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Sheriolyn Curry

 

By Rev. Sheriolyn Curry, CSA

There is a renewed interest over the use of comfort care as a planned, managed care option for persons afflicted with chronic illness, are terminally ill or are frail.

Here, the term terminal refers to a progressive disease that is incurable and irreversible; that is, it no longer responds to treatment and death is usually the expected result within a short period of time.

Choosing to receive “comfort care” does not mean you are giving up, you have decided to die or you will receive no medical care. Comfort care might not be as aggressive as other life-prolonging measures, but it is medical care.

With the advances in modern technology, there are very aggressive measures available that can be used to treat many illnesses. However, when faced with a terminal illness, people are choosing quality of life over quantity of days.

Comfort care really is about choices. When one is faced with a decision about long-term care for a chronic illness, the focus often turns to comfort measures for symptom control – managing pain, eliminating nausea or anxiety, etc. It can also include choices as to where and how often one wants to receive care. Many are opting for the comforts of home. Other choose the loving environment of a hospice facility.

Barbara Bush recently brought to light the discussion over comfort care when she publicly announced that as her treatment of choice before her passing in April. When people get to choose how they want to manage their care, they are more empowered in the process. Research suggests that on some level, they ultimately feel better about making the decision. They become partners in their own life’s journey.

There are opinions that associate choosing comfort care with giving up, and it is not, not at all. Comfort care still looks forward, it just no longer seeks a cure or a reversal of the condition. Done well, comfort care is a planned care option in which the patient, family members and care team discuss and agree on the course of action. It can be spiritually honoring for the care recipient, and provide peace of mind for the family. And there is no right or wrong way to feel about considering comfort care as your choice.

I pray this column brings peace to your soul. If you need us, call us at 480-659-9201. We are Comfort Keepers.

Sheriolyn Curry, CSA, is the owner of Comfort Keepers of Maricopa.


This column appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

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By Joan Koczor

U.S. passport fees are going up $10, effective April 2. Adult passport books will be $145, children 16 and younger $115.

Joan Koczor

The less expensive passport cards, which are good for border crossings and travel by sea to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean but are not valid for international air travel, will increase to $65 for adults and $50 for children.

The price hike is due to an increase in the passport acceptance, or “execution,” fee. The U.S. State Department says it is increasing the passport acceptance fee from $25 to $35 to better cover the costs of processing passport applications.

The $10 increase does not apply to passport renewals by mail. Application fees, the biggest part of the cost of a passport, are not increasing.

This year, travelers from some states may need a passport card and not just a boarding pass and driver’s license to get through domestic airport security. While Arizona is already compliant with the REAL ID Act, which went into effect in January, other states received an extension to become compliant.

Ohio, for instance, is scheduled to become compliant in July, and Michigan will be compliant in October. Until then, travelers from those and other non-compliant states may need to show TSA agents a passport card.

REAL ID established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses (and ID cards) and prohibits the Transportation Security Administration from accepting cards that don’t meet the standards.

Passport cards were largely designed to be a smaller, less expensive alternative to a traditional passport book. It serves the same purpose as a regular passport book in that it allows you to prove both your U.S. citizenship and your identity while you’re traveling around the world. Instead of being a large book such as a passport book, a passport card is similar in size to a traditional credit card.

It also contains a radio frequency identification chip, also commonly referred to as RFID, as a security measure to help protect against identity theft.

Travel.State.gov

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Board.

Source: https://go.usa.gov/xn7Ph


This column appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

ShutterStock

 

A citywide, free program aims to assist its homebound residents through phone calls and social visits.

The You Are Not Alone (YANA) program launched in 2015 and has since saved lives, said Mary Witkofski, Maricopa’s community programs manager.

Maricopa Police Department volunteers make weekly phone calls to participants. If contact is not made after three attempts, an emergency contact person is notified.

That’s what happened one Fourth of July two years ago when a woman was not answering a volunteer’s calls.

“The emergency contact, thank goodness, lives down the street,” Witkofski said. “He went (to her house) and actually found his mother laying on the floor.”

Emergency responders transported her to a local hospital where she eventually recovered.

Situations like these, Witkofski said, are reasons YANA is effective; and in cases where an emergency contact person cannot be reached, YANA volunteers will enlist the help of MPD.

In addition to the weekly calls, volunteers connect with participants by making quarterly, planned visits to their homes.

Witkofski said the volunteers socialize, play card games and have conversations with the residents.

Volunteers pass a fingerprint and background clearance and then go through training. MPD volunteers are mandatory reporters to adult protective services and have learned to identify signs of late-life domestic violence, abuse, depression, identity theft and scam.

