SHERIDAN — The Hub on Smith representatives worked with Wyoming AARP officials last week on presentations to legislators asking for budget amendments that would increase funding available for senior services in the state. The budget requests anticipate an increase in the senior population, both statewide and in Sheridan County.
A recent report compiled by consultants for Sheridan Memorial Hospital estimated that Sheridan’s population of residents 65 and older, which is currently about 7,500 people, will increase by 2,345 in the next 10 years. And U.S. Census data indicates that a similar increase may be coming in the state as a whole.
The growing senior population could carry heavy costs, both locally and statewide, if the proper services are not put in place. If the increase in the elderly population leads to a corresponding increase in number of elderly residents who require expensive state-funded care, particularly admissions into nursing homes, the state will face a surge in medical costs.
The Hub on Smith’s Executive Director Carmen Rideout said senior centers like The Hub offer a host of general wellness programs designed to keep seniors healthy and independent for as long as possible, and therefore limit reliance on expensive treatments for as long as possible.
The first amendment requests $250,000 for the Wyoming Senior Services Board, a governor-appointed board that distributes a legislative appropriation among the 42 senior centers in the state. Each center receives a base disbursement of $30,000 and additional funds based on the services it offers.
Thomas Lacock, Wyoming AARP associate state director of communications and state advocacy said funding for the Wyoming Senior Services Board has been cut by slightly more than $1 million since 2013 due to the state’s budget struggles, which has put a strain on senior centers in the state.
“The centers are deferring a lot of maintenance and there is no such thing as raises, so keeping folks employed is a struggle,” Lacock said.
The second budget amendment requests $250,000 for the Wyoming Family Caregiver Support Program, a federal program that provides resources for the treatment of patients with dementia. The federal money the program offers to communities in contingent upon a local match, however.
Locally, Sheridan will need to match about $34,000 to receive a $100,000 federal grant that supports caregivers and programs that assist patients with dementia. The Wyoming Legislature helped communities pay their matching funds until state budgets started to shrink in 2013.
With the loss of that match funding, Lacock said several communities throughout the state have had to forgo federal dementia treatment funding.
The third budget amendment requests $250,000 for the Wyoming Home Services Program, which provides seniors with in-home assistance with day-to-day tasks like house work, shopping and running errands. Lacock said there is currently a waiting list for the home services program that numbers more than 100 people and the increased funding would go a long way towards meeting that demand.
The Hub has its own licensed home-health care agency, Health at Home. That service has proven effective, but if local and statewide population projections are accurate, it will need more resources to keep up.