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"Supe" Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) and Amanda Marsh (Jennifer Connelly) in the film "Only the Brave." 

Laura Brown / Contributed 

Ethel Baxter talks with Congressman David G. Valadao during an Oct. 14 workshop that the congressman hosted at the Nick Medina Senior Center.

Meeting addresses seniors’ concerns

Seniors who packed an informational meeting sponsored by Congressman David G. Valadao, R-Hanford, came with questions and left with answers after hearing a number of presentations from staff from the Valley Caregiver Resource Center (VCRC).

The meeting was Oct. 14 at the Nick Medina Senior Center where the congressman first gave an update on current legislation he’s working on and water and drought issues before turning the podium over to presenters who shared information offered by the VCRC.

The nonprofit services the Central Valley and assists seniors and their caregivers with such issues as prescriptions, choosing Medicare plans, an ombudsman program for residents in care facilities and caregiver resources. They also operate the OASIS Adult Day Care facility and the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program.

VCRC Program Manager Yee Vue said there are an estimated 4.5 million people in the state taking care of family members at home. If they all decided to use facilities instead, there simply wouldn’t be enough beds available, he said.

“[Caregivers] are at higher risk for anxiety, stress, depression and heart disease,” Vue said. “So what’s available to help you the caregiver so that you can still take care of your loved one at homes as long as possible?”

Vue detailed some of the services such as respite care, caregiver classes, support groups, legal guidance and one-on-one counseling.

“If your loved one has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, how can you respond to their challenging behaviors and the repetitiveness? We have ongoing classes to give you those tools and those skills to respond to your loved one’s situation.”

Vue said caregivers often need to hear from others in similar situations and get help with their changing roles.

“It’s important to connect with other caregivers. It also helps validate the feelings you’re going through so you know you’re not the only one experiencing this. As a caregiver, you have changing roles. Maybe the daughter becomes the mother now. Or the working caregiver is no longer working.”

Vue admits that even he hasn’t planned for aging as well as he should have and he hopes residents take steps to set up a long-term care plan.

“I have visited clients that live in the foothills. That’s a great retirement but once you’re up there, getting service to come up to the foothills can be challenging.”

With the average cost of in-home care costing $22 an hour, Vue said he’s aware of some families paying $20,000 a month for in-home care.

“So it doesn’t go a long way when you think about out-of-home care. So we need to think about how do we live at home as long as possible?”

Vue said their program covers the entire Central Valley from Stanislaus County down to Kern County and that state and federal grants are available to see if residents qualify for their services.

Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program’s Diane Aznar said she informed attendees of upcoming changes in Medicare cards, how to make an appointment for counseling and if there’s a charge for their services.

“Also there are scams out right now and the new Medicare cards aren’t even out yet. Everyone in the United States will get new Medicare cards mailed to them,” Aznar said. To ensure the cards arrive to the correct location she said residents need to make sure the United States Social Security Administration has their current address.

Aznar said they can also review long-term care policies. “We go over them and make sure they understand what they’re signing and what their plans are for the future.”

She advises seniors and their caretakers to be aware of what’s available well before such resources are needed.

“Always find the resources in your community before you need them. That’s one of the most helpful things I learned working here: find your resources.”

Valadao field representative Eileen De Raadt also let audience members know the congressman can help resolve problems with federal government agencies such as Social Security, Veterans Affairs and immigration.

“If it’s a federal agency we can open up a case with you,” De Raadt said.

For those who missed the session, help with federal agencies is also available online at

All Hanford water accounts will soon be metered

HANFORD — At the Hanford City Council meeting Tuesday evening, Council discussed the final steps in the process of installing automated water meters on the city’s remaining flat rate accounts.

John Doyel, Hanford’s deputy public works director, said when Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order to conserve water during the drought and Hanford didn’t meet conservation goals, the city was put on a plan to move from flat rate water accounts to metered water accounts.

In December 2015, city officials adopted a water rate increase they said was necessary to keep pace with growing costs to maintain the water system after the state mandated conservation efforts caused revenues to dwindle.

The initial 62.5 percent increase in water rates for Hanford customers went into effect in January 2016. Subsequent 9 percent increases went into effect in July 2016 and 2017 and there is one more left in July 2018.

As part of the water rate increase, Doyel said a program was introduced to convert the city’s remaining 2,586 flat rate accounts to metered accounts.

Customers currently without meters have been paying a flat rate based on the size of their property, and have also been paying a $13.33 monthly fee to cover the cost of converting to a metered account. The monthly fee was to be paid for 60 months, and they will continue to pay the fee until the 60 months is up, Doyel said.

Doyel said plans to convert to metered accounts are almost done and — with Council approval — will be going to bid to find a contractor to complete the installation.

Doyel said in some cases the contractor will just need to install a meter, box and lid; while other cases will involve more extensive work, such as running a new meter line.

Vice Mayor Sue Sorensen brought up an issue the city had in the past with faulty water meters and asked how this project will try to avoid more issues.

Doyel told Sorensen that several years ago the city sole-sourced a project to one company to replace about 14,000 water meters in the city that had not been replaced in over 20 years. He said from that project, about 700 registers — which read the amount of water used and send a signal to the meter — have gone bad.

Doyel said the city learned from its mistake and for this project the city is buying all the equipment for the project, including meters, boxes and lids, and the only thing the contractor will do is install the equipment.

“We’re going to dictate what goes in the ground,” Doyel told Council.

In order to expedite the process, Doyel asked Council to both authorize staff to take the project out to bid and pre-authorize City Manager Darrel Pyle to award the work contract on behalf of the city to the lowest bidder, as long as the bid is within the allotted budget amount.

This is something the city has never done before, but Doyel told Council it would shave at least three weeks off the process because the project bid wouldn’t have to go back to council to be awarded.

Councilman Francisco Ramirez commended the public works department for streamlining the project and making sure things run as efficiently as possible.

The Council voted unanimously to solicit bids and pre-authorized Pyle to award and execute the contract on behalf of the city. Once a bid is awarded, installation is expected to begin in January.

Doyel said whoever gets the contract will have a lot of infrastructure to install, so the city is expecting all the meters to be done in about a six-month time period.

After the new water meter is installed, the customers will then switch to the metered rate, which Doyel said is usually less than the flat rate.

“We’re hoping they’ll see some significant savings once we convert them over to the metered water account,” Doyel said.

Upon completion, every water account in the city will have a meter, Doyel said.