Vice Mayor Peg Chapados, a senior advocate through Maricopa Seniors Inc., said YANA is a valuable resource for seniors living alone “because it’s a way to ‘stay connected’ and let people know that there is always someone who cares about their well-being.”

Generally, program participants are over 65 and live alone or are alone during the day and have limited mobility.

“(YANA’s purpose) is to maintain their independence, not take it away from them and I think that’s an important piece,” Witkofski said.

Age is not necessarily a qualifying condition, however. Those who have disabilities or are at home recovering from a procedure and are alone during the day are also are eligible for the program.

Qualified, part-time residents are also eligible to enroll while they are living in the city.

The program currently has 19 enrollees and Witkofski would like to see more.

“We definitely have room for growth,” she said.

YANA partners with community and social service agencies like the Maricopa Public Library’s All Access Homebound Delivery, COMET transit, Age-Friendly Committee and the Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens to provide additional resources for its participants.

The program came about after the city conducted a human-needs assessment which identified a gap in senior assistance.

Witkofski said participants who are hearing impaired can opt for a weekly text message instead of phone call.

520-316-6800, ext. 1234
vaps@Maricopa-AZ.gov


This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

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Joan Koczor

By Joan Koczor

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is estimated to affect 25.8 million Americans. In the United States, about one in four people over age 60 has diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. It is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.

Diabetes doesn’t allow your body to make enough insulin or isn’t able to use its own insulin as well as it should, resulting in a buildup of sugar in your blood. Serious health complications can include heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and lower-extremity amputations.

There are two types of diabetes: Type 1, which requires insulin as medication, may start as early as childhood; Type 2 is sometimes called adult-onset diabetes. The most common Type 2 may be hereditary. It is more common in people who are overweight.

The ABC method is used for managing diabetes and any complications: A for the A1C test, B for blood pressure and C for cholesterol. Controlling blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol can aid in reducing the risk of long-term complications.

A1C test measures your average blood glucose for the past 2-3 months. Normal A1C levels are less than 5.7 percent. Levels for diabetes is 6.5 percent or higher. Prediabetes levels are 5.7 to 6.4 percent.

Pain or numbness in the hands and feet, extreme fatigue and blurry vision are just a few of the warning signs you might be at risk for diabetes. Check with your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Early detection and treatment can decrease the risk of complications.

Living with a chronic condition, such as diabetes, can leave you feeling tired or depressed. Some days will be harder to get through than others.

Take care of your emotional health. Diet, exercise and taking time to relax are very important and contribute to your overall health. Have regular checkups. Do simple things that you enjoy. Go to a movie. Take a mini road trip. Read a book.

And more importantly, keep informed. Make a list of questions and take them with you to your next doctor appointment.

Diabetes.org, for American Diabetes Association 2018 Standards of Care

ChooseMyPlate.gov, for USDA information on the five food groups and how to adjust portions to insure healthy eating

ndep.nih.gov, National Diabetes Education Program to improve treatment and outcome

Ref: American Diabetes Association

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee.


This column appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

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Al Brandenburg

By Al Brandenburg

At the Senior Info/Expo Jan. 20, we had hundreds of seniors (and several children of seniors) stop by our Maricopa Multi-Cultural Consortium table to talk with us about the need for improved coordination and distribution of senior services as well as a senior center in Maricopa.

MMCC was formed to help Maricopa get its act together for seniors. We recognize Maricopa’s seniors are missing out on some programs and services from the county and state because there is no senior center here, no place for those programs and services to land. Sure, we’d love to have a senior center– something like the senior center Florence built into its central library. Perhaps we can do the same when Maricopa builds its central library. But that’s several years down the road and, unfortunately, beyond the life expectancy of many of today’s seniors.

We recognize we need at least an interim solution: a place for today’s senior programs and services to land and a person to manage their distribution – services such as legal assistance, health counseling and Meals on Wheels, to name just a few. These services are provided in one form or another throughout Pinal County, but not in Maricopa.

Several seniors at the Expo were quite vocal about our situation – one woman pounding her fist on our table, saying in a forceful voice: “Darn right, we need a senior center.” Many others expressed frustration more services for seniors were not provided locally. Some people with senior parents said they would consider moving to Maricopa if only there were somewhere their parents could go and spend their time.

If you’re a senior living in the Maricopa area or if you have senior parents who live here, please contact me at the MMCC so we can put you on our email list and keep you informed.

Al Brandenburg is a board member of Maricopa Multi-Cultural Consortium.
abranden80@gmail.com


This column appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

MMCC gathered opinions on a senior center at the city’s Senior Info/Expo.

