Thursday, 19 December 2013

COA Volunteer Donna Rosenzweig – Being a Gift to Seniors

Spotlight on Donna Rosenzweig, HICAP Counselor and Annual Enrollment/Logistics Team member

Mom and Donna

HICAP Counselor Donna Rosenzweig. Her mother is a big fan of the NY Yankees.

The Medicare Annual Election Period (Oct. 15th to Dec. 7th) is the HICAP Program’s busiest time of year. Counselors are assigned, not only to their community counseling sites, but also are rotated into the HICAP call center. HICAP volunteers join ‘enrollment teams’ during the Annual Enrollment Period. HICAP Counselors help people compare their current MA/PD or stand-alone Part D plans with what is available in 2014. This is critically important for Medicare beneficiaries to evaluate and compare health plan for cost and coverage.

Now that the Medicare Annual Election Period is over and the Annual Enrollment clinics have passed, we have a little time to think back on what HICAP Counselors accomplished together at the enrollment clinics.

I recently spoke to HICAP Counselor Donna Rosenzweig who attended many enrollment clinics. Donna recently became registered as a counselor but was not deterred by being new to the enrollment clinic process. I asked her if she had any memorable moments from the enrollment clinics. She said that there were a number of fun experiences. “At the Chinese bi-lingual Santa Ana Senior Center enrollment clinic , the people were so grateful that I was there that they kept shaking my hand and offering me food!  At the Southwest Community Center in Santa Ana, people thought I spoke Spanish – I don’t. They treated me so nice anyway.”

Before she retired, Donna was a Claims Manager with a Compensation Insurance Fund. She loves numbers. Even with her financial background, she had to admit that she knew nothing about Medicare. She firmly believes that the HICAP training is a real gift to offer seniors who simply do not know or are not aware of their Medicare options.

Donna’s parents married in 1942. Her father fought in Battle of the Bulge and in the Philippines during WWII. “Everyone in that generation sacrificed and suffered as part of life. Nothing was given to them. They deserve some respect and help now.” Donna’s mother now lives alone, as so many seniors do, and she knows that she could not even begin to help her mom if it were not for COA and the information she learned as a counselor.

I asked Donna if she plans to be a HICAP Counselor next year. She replied, “Absolutely. I’m not going anywhere. The backbone and success of the HICAP Program is achieved through the dedicated registered HICAP Counselors.”

If you would like to join Donna and be the backbone of our HICAP Program, the next counselor training is scheduled for Feb. 2014. Please contact Mary Ozurovich, HICAP Coordinator of Volunteers at 714-560-0424 ext. 225 for more information.

Mary Ozurovich
HICAP Coordinator of Volunteers
Sunday, 24 November 2013

Home for the Holidays

What has happened to Mom and Dad?

Many of us will be heading home for the holidays after not seeing our older parents for some time.  As parents age, you may have questions about their well-being and how to help them now or in the coming years.









Before your holiday visit, tune in to KFWB 980 AM on November 26 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. to hear Council on Aging expert Julie Schoen who will be providing helpful information about issues adult children confront when they realize their parents need help.

Simple Steps to Prepare for Your Visit

Preparing  for Your Holiday Visit

– Cultivate an awareness about being prepared and planning
– Understand the financial impact of family caregiving
– Know your loved one’s health issues
– Become aware of family dynamics and communication strategies
– Learn what important paperwork is needed

The Ten Most Important Things to Know

– Your loved one’s health status
– How to begin “The Conversation”
– Advanced Health Care Directives
– Your loved one’s wishes
– How to avoid the “role reversal” trap
– Understand coverage for Medicare, HMO/Insurance Supplement
– Recognizing signs that your loved one(s) may need help
– Assessing needs and options
– Reaching out and locating resources
– Identify how to access legal documents
– Recognizing your own stress and burnout if you are a caregiver

Why is it Important to Prepare and Plan?

– It’s much easier to avoid problems later by preparing for the uncomfortable conversations before they are needed.
– Lack of preparation and communication often leads to a bigger crisis later.

