

If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they are most exposed to the old (or where the cold was mostly likely to penetrate).

Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels for critical information from the National Weather Services and other resources. Be alert to changing weather conditions.

For More Information

In an emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately from any wired or wireless phone. An emergency is any situation which requires immediate assistance from the police, fire department or medical professionals.  If you’re not sure whether the situation is a true emergency, call 9-1-1 and the call-taker will determine whether you need emergency help.

While extreme cold weather cannot be controlled, we can all be prepared by taking action in advance to protect ourselves and our families. Be informed. Make a plan. Build a kit. Get involved. Those are the four fundamental steps to being prepared if an emergency occurs.  For more information, visit

Cold weather health tips may be obtained by calling the Allegheny County Health Department at 412-687-ACHD (2243) or visiting its website at

Information about programs and services for older adults is available calling the SeniorLine at 412-350-5460 (TDD/TTY 412-350-2727), sending an email to or by visiting the DHS Older Adults website at

Open you heart: volunteer to help seniors stay independent


United Way of Allegheny County has launched a new initiative called Open Your Heart to a Senior.  Simply put, volunteers are matched with seniors who want to continue living on their own, but need a bit of help.  Here’s how it works:

1. Seniors who need help contact the program, register and put in a request for a  volunteer.
2. Meanwhile, you sign up, complete a volunteer registration form and attend an info session.
3. The match team aligns your interest with the needs of a senior and gives you a call.
4. If you’re available, great. You’ve got a match for volunteer assignment.
5. If you’re not available right then, it’s okay. They’re flexible and will keep you in their system.
6. Once you accept your senior match, they give you the details and contact info so you can get in
touch with your senior.
7. Over the course of your pairing, the UWAC program office will  keep in touch.


Here are some of the ways in which you could help:

— Providing transportation to medical appointments, pharmacy and other necessary errands
Shopping for groceries with or for a senior
— Making friendly home visits and telephone reassurance calls
— Performing Safety for Seniors home assessments
— Assisting with correspondence, paying bills and filling out applications
— Completing yard projects, shoveling snow, raking leaves, planting and gardening
—  Driving the Free Rides for Seniors shuttle bus
Delivering or Preparing Home Delivered Meals

To find out more, dial 211 or call 412.307.0071, email, or check out the website.  And if you’re interested in volunteering, fill out this  online form to get more information.

Town Hall Forum on October 2 Will Offer Answers About Affordable Care Act

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is a United States federal statute signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Together with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, it represents the most significant regulatory overhaul of the country’s healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

“The Impact of the Affordable Health Care Act”, a town hall forum on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 will be held at the University of Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Oct. 2.  The forum will feature a panel discussion by experts and a question-and-answer session and will offer the public one of its best opportunities locally to get answers to questions about the legislation.  This free event will be held from 9 a.m. to noon in Ballroom B at Pitt’s University Club, 123 University Place, Oakland.

The forum is sponsored by the Allegheny County Department of Human Service’s Allegheny Link to Aging and Disability Resources, the University of Pittsburgh Schools of Social Work and Law, and the Allegheny County APPRISE Program (the state health insurance assistance program).

A slate of experts will help untangle the complicated subject of online health insurance Marketplaces just as the Marketplaces begin taking registrations, which occurs on Oct. 1. Marketplaces — originally called Health Insurance Exchanges — will allow eligible uninsured individuals to select from among health insurance packages to meet the requirements of the Affordable Health Care Act.

“We are sponsoring the Town Hall Forum because many people and employers have questions about the Affordable Care Act,” said Joe Elliott, Community Programs Manager at the Allegheny Link. “It’s a complex piece of legislation and the experts at the forum can answer many initial questions, including ‘What do we do if our employer does not provide health insurance? Are we eligible for the Marketplace? Will there be subsidies to make health insurance more affordable?’”

John Lovelace, president of UPMC for You, a managed care organization that serves Medical Assistance and Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plan recipients in 40 counties in Pennsylvania, is among the featured speakers. Other experts are expected from the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, Excela and the Consumer Health Coalition.