Joan Koczor

By Joan Koczor

The meaning of the American Dream has seen many changes since first introduced as early as the 1600s.

The American Dream is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, which states “all men are created equal” with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Freelance writer James Adams popularized the phrase “American Dream” in his 1931 book “Epic of America.” in his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. based the civil rights movement in the African American quest for the American Dream.

As young adults, many believed they could achieve the American Dream by working hard, saving a little to provide an education for their kids so they could have a better life than they did, and retire with sufficient funds to see them through their retirement or golden years – hopefully, mortgage- and debt-free.

The new reality is people are living longer, more expensive lives with very little money in reserve.

The result is Americans older than 65 are working – nearly 1 in 5. Over the past decade those numbers have risen faster than any other age group. Today there are 9 million seniors working compared to 4 million in 2000.

Some seniors are returning to the workforce by choice while others are returning out of need. A recent poll showed many older people are more concerned with running out of money than dying.

Theresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist said, “There is no part of the country where the majority of middle-class older workers have adequate retirement savings to maintain their standard of living in their retirement.”

Seniors are traveling the nation looking for seasonal jobs offering hourly wages and few or no benefits.

Amazon’s Camper Force program hires thousands of seniors to box online orders during the Christmas rush. Walmart has hired many elderly employees as greeters and cashiers. Websites such as Workamper News have been created listing various types of jobs.

This is not the case with all seniors. There are some who have adequate funds to enjoy a carefree lifestyle. That makes some of us wonder where we went wrong. How did they accumulate all that money?

A little grim? Reality can be like that.

Ask yourself – how important are money and possessions. You can’t put a dollar amount on sharing each day with the person you love, and having reasonably good health, a place to call home, food on the table and friends to share the good times and bad.

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee.

 

Changes to Medicare cards coming

Medicare (CMS) is developing a new number which will replace the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number on the Medicare cards. CMS will be mailing new Medicare cards between April 2018 and April 2019 to all individuals with Medicare.

The new Medicare card will:

  1. have a new number unique to the individual.
  2. no longer contain the social security number of the individual.
  3. not change the Medicare coverage or benefits for the individual.

To ensure timely receipt of the new Medicare card, ensure your mailing address is up-to-date. If the individual needs, they may do so Visit SocialSecurity.gov or call toll-free 1-800-772-1213 to correct your address. TTY users can call 1-800-325-0778. You can also write or visit any Social Security office.

Reminder: Medicare will never contact the individual to request personal information. The individual needs to protect their new Medicare number like their Social Security number and only share it with trusted providers.

Source: Pinal County Newsletter


This column appears in part in the February issue of InMaricopa.

Harry Dieffenbach of Province has been building models since he was a child in New York City. One of his displays can be seen at the Province Village Center. Photo by Victor Moreno

By Fran Lyons

Harry Dieffenbach began his lifelong love affair with model-building when he was a kid in New York City. He started with aircraft models, which he built throughout his youth and even into war.

Dieffenbach joined the U.S. Navy in 1942 during World War II. He traveled the seas serving his country until 1946.

“I was not sure where I wanted to land after leaving the service,” he said.

He didn’t actually “land” at all, taking an assignment with the U.S. Weather Bureau doing weather patrol at sea for the Coast Guard. The On Station patrols were 21 days plus travel time to and from port. The long days could be pretty monotonous.

“I recall when I went to sea in September of 1948, the weather was wild. Just before my second patrol I bought a model ship kit to pass the time. ‘What the hell are you building that for; I’ll give you a set of ship plans,’ barked the chief engineer. It was actually the ship we were on. That’s how I got the bug to scratchbuild (modeling to scale),” Dieffenbach said.

Scratchbuilding requires everything be meticulously researched, planned and painstakingly reproduced to scale to the last detail. “It gets tedious at times, and I got a T-shirt that often described my mood – ‘Salty, Old, Navy Vet,’” he said.

After leaving the Weather Bureau in 1951, Dieffenbach went to school to study engineering. Sometime later, he made a career move and secured a position at Fairfield Camera and Instruments in California, where he did machine designing and work on semi-conductors, computers and photo equipment. His career, adding to his skills of precision and attention to detail, dovetailed well with his passion for modeling.

Among the high-points of his life, Dieffenbach includes 50 years of marriage. After becoming a widower, meeting a wonderful life companion, Esther Carrarini. They have been together over 15 years and both love Maricopa.

“From traveling the world together to living in Maricopa and sailing the model ships on our serene lake, life with Harry is always an adventure,” she said.

