AuthorChris Fulton

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Baby it’s Cold Outside

The Metro East region of Illinois has experienced record breaking low temperatures.  We are not use to this.  Winter temperatures in the St. Louis Region range from an average high of 40 degrees and average low of 24 degrees.  When the temperature and wind chill drop below zero it seems that many residents are caught off guard.  These frigid temperatures are especially dangerous for the very old.  Older people lose body heat faster.  That is why it is critical that we are checking on our elderly relatives and neighbors.

Tips for elders in cooler temperatures

  • ·        Elders should keep their homes at 68 degrees and above.  Even a slightly colder home can lead to hypothermia.
  • ·       When inside, elders should wear long underwear under clothes and also wear socks and slippers.
  • ·       When outside hats, scarves, gloves, mittens and layers of loose clothing are a must.  Frostbite can happen in a matter of minutes.
  • ·       It important to check with your doctor to determine if any medications being taken can cause hypothermia.

For more tips on how to stay warm check out the National Institute on Aging’s publication, Stay Safe in Cold Weather.

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Spend Time during the Holidays Discussing Strategies to Address Financial Exploitation With Older Family Members

As financial exploitation targeting older adults continues to become more prevalent in the United States, the Area Agency on Aging of Southwestern Illinois joined a nationwide campaign to encourage older adults and their families to address the issue and to get informed about the warning signs and resources available to help prevent abuse.  Research shows that as many as 5 million older adults are victims of elder abuse each year and financial exploitation costs seniors an estimated $3 billion annually.

The Area Agency on Aging is encouraging older adults, caregivers and their families to use their time together this holiday season to discuss and get informed about strategies to prevent financial exploitation by encouraging families to take steps to prevent financial exploitation this holiday season.

The holiday season is an ideal time for families to get together and discuss issues with their older family members.  The Area Agency on Aging strongly encourages all families to take some time to learn about the warning signs so that they can ask the right questions and take the right precautions to ensure that the finances of older adult family members are safe.

There are several signs of financial exploitation for families to look out for, including financial activity that is inconsistent with an older adults past financial history; confusion about recent financial arrangements; changes to key documents that have not been authorized; a caregiver or beneficiary who refuses to use designated funds for necessary care and treatment of an older adult; and an older adult who feels threatened by a caregiver or another individual who is seeking to control their finances.

Families that are concerned about financial exploitation should report the issue to state agencies that deal with protecting the safety and well-being of older adults.  The campaign, which encourages older adults and their families to plan and be cautious, released tips to help prevent financial exploitation, some of which include:

·     Get an estate plan in place. Talk with an attorney about creating a durable power of attorney for asset management; a living will; a revocable, or living, trust; and health care advance directives.

·     Learn how to avoid fraud and scams at

·     Consult with a trusted person before making any large purchases or investments.

·     Do not provide personal information (i.e. Social Security number, credit card, ATM PIN number) over the phone unless you placed the call and know with whom you are speaking.

  • If you hire someone to help you in your home, ensure that they have been properly screened with criminal background checks completed.  Ask for certifications when appropriate.
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What We Do

“How can we help you?”  Is the most common phrase said at the Area Agency on Aging of Southwestern Illinois.  Life can be complicated and when changes occur due to health, family dynamics, finances, etc., help is needed to make good decisions.  The Area Agency on Aging can help older persons and their caregivers by providing answers on Aging.

The Area Agency on Aging is an independent not-for-profit organization that exists solely for the benefit of older persons and caregivers.  Empowering persons 60 and older and their caregivers to live safely in respectful and choice-filled communities allowing productive, secure and self fulfilled lives is the Agency’s focus.  Envisioning a world in which aging is positive is the vision of the Agency.

Services the Area Agency on Aging can help older persons with are:

Answers on Aging

Elder Abuse Investigation

Employment for Older Adults

Legal Services

Long Term Care Ombudsman

Meals on Wheels

Medicare Counseling

Nutrition Sites

Pharmaceutical Assistance

Transportation Services

No matter where you live, help is close by.  The Area Agency on Aging is part of a network of 650+ Area Agencies throughout the nation.  Every county in America has an Area Agency on Aging that can be located through the eldercare locator at or by calling 1-800-677-1116.

For local Answers on Aging call 1-800-326-3221 or visit our web site at

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Helping to Stop Health Care Fraud

Health care fraud, waste, and abuse cost American taxpayers nearly $60 billion each year. Medicare and Medicaid consumers are an essential element in national fraud fighting efforts. Consumers are best positioned to detect and report abuse and the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) aims to empower them to do so through education and advocacy. The Area Agency on Aging hosts the regional SMP to help with this effort in Southern Illinois.  The goal of the SMP Program is to train seniors to recognize and report fraud. 