Things to Look as Your Parent Ages        

Assess physical needs and activities

– Bathing
– Dressing
– Walking
– Eating
– Toileting
– Meal Preparation
– House Cleaning
– Transportation

Warning Signs

– Unopened mail and unpaid bills
– Poor hygiene
– Unkempt home
– Neglected pets
– Spoiled food
– Medication errors
– Physical changes including falling
– Dents in car
– Excessive spending
– “New friends”
– Talk of winning contests or possible scams

Collect and Organize Important Paperwork

– Medicare/ Health Care information
– Long-term Care Policies
– Personal Information: DOB, SS #, Banks, Cars, Assets
– Medical Information: Doctors, prescriptions (purpose, dosage and frequencies),    health conditions & outcome of doctor visits
– Important documents: Power of Attorney for finances
– Advanced Healthcare Directive, Wills, Life Insurance Policies
– Burial/Cremation/Memorial desires and plans

Download a Helpful Planning and Contingency List

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Our Summer 2013 Newsletter is Here!

COA 2013 NewsletterOur Summer 2013 Newsletter is available!  In this issue, we focus on protecting our seniors from physical abuse, neglect, and financial abuse. As one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation, financial elder abuse has left many vulnerable seniors falling victim to various scams. One of the most common is the Grandparent Scam, which happened to George Weidner, the father of Kathleen Weidner, the Director of the Ombudsman Program. We tell George’s story and the story of Volunteer Ombudsmen who intervened to stop a financial predator from stealing from an assisted living resident. As is so often the case, the financial predator was a family member.

Most importantly, we’ve included helpful tips on  protecting yourself and your loved ones from financial abuse. Julie Schoen, Legal Counsel for COA, has provided additional information on recognizing different types of elder abuse and how it can be prevented.  It’s an extremely important issue that can only be solved by having a well-informed public, so please share our Summer 2013 Newsletter with your friends and family.


David Spear
Data Mgmt. and Comm. Specialist


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Navigating the Medicare Maze

Published in the O.C. Register (9/20/13)

A tsunami is heading for Orange County, but this time the tectonics aren’t bringing in towering surfs from the sea. During the next 20 years, a “Silver Tsunami” of over 835,000 baby boomers will turn 65 across Orange County, adding to the 397,000 seniors who reside in the county today. Currently, our 65 and older population has a median income of just $47,254, with Social Security providing, on average, near 35% to 40% of that income.

The Silver Tsunami will change the face of Orange County as we know it. Imagine the profound impact of over 1 million seniors flooding our freeways, doctor’s offices, markets and hospitals. Orange County is currently ill prepared to handle the onslaught of its seniors’ needs over the coming years.

The Council on Aging in Orange County is expanding their trained, primarily volunteer workforce, to assist with one of the most complex aspects of aging – how to select from the 35 Medicare Advantage plans and/or one of the 32 prescription drug plans offered by insurance providers. Choosing the best plan based on one’s medical needs and income level can be daunting, at best. With the latest round of the Affordable Care Act implementation, and resulting Medicare reforms, even more changes may be in store for Medicare beneficiaries.

Fortunately, there is a silver lining in all this. Medicare beneficiaries can contact HICAP (Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program), a government funded program that provides unbiased, personalized information about maximizing one’s Medicare benefits and rights. Offered in all 50 states, the program is locally operated by the Council on Aging. HICAP counselors can be consulted at no charge, by a simple call to (800) 434-0222. Alternatively, a face-to-face appointment can be scheduled with a HICAP counselor at a local senior center or Social Security office.

HICAP counselors are state-certified and don’t sell or recommend insurance plans. Last year in Orange County, the Council on Aging’s HICAP counselors provided advice to over 5,000 beneficiaries. Data suggests HICAP saved beneficiaries in excess of $1.5M in insurance premiums and prescription drug costs. HICAP counselors provide information on benefits and enrollment, Medicare Advantage plans, prescription drug plan coverage, supplemental polices, Medicare limited income assistance programs and long-term care insurance. If a beneficiary is about to turn 65, HICAP recommends a call to their 800 number for counseling and advice.

