Senior Gazette

Fall 2006
by Carol Schmitkons,
Amherst Township Senior Service Director

Home-Delivered Meal Program

In the fall, we send out surveys to all who have participated in our meal program during the previous year.  We ask them what they have liked about the program and what changes they would like to see made.  They also help make the decision as to whether the current meal provider should be retained for the next year, or if we should get meals from another source in the area.  We try our best to gear our program to the needs of those we serve.

The winter months will soon be upon us once again and perhaps you don’t find it as easy to get to the grocery store or to cook for yourself as you did when you were younger and had more energy and your health was better.  Why not let us help you out?  Getting a hot meal once a day and having someone check on you to make sure you are OK sure can brighten up those the gloomy winter days.  The meal cost is based on your income level, so if you need to stretch your monthly income, this may be a way we can help you. 

Think Fast to Minimize Stroke Effects

Fewer than one in five Americans can recognize even one stroke symptom.  Stroke is the leading cause of death in America.  Recognizing stroke symptoms and reacting quickly to get treatment can save lives and minimize stroke effects or even reverse them.  The National Stroke Association has launched a campaign to make recognizing a stroke easy.  Just think F.A.S.T.

  • Face - Ask the person to smile.  Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms – Ask the person to hold both arms up evenly.  Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.  Are the words slurred or mixed up?
  • Time – If the person shows any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.  Brain cells are dying.
Up to 80 % of strokes are preventable.  Stop smoking, keep blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes under control, and manage atrial fibrillation (a condition where the heart beats irregularly) to reduce stroke risk.  More information about strokes can be found by contacting the National Stroke Association at 1-800-STROKES or go to their website www.strokes.org.

Safeguarding Your Social Security Number

Recently, we have heard much in the news about identity theft and lost VA information that contained Social Security numbers.  Why all the fuss?

Your Social Security number is the key that unlocks the door to a wealth of information about you personally.  Much of it could spell disaster if it got into the hand of any criminal.  Social Security is working hard at trying to prevent this from happening.  Here are some things they have recently done:

  • Specific proofs of age, identity, and citizenship are required for anyone applying for new or replacement Social Security cards.
  • All documents that are used as proof must either be originals or copies certified by the issuing agency.  Photocopies or notarized copies will no longer be accepted.
  • Social Security numbers have been removed from all benefits checks.  Only the last 4 digits are used on Social Security mailings.

Here are some additional ways you can protect your information:

  • Keep your Social Security Card in a safe place with your other important papers.  Do not carry it with you unless you need to show it to an employer or a service provider.
  • Giving your social security number is voluntary.  If it is requested, ask how it will be used and why it is needed.

Vision Impairment

Vision impairment is one of the most feared disabilities among Americans.  Although it is believed that half of all blindness could be prevented, vision loss continues to increase.  Age-related eye diseases are the leading causes.  The number of older Americans affected by age-related eye diseases, such as retinopathy, cataract, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, is expected to double over the next 30 years.  The best ways to minimize these problems are 1) to schedule regular preventative eye exams, 2) to manage diabetes, 3) to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from too much UV radiation from the sun, and 4) to control your cigarette and alcohol consumption & diet.  To learn more about these diseases and how you may be able to preserve your vision, visit www.preventblindness.org


Medicare Part D Update

How the Coverage Gap Works

After most Medicare Part D plan deductibles of $250 have been met, people only pay 25% of the cost for their next $2000 worth of medication.  Then comes the period called the “coverage gap” or “donut hole” when individuals who are on expensive medications must pick up the next $3600 of their medications on their own with no subsidizing from the government.  Currently, the government is saying only 10% of those covered by Part D will fall into this category.  Is there any help available for those who do enter this dark, scary money pit?  Here are some things these people can do:

  • Keep using your Medicare drug plan card even while in the “coverage gap”. The card insures you’ll get the Drug Plan’s negotiated discount rates and the money you spend counts toward your catastrophic coverage, which begins once you have spent $3600 out-of-pocket for drug costs in a calendar year.
  • Ask your doctor about generic or less expensive brand-name drugs that would work just as well as the ones you’re taking now.  Switching to a lower cost drug is often enough to help you avoid the “coverage gap”.
  • Look into other “wraparound” coverage sources that you may be able to qualify for.  Check with current or former employers, unions, and State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs.  Here in Ohio, if you are on very expensive medications, consider choosing the “Humana Complete” plan for next year.  It has a higher premium, but your medication cost stays the same all year long, even during the “coverage gap”.  In the long run, the most expensive plan will save you a lot of money since you will not be paying the full price of your drugs during the “coverage gap” period.
  • Look into Patient Assistance Programs like RxAssist, Xubex, Free Medicine and Wellpoint.  They will help during thegap period” or if your medication is very expensive even with Part D coverage.  These programs all have Internet sites, but if you do not have Internet access, please call Carol at 988-5822.  She will be able to tell you if your medication is on their formulary list, the program requirements, and how to apply.
  • Explore National and Community-based charitable programs that might offer assistance.  Examples of these are the “National Patient Advocate Foundation” or “National Organization for Rare Diseases”.

ATTSO
OFFICE HOURS
8:00 A.M. – NOON  (M-F)

Open Enrollment Period

Remember, seniors who have delayed enrolling in Medicare Part D, those who wish to change plans or who just want to make sure their current plan is still the best choice for them if their medications have changed, may do so by calling Carol at 988-5822 during the 2006 open enrollment period, which begins November 15th and continues through December 31st.  Coverage changes will go into effect on January 1st, 2007.  If you failed to sign up for a plan before the May 15, 2006 deadline, you will have to pay a $2.24 a month premium penalty (which is applied on top of the regular plan premium) and starts in January.  After that, the next enrollment period will not begin until November 15, 2007, when the premium penalty will grow to $6.08 per month.  Only seniors with very low incomes and assets will not be affected by the premium penalty calculated at 1% for each month of delay in enrolling.

The Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP) is planning a “Medicare Re-Enrollment Day” for Lorain County on Tuesday, December 5th at the Lorain County Community College from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  From 10:00-11:30 there will be speakers from OSHIIP, Social Security, and Jobs and Family Services to help people understand the changes for 2007.  They can also answer questions about the current program.  From 1:00-4:00, OSHIIP counselors will be on hand to run plan comparisons and to help seniors make changes.  If you are unable to attend, you can call Carol to answer your questions or to schedule a home visit.


How to Arrange
for a Ride

Seniors needing rides to doctor appointments should call Charlotte Metez at the Lorain County Office on Aging to arrange for pick up.  You can reach her at 244-6261 (Lorain) or 326-4826 (Elyria) and her extension is 4826.  Please call as soon as you know the time & date of your doctor appointment.  The Amherst Twp. Senior Service Office will only be assisting clients who have a non-life-threatening emergency or short notice for an appointment.  You may call 988-5822 for help with those needs.