They relocated from Reno, Nevada, and have lived 11 years in Province. They love to travel, particularly on riverboat cruises. Their favorite destination is Italy. Harry said, rather gleefully, “I moved to Maricopa for the weather, the lifestyle and also to get away from my children.”

Dieffenbach has two sons, five grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Within a year of living in Maricopa, Province offered to host an impressive display of Harry’s work in the Village Center. He also has a ship – the ice breaker “Eastwind” – on display in a museum in Newbury Port, Massachusetts. In a special event, Dieffenbach donated his model “The Water Witch” to Helping Hands in Maricopa.

“Amazing, just amazing to see,” Carrarini said of the Province display. “The finest details of the smokestacks, the cannons and hatch-covers are totally built from scratch. Also, these models are built to sail on water. We enjoy going to one of the lakes in Province to sail a ship. I like to watch, but on occasion I have to grab Harry by the shirt-tails so he doesn’t fall in.”

Dieffenbach, now 93, experienced another high-point in his life last year. In September, he and 20 other veterans of WWII, ranging in age from 90 to 98, were invited on a trip to Washington, D.C., sponsored by a generous donor from Texas. They were taken on a sight-seeing tour, starting their day at 6 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m. They visited all the monuments and memorials dedicated to those who served our country. The highlights for Harry were the Vietnam Wall and the Korean and WWII memorials.

He said the Vietnam War Memorial “brought tears to my eyes.”

“This trip was just outstanding. Being acknowledged that we served, and being greeted at the airport by so many people when we arrived was spectacular.”

“To be able to share my life at this point in time, is very important to me,” Dieffenbach said. “Connecting with people gives me a sense of satisfaction and contribution.”



This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

Silver Sneakers exercise classes are geared toward older adults. Photo by Michelle Chance

 

Doctors generally suggest regular activity is good for the body and mind, but as bodies age, keeping an exercise routine may prove difficult.

Only 28 to 34 percent of adults ages 65 to 74 are physically active, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Silver Sneakers is a program that offers free access to athletic classes and is often covered by Medicare and other types of insurance.

Copper Sky Recreation Center and Anytime Fitness provide Silver Sneakers classes in Maricopa.

“It’s primarily designed for adults age 65 years and older, but it’s just a low-intensity exercise program that is really appropriate for a lot of different populations,” said Stephanie Murphy, Silver Sneakers instructor at Copper Sky.

Murphy said the program is also beneficial for people with physical limitations and disabilities, regardless of age.

Copper Sky morning classes meet upstairs in a large dance studio at 9:30, Monday through Thursdays.

Led by Murphy’s direction and motivated by an upbeat, music playlist, participants transition from standing to seated exercises.

“There are a lot of options and a lot of variety in terms of exercise that are available and different modifications that people can do,” Murphy said.

It’s not just classes but a general health program. When 88-year-old Bryan Mitchell moved to Maricopa a couple years ago, he checked out Copper Sky’s resources.

“They said, ‘Are you Silver Sneakers?’ And I said, ‘What the hell is that?’ They said, ‘If you’re on Medicare, you may qualify.’ So, I checked, and sure enough, I do qualify, so I play out here for nothing. You can’t beat that.”

Murphy has taught Silver Sneakers classes for a year and a half and said she frequently sees improvements in balance and flexibility. Copper Sky offers four Silver Sneakers classes (classic, cardio, circuit and splash).

“I love being able to make the joy of exercise accessible to people of all ages and abilities and fitness levels,” Murphy said.


This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.


Bryan Mitchell, 88, plays pickleball twice a week at Copper Sky. Photo by Victor Moreno

 

Bryan Mitchell will be 89 years old in April. A retired executive, he takes physical fitness seriously. On his own or with new friends, he has a fitness regimen for every week day.

“I watch my diet so that I get the right foods, but I don’t necessarily cut back on the sweets, so I gotta keep working at it,” he said.

A resident of the Redwood neighborhood of Glennwilde, Mitchell came to Maricopa after his 2015 retirement. It was actually his second retirement.

A native of Chicago, he worked his first career there with what was then the A.C. Neilsen Company (now The Neilsen Corporation). As a controller in the mid-‘80s, he was among staff transferred to New York. After two years, the struggling company reorganized and laid off those employees.

Opting not to return to Chicago, Mitchell took early retirement and became a real estate broker. It was his occupation for 28 years in New York, even after his wife died in 2012. He finally called it quits at the age of 86.

His daughter, Susan Bellfield, had moved to Maricopa to be near friends around 2005. She thought the community would be a good fit for her father. So, when she stayed with him after his retirement, she talked him into moving to Arizona.

