Reimagine Aging News: January 2015

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In The News

CEO Deb Taylor’s monthly column, which is published in many Minnesota newspapers, focuses on how we can Reimagine Aging to better serve seniors and their caregivers. The most recent newspaper column is available here.

For more stories on aging issues of broad relevance for seniors, their families, and Minnesota communities, visit the Reimagine Aging Institute online.

 

Debt Collectors, Telemarketers Hound Minnesota Seniors


The calls come early in the morning and late into the night. The message is always the same: "We're going to get our money from you, no matter what you do."

Michael, a 77-year-old retiree, now grows anxious and fearful whenever his phone rings. He always assumes it’s the debt collectors who have threatened to garnish his Social Security income. He'd suffered a financial setback after retiring and could not pay his bills. Eventually, the debt was turned over to a collection agency and that's when the calls started. "When they started to threaten garnishment of my fixed income, I knew I could be in real jeopardy," Michael says.

Edna, 80, was hounded by a New Mexico-based organization pressuring her to buy common consumer products at inflated prices. "I was told that a portion of the price would go to help poor children," the kindly grandmother explains. Edna, who suffers from dementia, finally relented, paying $60 for a flimsy $10 ironing board cover. "My mother is very vulnerable and living on a fixed income," explains Edna's daughter, "and she has a hard time saying no to someone."

Betty, an 80-year-old who still works part-time as a realtor, kept getting calls from a political organization claiming she owes them a promised donation. "I never donate over the phone," Betty says. "When you tell them you didn't ever make or promise a donation, they continue on with their script, and when you tell them not to call you back, they keep talking until you are forced to hang up on them. It's so frustrating; drives me to distraction."

Faced with living on a fixed income and an ever-rising cost of living, many seniors spend the 'golden years' juggling bills and battling debt collectors and schemes that target them through their telephones.  

In many cases, older adults are subjected to wrongful debt collection tactics. No one should be forced to accept illegal collection tactics and collectors should not be allowed to exploit vulnerable seniors for profit.

Senior Solutions

It's important to know that Social Security is exempt from collection, something most seniors don't know and debt collectors won't tell them.

Seniors can stop the harassment by filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) (www.consumerfinance.gov) and their state's Attorney General Office. The CFPB reports debt collection is the top complaint for older Americans, with medical debt collection representing 52 percent of collection accounts.

For Minnesota seniors struggling with medical debt, Senior Community Services' Senior Partners Care program is a great solution unknown to many seniors. Senior Community Services has partnered with hundreds of hospitals, clinics and providers statewide. These healthcare providers have agreed to consider waiving all or part of the healthcare debt owed by qualifying seniors.

The decision to waive certain medical debt is made based on a determination of the senior's financial needs. To qualify for Senior Partners Care, Minnesota seniors must receive care by participating medical providers, must have Medicare A & B, meet income and asset thresholds, and submit an application and a modest annual fee. For more information visit www.seniorcommunity.org or call toll-free 1-888-541-5488. 

Older adults - our friends, loved ones, and neighbors - deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Let's Reimagine Aging to better the lives of those we hold most dear.

Sincerely,

Deb Taylor
Chief Executive Officer

HOME Program Expands to Serve Minneapolis Seniors


Senior Community Services' popular HOME (Household & Outside Maintenance for Elderly) program - the state's largest chore services program - is now available to assist seniors living in Minneapolis.

Senior Community Services acquired the household chore program serving Minneapolis seniors from Neighborhood Involvement Program (NIP), which ended direct client services December 31, 2014.

"Senior Community Services is pleased to bring Minneapolis seniors into our program. There is a growing need for services that help struggling and low-income seniors and caregivers maintain independence," says CEO Deb Taylor. "Without this program, many seniors would have to trade their homes for a more structured, and more costly, senior facility."

The expanded HOME program now includes nearly 4,000 volunteers and a larger network of staff handypersons, homemakers, and independent contractors who provide low-cost home repair, cleaning, and maintenance services. 
 