Cal MediConnect For California’s lower-income residents who have both Medicare and Medi-Cal, a new pilot program will begin no sooner than April 2014 (This was updated from January 2014 as written in the original article). It will change the way these beneficiaries access health care, long-term support and behavioral health services. Driven by the Affordable Care Act, the program is called Cal MediConnect. It will be implemented in eight counties in California, including Orange County. The program will impact 57,060 beneficiaries in Orange County who have dual coverage of Medicare and Medi-Cal, known as “Duals.” Eighty-two percent of these Duals are seniors aged 65 and over.

In a nutshell, Cal MediConnect is a federal and state collaboration designed to test the alignment of service delivery and financing of Medicare and Medi-Cal programs. If successful, it will help address inefficiencies in the current system that, historically, has not met the needs of our community’s low-income individuals adequately, many of whom have multiple chronic conditions.

Cal MediConnect will coordinate psychological and medical health care, long-term institutional care, plus, home and community-based services through a single managed care plan. If a beneficiary does not want to participate, the program will allow the Dual to opt out of Cal MediConnect for Medicare benefits only; they still must enroll to receive Medi-Cal benefits. If a Dual takes no action, he/she will be passively enrolled in Cal MediConnect to ensure access to Medi-Cal services.

California’s Department of Health Care Services will oversee Cal MediConnect. With help from the state’s local HICAPs, the Department will conduct beneficiary outreach and education about the program. As a result, the Council on Aging’s HICAP is the most likely place OC Duals will go for answers about Cal MediConnect and guidance about their options.

The program is intended to maximize opportunities for beneficiaries to stay safely in their homes and communities and control the state’s health care costs. By reaching out to local HICAPs, Duals will be able to better understand their benefits, options and their rights to obtain medically necessary services under the program.

Lisa Wright Jenkins
President and CEO
Council on Aging – Orange County


Click here to download the article in its entirety.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Financial Elder Abuse is Rampant


The Orange County Adult Protective Services Offices reports 800 calls per month involving some type of physical, emotional, or financial elder abuse, with the latter being the most prevalent.  However, the public is fighting back.  Many media outlets, including the NY Times and Reporter Dan Rather are bringing the schemes and scams perpetrated against the elderly into the public eye.  “The grandparent scam” is a particularly successful scam that is praying upon the emotional tie of a  grandparent to a grandchild.  Perhaps you have heard of it?  The target grandparent is called early in the morning – the caller is very muffled or has a bad connection – and plaintively says “Grandma I need your help.” The grandparent’s inclination is then to say a name of a grandchild – “Emily, is that you?” – and the scam is off and running.

The scammer has usually done their homework via a Facebook page and uses that information to sound convincing.  Before you know it, the grandparent is off to wire money to bail “Emily” out of some sticky situation, usually a DUI or stolen money scenario.   Once the urgency has worn off, common sense often kicks in and the target begins to doubt the veracity of the call.  They may now check to see if their grandchild is truly in trouble only to now discover it was all a scam. Such was the case with the Long-term Care Ombudsmen Director Kathleen Weidner’s father. Often times the target is too embarrassed to tell anyone what has happened and so the crime flourishes.

If this happens to you or someone you know, report it to local law enforcement and help stop this crime wave.  You may not be able to get your money back, but you may help someone else from being victimized.

Julie Schoen
Director of Elder Abuse Prevention Services
Tuesday, 19 March 2013

It Could Happen to Someone You Love


Kathleen Weidner, Director of the Long-term Care Ombudsmen Program, and her father George Weidner, a recent victim of fraud targeted at older adults.

His phone rang early in the morning, and George Weidner hurried to answer it.  He smiled when he heard his grandson say, “Grandpa, it’s Jessie.  How are you?”   George shared with Jessie that he was doing okay – but worried about his upcoming chemo treatments for his advancing cancer.  Jessie expressed his concern.