“I like the weather here,” he said. “And it’s less expensive to live here.”

Attributing Mitchell’s long, independent life at least in part to physical activity is an easy assumption. He used to play tennis and racquetball. Once he moved to Maricopa, he was ready to try something new both for activity and society.

He heard talk at his church about one of the congregants playing pickleball in Province, and he set out to find out what it was and where it might be available to non-Province residents.

That led him to Copper Sky, where he fell in with a motley crew.

“I enjoyed it right from the beginning,” Mitchell said. “It took me a little while to learn it, but it’s really a lot of fun. I look forward to it. They’re a great bunch of people here, too. They’re a lot of fun to play with.”

Now he plays pickleball with a growing group of players at Copper Sky on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, he hits the treadmill at home, where he lives with “a little dog that’s about as old as I am in dog years.”

Mitchell promotes the benefits of pickleball to others looking for light recreation to stay active.

“It’s a great sport for almost any age and any condition,” he said. “You have people who are overweight, people who are underweight, old people, younger people. It’s good for everybody. And you get good exercise from it because they run you around.”


This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

 

Ted Yocum (from left), Bob Marsh and Al Brandenburg are co-founders of Maricopa Multi Cultural Consortium. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

 

A local nonprofit is trimming its expectations of building a community center, focusing instead on a senior center.

“Maricopa is the only city in Arizona without a senior center,” Al Brandenburg said, an officer for the Maricopa Multi Cultural Consortium. “Why not? Why don’t we have one here?”

The group took up the cause last year as reality sank in that the Copa Center would be demolished for the overpass. They formed the Maricopa Multi Cultural Consortium to acquire land and build a building, envisioning meeting rooms, kitchen, stage, classrooms, museum and storage. But that stalled.

In an agreement the City worked with Maricopa Unified School District, seniors now have dedicated space at Santa Cruz Elementary School for recreation. “And that’s wonderful for the moment,” said Bob Marsh, another MMCC founder. “But people need a place to land.”

MMCC will be one of about 30 exhibitors at this year’s Senior Info/Expo Jan. 20 at City Hall.

“We’ve talked to folks,” said Ted Yocum, an MMCC co-founder. “They tell us, ‘We would love to have Mom and Dad living near us, but there’s nothing in Maricopa for them.’”

The needs, Marsh said, are more than having a place to play cards. They want a gathering spot with room for senior programs on health, taxes, exercise, meals and entertainment. They need grant-writing expertise to fund both a building and the programming.

MMCC continues to battle the misconception all seniors have access to Province, which is a high-end, gated community with amenities available only to its residents. Yocum said about a third of seniors are living on Social Security checks of less than $1,000 a month.

2018 is an election year for city council, and Marsh said MMCC is “going to intersect with people running for office” in hopes that a segment of the population with a lot of votes will get more attention.

“There’s a voice that needs to be heard,” Yocum said.


This story appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

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Joan Koczor

By Joan Koczor

As with every new year, we can expect changes in 2018.

The increase in transportation costs, fires and flooding throughout the United States all have an impact on the cost of food and household goods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the retail price of food — everything from eggs to beef – will increase by 1-2 percent.

Expect an increase in the most popular health insurance plans. The demand for natural gas is expected to exceed supply, resulting in an increase in cost. According to the National Park Services, entry fees for America’s most popular national parks will rise during peak visitation times.

The U.S. Postal Service announced price increases for letter delivery and priority mail. UPS announced an average of 4.9 percent for package, air freight and freight delivery. FedEx will raise rates for express, ground, freight and FedEx One Rate Pricing.

Movie theaters are considering increasing the ticket price of the more popular movies and lowering the price of less popular movies.

Changes in Social Security in 2018 have yet to be announced. Will benefits increase? How restrictive are the guidelines in the new or modified program? Will the changes affect your ability to get by each month? Sixty-six million Americans, including 46 million seniors, may be affected.

The Social Security Administration released its “adjustment reports” for 2018. Changes you can expect to Social Security in 2018 are:

A “sort of” raise. This year, seniors will receive a 2-percent increase in Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA hasn’t been this high in six years), which amounts to $27 per month on average.

The maximum Social Security benefit for those who will begin collecting benefits at full retirement age will increase to $2,788 in 2018.

Full retirement age will rise in 2018. Those born between 1943 and 1954 must wait until they reach 66 years of age to receive 100 percent of their monthly benefit. Full retirement age for those born in 1956 is 66 years and 4 months.