The forum will also address some of the broader implications and impact of the Affordable Care Act on the American health care system, particularly the law’s provisions concerning the Medicare and Medicaid systems. The first hour of the forum will be devoted to a panel discussion, with two hours allotted to taking questions from the audience.

Seating is limited. Those wishing to attend should RSVP by Sept. 30 via email to William McKendree,, or call 412-661-1438.

(first paragraph c/o Wikipedia; the rest from an Allegheny County press release)

Free assistance withs PA property tax / rent rebate forms

Volunteers from LIFE Pittsburgh will be at the Carnegie Library Lawrenceville branch at 279 Fisk Street each Wednesday in April to assist with the preparation of PA-1000 Property Tax or Rent Rebate forms.
Half hour appointments will be scheduled from 12 – 3 p.m. and you must call the library at 412-682-3668
to schedule an appointment.

Once you have an appointment, you’ll need to make sure you have the following:

1. Your PA-1000 Form.
2. Verification of rent or property tax paid.
3. Verification of all 2012 income (social security, pension, unemployment, etc.)
4. Proof of age (only if filing for the first time).
5. Proof of Disability (only if filing for the first time).
6. An envelope and stamp.

The Library also has PA-1000 forms on hand if you did not receive one.
Note:  Assistance is with the PA-1000 form only. No other federal, state or local forms will be filled out.  Call 412-682-3668 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

More time to apply for Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program

For those who are eligible for Pennsylvania’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program but have yet to apply, there’s some good news:  the deadline has been extended until the end of the year.

More than 600,000 older Pennsylvanians and residents with disabilities are expected to benefit from the program, which provides rebates on property taxes and rent paid in 2011.  The program benefits income-eligible Pennsylvanians 65 or older; widows and widowers 50 or older; and people with disabilities 18 or older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 for renters.

All forms of income must be counted, but half of Social Security, Supplemental Security or federal Railroad Retirement Tier 1 benefits are excluded from the total.  The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates automatically calculated by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for senior homeowners with lower incomes can boost the property tax rebate to $975.

Seniors and others who received a rebate last year on their 2010 property taxes or rent should have received an application for the 2011 tax year in the mail.  Applications and free help completing the form are available at the offices of your state representatives, including Senator Jim Ferlo (3519 Butler Street, or call 412.621.3006) and Adam Ravenstahl (3689 California Ave, or call 412.321.5523.

It’s been reported that a firm has been soliciting Pennsylvania residents, offering to complete the form for a fee.  In fact, there is no need to pay to have this form completed.

You can also obtain a Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim form online, by calling, toll free, 1-888-222-9190, or at local area agencies on aging and senior centers, or at the PHCA office

Those who have already applied for a rebate can check the status of their claim online at or by calling, toll free, 1-888-PATAXES. The state will begin sending rebate checks to people who’ve already applied after July 1. Claims for people who apply after that will be processed as they are received.

Senior Celebration in South Park May 11

The Third Annual “Senior Celebration in the Park” will be held at the South Park Fairgrounds from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11. The celebration is part of Older Americans Month, which was first proclaimed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Morning refreshments and enhanced boxed lunches will be provided at no cost to attendees. ACCESS Transportation will provide free rides to the event from all 58 Department of Human Services Area Agency on Aging senior centers in Allegheny County. Additionally, accessible parking will be available in designated areas. Free shuttles will transport seniors from the parking areas to main exhibits and activities at the celebration. Seniors are encouraged to wear adequate sun protection.

This year’s theme is “Back to the Swingin’ ’60s” and will open with a spectacular dove release by the National Aviary. Participants will enjoy: early 1960s music and memorabilia; live music by the Pittsburgh Doo Wop Big Band; line-dancing lead by Pittsburgh’s dancing D.J., Roland Ford; and a “Celebration Idol” contest.  The  Allegheny County Department of Human Services anticipates that more than 2,500 seniors will participate.

Advanced registration is required through any DHS Area Agency on Aging senior center or by calling the DHS Event Line at 412-350-3428. The registration deadline is May 4.