The national Senior Medicare Patrol program is working to strengthen Medicare by using these regional offices to recruit and train retired professionals and other senior citizens to recognize and report both health care billing errors and suspected instances of health care fraud. Each year nearly 4,500 volunteers, trained by regional SMP offices conduct community outreach and peer-to-peer training to help Medicare consumers:

             • Identify potential scams and other fraudulent activity

                • Protect their personal information including Medicare and Social Security numbers     

                • Detect errors on their Medicare Summary Notices (MSNs) or Explanations of Benefits 

            • Report suspected fraud or abuse to the proper authorities

One might wonder if fraud happens locally.  It does happen.  Recently, a local provider was sentenced to prison for fraudulent billing and money laundering and was sentenced to five years and 10 months in federal prison and three years’ probation after pleading guilty to 14 counts of health care fraud and one count of money laundering.  The provider admitted to keeping almost no records and creating fake documents to bill 14 companies or health insurance funds more than $2 million since 2006.  This provider must pay the money back and forfeit more than $900,000 in cash and property, two minivans and a BMW.  This is just one incident.  Imagine the taxpayer dollars that that can be saved by eliminating all cases of fraud. 

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 provides a number of new tools and resources to prevent fraud and strengthen Medicare. The law improves analysis of health care claims data to flag potential scams, strengthens the screening process for health care providers that wish to participate in Medicare and Medicaid, and provides increased penalties for those committing fraud. These new fraud-fighting tools will help the government identify false claims faster, prosecute health care fraud more effectively, and help prevent fraud from occurring in the first place.  If you suspect fraud contact the Area Agency on Aging at 1-800-326-3221.

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Why We’re Here

He came in walking stiff-legged, a thin little man with cloudy blue eyes devoid of lashes. His face was age-spotted, his hair white and thin. My last session had finished early. I heard someone say, “Let me see who can help you” and stuck my head around the corner.

“I have some free time,” I said, waving. “Come on over and have a seat.”

Mr. G. sat down and placed a plastic bag full of insurance papers on the desk. “I went to Social Security first. They sent me here, “he said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

I asked him what had happened. He began to tell me story I’d heard too many times before.

“This lady came to my house,” he began. “She said she could save me money. She asked me a bunch of questions, which I answered. Then she wrote some things down and asked me for a cancelled check. I gave it to her – but,” he added with a flourish, “I wrote ‘CANCELLED’ across it first!”

I carefully asked him questions to get a fuller picture of what had occurred. Did she call you first and schedule an appointment? The law requires salespeople do this – they may NOT just show up on your doorstep. “Yes,” he admitted, “a lady called and said they’d have someone in my neighborhood.” He rolled his eyes, realizing this was likely a ruse.

“They make nice commissions on sales,” I responded. “In this case, what the salesperson did was unethical.”

“I want back in my old plan, the way it was,” he stated. “My doctors don’t even take this. I just barely make it now on my income, I can’t afford this plan.”

“Don’t worry,” I reassured him. “We can fix this. In fact, I think we can get you out of this plan and into one very similar to the one you had, except the new one will cost you even less.

Mr. G. smiled and nodded. We both thought he had signed up for a Medicare Advantage Plan that his doctors did not accept. On examination, we discovered the plan was a type of supplement that was unnecessary, costly and ineffective. I ran a plan-finder for him and we signed him up with the same company he had before, but a plan that actually cost him less and covered his medicines better.

The commission for an agent who sells a Medicare Advantage (Health) Plan can be upwards of $300 each. Insurance is big business. To protect themselves, Medicare recipients should know the rules agents/salespersons are required to obey:

· They may not come to your home uninvited or without an advance appointment.

· They may not approach prospective clients in parking lots, hallways or lobbies.

· They may not offer gifts worth more than $15 to join their plan.

· They may not provide meals at sales presentations.

· They may not try to sell you a plan at educational events.

I ran over a few of these rules with Mr. G. and reminded him that while some salespeople are helpful, some can be unethical. “The best thing to do,” I smiled, “is come see us. We’re not paid by the insurance companies.” The last thing I did for this consumer was add him to the government DO NOT CALL list. “That should cut back on the sales calls in a couple of weeks.”

Mr. G. wobbled just a bit as he stood to leave. “I have to wait a minute for the blood to flow back into my legs.” He stuck out his hand. “I feel like a big weight has come off my shoulders. Thank you so much!”

“No problem, “I answered. “That’s why we’re here.”

Mr. G. was lucky. The staff at the local branch of the Social Security Administration knew just where to send him. By the time he left, he had accomplished more than he realized. Not only was his situation resolved, but the agent who had sold him the unnecessary plan was now on our radar.

We’ll be watching, and taking notes.

For more information on fraud click here.

to find out more about the Area Agency on Aging click here.

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