More security features will be added to the Social Security website. A two-factor

authentication will be required to access personal information. To log on, users must enter a one-time code and a username and password.

New Medicare cards will contain a combination of letters and numbers offering a better level of protection.

This is just a sampling of what to expect in 2018. Understandably, change is not always welcome. We become accustomed to our day-to-day and don’t appreciate something new. For some, change can add a level of anticipation to see what the day will bring.

Embrace each day – changes and all.

Joan Koczor is a senior advocate and a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee


This column appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.


By Joan Koczor

Joan Koczor

Open enrollment in Medicare begins Oct. 15.

Rebecca Jennings, program director for Medicare from Pinal Gila Council for Seniors, will give a presentation about Medicare on Oct. 23 at Maricopa City Hall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On July 30, 1965, as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935, President Lyndon B. Johnson made Medicare law by signing H.R. 6675 in Independence, Missouri. Former President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare’s first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card. Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who, in 1945, became the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative opposed by Congress at the time.

Medicare is a single-payer, national, social insurance program administered by the federal government. Coverage for this program became effective in 1966. Some 19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect in 1966

Many people are already enrolled in Medicare, and many of you may be eligible for coverage beginning in 2018.

To better understand what open enrollment is about – before you make any major changes to your existing coverage – here are a few of the plans offered:

Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) Costs. Most people don’t pay a Part A premium because they paid Medicare taxes while working. If you don’t get premium-free Part A, you pay up to $413 each month.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) Costs. The standard Part B premium amount in 2017 is $134 (or higher depending on your income). Most people who get Social Security benefits pay less than this because the Part B premium increased more than the cost-of-living increase for 2017 Social Security benefits. If you pay your Part B premium through your monthly Social Security benefit, you pay less ($109 on average). Social Security will tell you the exact amount of your Part B premium.

Medicare Advantage Plan or Part C. If you have Medicare Advantage or Part C, take a few minutes to review your coverage as plan benefits can change year to year. Before open enrollment begins, you should receive an Annual Notice of Change, which provides any changes in your Medicare Advantage plan’s cost, benefits, provider network and other rules as they apply to the coming year. At this time, you can change plans or switch back to Medicare Part A and Part B. Keep in mind if you do switch back, consider a Medicare Supplement to cover what Medicare doesn’t.

Medicare Advantage Plan or Part D. At this time, you can switch your Part D or Medicare Advantage Plan. Also at this time you should receive an Annual Notice of Change. Please review it carefully as drug formularies can change each year. A drug covered in 2016 may not be covered in 2017.

If you are satisfied with your current Medicare coverage you need to do nothing. However, at this time you can explore what other coverages are available and if they better serve your needs.

A trained – and trusted – insurance professional can provide detailed information about the Medicare plans available, answer any questions or concerns you may have and explain other options that may work better for you.

Information is out there – just ask or go online.

Medicare2017.org, Medicare.gov


This column appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.


Medicare or Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage plans (sometimes called Medicare Part C) are offered by private insurance companies as an alternative to traditional Medicare. Their insurance benefits cover the same services as traditional Medicare Part A and B, but some plans also offer prescription drug coverage (Part D). Medicare Advantage plans may have slightly different (usually lower) costs and out-of-pocket expenses; some plans charge an additional premium. Access is often more restricted because these are HMO or PPO plans, i.e. you may not be able to see all providers under a Medicare Advantage plan that you can under Medicare. First-time enrollees are automatically enrolled in traditional Medicare but may choose to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan at the time of enrollment or annually after that.

Medicare v. Medicare Advantage
Medicare Medicare Advantage
Overview Medicare in the U.S. is an insurance program that primarily covers seniors ages 65 and older and disabled individuals of any age who qualify for Social Security. It also covers those of any age with end-stage renal disease. Medicare Advantage, sometimes known as Part C, is a private insurance alternative that replaces “Original Medicare” Parts A and B. Some Medicare Advantage plans even cover prescription, or Medicare Part D.
Type of program Government-run Private
Eligibility Regardless of income, anyone turning 65 can enroll in Medicare so long as they paid into Medicare/Social Security funds. People of any age with severe disabilities and end-stage renal disease are also eligible. To be eligible for a Medicare Advantage plan, a potential subscriber must already be eligible for Original Medicare, pay the monthly Part B premium, and not have end-stage renal disease.
Services Covered Routine and emergency care, hospice, family planning, some substance and smoking cessation programs. Limited dental and vision. Everything covered by Original Medicare. Also often covers prescription drugs and may cover dental, vision and hearing. May have special preventive care coverage, like gym membership.
Cost to Enrollees Part A costs nothing for those who paid Medicare taxes for 10 years or more (or had a spouse who did). Part B in costs $109 per month for most on Social Security. Part D costs vary, usually around $30 per month. Medicare Advantage costs vary. Must pay Original Medicare’s Part B premium, plus — usually — a monthly Medicare Advantage premium (approx. $30-$65). Likely required to pay a copay to visit a doctor. Coinsurance costs vary.