Senior Celebration in the Park is made possible through the generosity of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Dignity and Respect Campaign, Fifth Third Bank, DHS Area Agency on Aging, and the County’s departments of parks, public works and special events.

For more information click here.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program now taking applications

The state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, supported by the state lottery, benefits Pennsylvanians 65 or older; widows and widowers 50 or older; and people with disabilities 18 or older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.

The maximum rebate a homeowner or renter can receive is $650. Seniors living in Allegheny County with incomes under $30,000 will receive an additional 50 percent rebate if their property taxes for 2010 were at least 15 percent of their income. The modification will be automatically computed by the Department of Revenue.

If you received a rebate last year, you should have received a 2010 application form in the mail. Applications are also available from your local representatives (the closet would be Senator Ferlo’s office on Butler Street), online, at local area agencies on aging  or senior centers, or by calling 1-888-222-9190.  If you need help filling out the form, Senator Ferlo’s staff can assist you; call them at 412.621.3006 or visit them at 3519 Butler Street.

The deadline to apply is June 30. Rebates will be distributed beginning July 1.

For any assistance or questions regarding the program, call 1-888-222-9190.

UPMC Walk-in Primary Care Clinic Offering Free Flu Shots

For most adults, especially those over age 65 or with chronic health problems, flu shots are recommended to prevent serious complications from influenza. This year, the UPMC Walk-in Primary Care clinic located at 2000 Mary St., South Side, will offer free flu shots throughout the month of November. Clinicians will provide shots every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Flu shots also are recommended for health care professionals; residents of nursing homes or extended care facilities; adults with chronic heart or lung diseases or metabolic disorders such as diabetes; children with chronic heart or lung diseases or metabolic disorders; and people with HIV.  Those who are allergic to eggs or who have an active cold or flu should not get the vaccine.

It takes approximately two weeks from the time of injection for the body to develop antibodies to effectively combat influenza. The vaccine provides protection for about six months.

Side effects of the vaccine are rare, occurring in less than 5 percent of those who are vaccinated, and can include tenderness at the injection site, a possible low-grade fever that begins about six to eight hours after injection, headaches and muscle aches.

For more information, please call (412) 488-5705 or check the UPMC website.

Assistance for our elders

A recent article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette has raised the awareness of the fragility of our senior population during times of duress. A resident here in Polish Hill was in dire need of assistance in getting basic needs met. The kindness of  James Gambrell and his coworkers at the Oakland Postal Station were timely and very much appreciated. The PHCA has been made aware that another neighbor has been assisting with property and utility issues for this particular elder. We have such nice neighbors here in Polish Hill.

A number of our neighbors here in Polish Hill are in their senior years. Maybe you are one of them or maybe you have a talking over the fence, passing the time of day, relationship with a senior neighbor. If you do, you might want to pass some information on to them. It might not save their life, but it might make their quality of life much better.

The central point of contact for aging-related services through the state and county is SeniorLine, a phone line that connects you to services such as senior center activities, care management, home health and many others. One pertinent point that you should know is that it can take months before a determination of eligibility for assistance is reached. Even though an elder citizen is not in immediate need, it might be best to at least register for the service so that you are already in the system. Processing eligibility will be much simpler for emergency services if the agency already has a history with an applicant. Call 412-350-5460 or email Many thanks to Senator Ferlo’s staff for providing this information. Visit the website

Another source for basic assistance is the Jubilee Kitchen, which provides foodstuffs to individuals. This can take the form of canned and boxed food. The organization delivers to the door, which is a great boon for individuals whose transportation is limited to walking and public transportation. Call Jubilee Kitchen at 412-261-5417.

Another provider for assistance is Meals on Wheels. Through this program, hot food is delivered on a daily basis to your home. You can speak directly with the provider for Polish Hill at 412-392-4450. Providers vary by neighborhood, but you can check here for your nearest provider.

One other thing that bears mentioning: some of these programs require that you register in person so that they can verify your age. Mostly, this is done at your local senior center, where a coordinator can also assist you in finding any additional programs that you may need.