Former NIP Senior Program's Director Jon Burkhow has been hired to lead the expanded HOME program, and former NIP staff member Jeanne Rasmussen is Senior Community Services' new Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator.
 
For more information on the HOME (Household & Outside Maintenance for Elderly) program call 952-746-4046 or visit www.seniorcommunity.org.

"It made a huge difference in helping me see the value of not carrying the load myself."
-Linda



Linda was feeling overwhelmed. In her mid-40s, she became worried when her father’s cancer diagnosis worsened. As the family’s primary caregiver, she knew there would be challenges with organizing finances, planning for end of life care, and ensuring her mother continues to have a fulfilling life. Linda, like many other family caregivers, is not alone. Across Minnesota, more than 90 percent of senior care is provided by family and friends.

Knowing that she could use some extra support, Linda reached out to Senior Community Services. She was immediately connected with Marian, a licensed social worker with the Senior Outreach & Caregiver Services program. Marian explained to Linda the different care options and supported her in choosing a plan that works best for the family. Marian also helped Linda facilitate a care team meeting with her siblings so they could be included in the decision-making.

Linda expressed her gratitude in a note to Marian: “Your time with me on the phone and excellent follow-up made a huge difference in helping me see the value of not carrying the load myself.” Now, Linda’s siblings help with finances, made funeral arrangements for their father, and continue to step up to help with caregiving duties. “Contact with Marian really set this in motion,” says Linda.

Marian is proud to work for Senior Community Services. “Being a social worker in the Senior Outreach program has given me the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of older adults and their caregivers.” 
 
People can be reluctant to ask for help, Marian explains. She believes it’s important to encourage family members to seek help when navigating the complexities of developing and managing a care plan. "It benefits everyone," Marian says.

For more information on resources through the Senior Outreach & Caregiver Services program, or to schedule an assessment, please call 952-767-7888 or visit http://seniorcommunity.org/programs/senior-outreach-caregiver-services/

*Correction: In last month's Happy File story, the volunteers' church was incorrectly identified. They are from Grace Church of Eden Prairie. We regret the error.

CareNextion: Simplifying Caregiving


Senior Community Services' innovative CareNextion website is being widely used by more families to help manage care of a loved one. The free, easy-to-use site lets caregivers and families communicate, coordinate care, and access valuable resources. Families and friends can use this tool no matter where they live.

Visit www.carenextion.org for more information. To speak with a staff member, please call 612-770-7005.

Why We Give

 

"We got everything squared away with your help."
-Leroy & Rosemary

 
Let's face it; reviewing the complex options for Medicare coverage is not very fun; most people have plenty of questions. Leroy and Rosemary, retired Loretto residents, felt a bit overwhelmed by all the material. They're thankful for Senior Community Services’ Medicare and Health Insurance Counseling program which they participated in last fall. The program provides free and unbiased help to more than a thousand Minnesota seniors annually.

To show their appreciation, Leroy and Rosemary made a tax-deductible gift to the Medicare and Health Insurance Counseling program. They wrote, “We got everything squared away with your help. You did a great job of explaining things and helped us change companies to save money. Thank you for all of your help.”

As a nonprofit organization, serving seniors and caregivers in need, Senior Community Services depends on individual donations to provide valuable assistance, such as unbiased Medicare and Health Insurance Counseling, to older adults.

One-on-one Medicare counseling can be found at 20 sites in Hennepin and Wright counties. To view a list of sites, click here. Medicare counseling is also available by phone for any Minnesota resident, through community education classes, and private counseling sessions by appointment.
Honor a friend or loved one with a tax-deductible gift to Senior Community Services. Your gift of $35, $60, $150 or an amount of your choosing will make life better for low-income seniors who need help maintaining independence.  

You may give securely online.

Checks may be mailed to: 
Senior Community Services
Attn: Development 
10201 Wayzata Blvd. Suite 335
Minnetonka, MN 55305

Thank you for making a difference in the lives of seniors.

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