 

 

Purple Heart veterans Alan Knutson (from left), Walter Martin and Bill Evans. Photo by Michelle Chance

The Maricopa chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart gathered Aug. 7 to honor the U.S. men and women who were wounded or killed in combat.

Aug. 7 is National Purple Heart Day. This year it served as an opportunity for the local chapter to gather.

The 10-member group celebrated its first anniversary in June, and Chapter Commander Walter Martin is looking to recruit younger veterans.

“It seems like every time we get started, one of our members goes to the hospital,” Martin said.

The majority of the chapter’s members are ageing veterans who are often unable to attend meetings due to medical reasons.

“We all have those types of issues and we are looking for the younger veterans to take over,” Martin said. “(We recognize) that they do have a young wife and family to take care of.”

Martin’s wife, Anita, plans to start a Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Military of the Purple Heart, which will provide education and support to spouses of veterans in the chapter.

“I’m trying to put a women’s group together so the older women can mentor and let them know what to expect,” Anita said.

Anita said many times spouses of military veterans are unaware of how to cope with their husband’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, contributing to issues that sometimes lead to divorce.

“They need help and our government doesn’t provide that for them,” Walter said.

Maricopa became one of nearly 1,500 Purple Heart Cities in the United States in November. The chapter plans to install signage of the designation on State Route 347 in the future.

“The city supports the Purple Heart, not financially, but if you want to do something, the mayor is very gracious and will support that,” Anita said.

Being one of only 11 chapters in the state, the Maricopa MOPH accepts veterans from around the region including Casa Grande, Chandler and surrounding areas.

The chapter meets once a month at Native Grill & Wings. For more information contact Anita Martin at 626-399-6255.


This story appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Santa Cruz opened two rooms for senior activities, and city staff gave senior representatives a tour. Photo by Joan Koczor

Maricopa senior groups are settling into their new home at a local elementary school this summer after being displaced by the construction of the State Route 347 overpass.

The groups, formerly located at the Copa Center, had been searching fervently over the past several months to find an alternative home. Cooperation with officials at the city and Maricopa Unified School District landed them at Santa Cruz Elementary.

Joan Koczor of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee called the rooms “amazing,” noting they were clean and freshly painted. “Much more than I expected. And several steps up from when we had originally seen them.”

She is also on the advisory board for Maricopa Seniors Inc., one of the organizations at whom the project was targeted.

City Community Services Director Kristie Riester worked closely with the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee and several of the groups affected by the transition. So far, she said, the transition is going well.

“It’s been phenomenal,” Riester said. “They have two beautiful classrooms with tables and chairs and cabinets that are open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.”

To make things work at Santa Cruz, the city and school district worked together to construct a chain-link fence to separate the seniors from the students.

The cost of the fence was absorbed in large part from a $4,000 donation made to city Senior Services by Student Choice High School, an area charter school which operates out of Copper Sky.

This fence allows senior groups to maintain their own separate entrance to their area of the building without causing security concerns for the school. Without it, the seniors would have been denied access to the two classrooms, thus forcing them to rely on an a much more limited space at Copper Sky.

Locked interior doors serve the same purpose inside the building.

Senior groups, organized or otherwise, had used the Copa Center for their events, such as card games, crafts and volunteer efforts, for the past few years. But the Copa Center will be one of the casualties of the pending overpass construction.


This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

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Submitted photo

The Copa Center, originally a church that has served ostensibly as a senior center in Maricopa, will close April 1. Maricopa seniors had their last potluck at a gathering Thursday to “remember the good times we had,” according to senior advocate Joan Koczor.

The space was officially an adult drop-in but primarily used by residents age 55 and up for social gatherings, recreation and meetings. At the potluck, Copa Seniors displayed photos of some of the activities over the years.

The Copa Center is being torn down to make room for the State Route 347 overpass. Senior activities are being moved to a dedicated space at Copper Sky Multigenerational Complex and Santa Cruz Elementary School.

 

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During Tuesday's meeting, Relay for Life organizers and participants stand with Mayor Price (left) and councilmembers Henry Wade (second from left) and Nancy Smith (third from left) in recognition of cancer awareness as part of Paint the City Purple Month. Photo by Mason Callejas

A plan to relocate senior programs displaced by the impending demolition of the Copa Center was approved by the city council Tuesday.

The decision to relocate the Adult Drop-in program, though unanimous, was preceded by a hearty discussion among the council members concerning a lack of exclusivity for seniors and a last-minute, unforeseen cost.

Starting April 3, Copper Sky will become the new primary residence of the Adult Drop-in program. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. “Room A” will be made available to the various senior groups who gather to play cards and Bingo, or to knit and sew.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, or in the event of a scheduling conflict  within the group, the school district will allow the program the use of two unoccupied classrooms at Santa Cruz Elementary in Tortosa.

There are, however, a few strings attached to these new locations that some councilmembers felt have been overlooked.

Councilmember Nancy Smith addressed the fact that at Copper Sky anyone 18 and up can use the Adult Drop-in space and possibly interrupt certain senior activities.

“In my mind, this should be for seniors only,” Smith said. “I don’t know where you draw the line – 50, 55 or 60 – this should be for seniors only.”

The Adult Drop-in program, according to Mayor Christian Price, has always been open to anyone 18-years-old or older. However, when located at the isolated Copa Center, senior groups that participated in the program went through a natural selection of sorts as few people under 55 went out of their way to use the facility.

In a rather unorthodox move, senior members of the audience were permitted to speak outside of the “Call to the Public” to address these and other concerns raised by the council.

To the age issue, Copa Seniors Coordinator Fran Warzeha said she sees the event of a young adult mingling with seniors as an opportunity, not a burden.

“We would like to keep it as 55 and older,” Warzeha said, “but I don’t think any of us would say ‘No, you can’t come and play cards with us,’ because we need to teach the younger kids how to play cards, how to play games and get off the electronic devices.”

The other major apprehension of the council concerned the second location – Santa Cruz.

The isolated classrooms at Santa Cruz could offer the groups their desired exclusivity. Those rooms, however, will only be available to the Adult Drop-in program once the district has completed the construction of a chain-link fence designed to separate the students from the adults. The fence is something the school district feels the city should pay for.

According to Maricopa Community Services Director Kristie Riester, the district waives most facility costs as an exchange for funds granted to the city to help supply schools with school resource officers.

“Because they are getting something from the grant that we applied for, they aren’t charging us those rental costs,” Riester said.

Concerns about student safety and insurance liability brought about construction of the fence, which wasn’t presented to her until recently, Riester said.

“This fee, it’s not like a rental fee,” Riester said. “It’s something they will actually incur that they have not budgeted for.”

After a brief discussion, council dually determined the potential cost of the modest fence to be reasonable, and the risk of younger people potentially joining the Adult Drop-in program acceptable.

While the fence is under construction, the city will accommodate the seniors Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. When the fence is complete, senior groups will have access to multiple spaces where they can gather and socialize. Though there may not be a stringent senior exclusivity clause attached to the new locations, seniors nonetheless have found their new recreational home.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

More than 200 people pre-registered for the second Senior Info/Expo, which was Saturday at Maricopa City Hall. Even more turned up.

The Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee created the event to provide information and resources to residents who are age 60 and older. City Hall opened several rooms to accommodate organizations, vendors and workshops.

City of Maricopa Express Transit (COMET) has fixed and on-demand routes in Maricopa.

The City of Maricopa Express Transit system, or COMET, has started a survey among its senior passengers, a move officials hope will help improve service and ensure transparency within the agency.

The city, with the help of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee, designed the survey to get a level of input far beyond typical rider satisfaction. The new survey asks specific questions concerning pick-up locations and the frequent destinations of its senior riders.

It also asks why seniors would possibly be more likely or less likely to use the service.

“The purpose of the survey is to better understand the public transportation needs of the senior population (over age 50) in Maricopa,” said Transportation/Transit Planner David Maestas.

He said the department wants the survey to better help them satisfy current transit demands while preparing the system for future population growth.

“The overall strategy is to grow COMET slowly and carefully in order to ensure reliability and sustainability, key elements in transit operations,” Maestas said.

Between June of 2015 and June of 2016 the COMET system catered to a little more than 4,700 riders. By June of 2017 COMET is projecting an annual ridership of around 6,800, an increase of 43 percent.

COMET offers a Route Deviation Service or fixed-route service that uses 11 stops throughout the city and operates Monday to Friday, 7-10 a.m. and 2-5 p.m., visiting each stop six times.

However, plans are in the works that could expand operating time from 7 a.m.to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday by October 2017, if approved by the city council and Arizona Department of Transportation.