Then Jessie – in somewhat of a panic – told Grandpa he needed his help and he needed it fast.  He was in Mexico with friends – and he was in jail.  In a pleading voice, Jessie begged his Grandpa to not tell his parents. He was due to come before a judge in a matter of minutes.

Jessie explained: “Grandpa, you know how things are in Mexico.  They told me if I can get them $2,000 in the next 30 minutes they will let me go.  Grandpa, can you please help me?  I am so afraid of what might happen if I don’t get out of here.”

Grandpa’s response was immediate.  Of course he would help his grandson.  He told Jessie not to worry.

In the middle of a Nebraska winter with a storm brewing outside, George Weidner at 87 years old, set out in his golf cart to the nearest Western Union office.  He followed Jessie’s instructions and wired him $2,000.  A call quickly came in from a man with a strong Spanish accent; the transfer had been successful.  Jessie would be freed.

As he climbed back into his golf cart for the ride home, only then did George Weidner start to question what he had just done.  When he got home he made a few phone calls – Jessie wasn’t in Mexico.  Jessie was safe at home.

This “Grandparent Scam” is real and happening all across the nation to unsuspecting seniors.  This true life story happened to the father of Kathleen Weidner, our own Ombudsman Program Director.  Kathleen had this to say about her Dad’s experience: “A financial predator took advantage of a good man’s love and compassion for a family member – and they are doing it all the time.  If this can happen to my Dad – a wise and cautious man – it could happen to anyone.”

For more information how to protect yourself from scams and fraud, check out our Medicare and Financial Fraud video series!


– Tricia Homrighausen
   Communications/Development Manager
Friday, 15 March 2013

Medicare and Financial Fraud Videos

In partnership with Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP), we created some short vignettes discussing Medicare Fraud, Financial Abuse, Veteran-targeted scams and how you can protect yourself and others.  Be vigilant, stay informed, and share this knowledge with everyone you know.

Medicare Fraud: You Could Be the Next Victim


Fraud Perpetrated Against Veterans

Medicare Fraud: What to Look For

Financial Fraud: Don’t Be Victim

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


Recently I attended a seminar at the Center for Spirituality and Aging at Walnut Village in Anaheim.  The seminar topic: “Practicing Kindness, A Framework for Meeting the Challenges of Aging”.

The seminar was excellent, and I came away with an even deeper appreciation of the need for kindness as we serve seniors in our community. In today’s busy world, kindness can be that simple act so often forgotten.  I wanted to share with you today a resource list that was distributed to those in attendance.  I hope it is helpful as we all work towards creating the best world possible for seniors.

– Tricia Homrighausen
   Communications/Development Manager


Resources on Practicing Kindness


The Miracle of Kindness:  Changing the World, One Act at a Time by Jim Kok

The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life by Piero Ferrucci

The Force of Kindness: Change Your Life with Love and Compassion by Sharon Salzberg



 Random Acts of Kindness Foundation Lots of ideas for a variety of settings.  Videos, newsletters, stories of kindness,  resources.

Australian Kindness Movement  This particular page of the site has ideas for “The 16 Days of Kindness” program.  Could be adapted for older adult residential settings.

 Spirituality and Practice:  Resources for the Spiritual Journey Many resources from quotes, books, films, ideas to practice.

One Million Acts of Kindness Primarily aimed at school programs, but has a tab for ideas of linking seniors and children around kindness.

Self-Compassion: A Healthier Way of Relating to Yourself  Some videos on self-kindness and compassion, guided meditations and reflection exercise.

 Care and Kindness The website for Care and Kindness conferences and newsletters, Jim Kok, founder. 


Monday, 28 January 2013

Why Bodybuilding at Age 93 is a Great Idea

At the age of 93, Charles Eugster is the world’s oldest bodybuilder – something he started at the young age of 87. “If you take up bodybuilding in old age you will add not only years to your life but also life to your years,” he said.  As Eugster points out in his speech at TedxZurich, inactivity is to blame for many the diseases we encounter later in life. Being active physically, socially, and mentally are key components to successful aging and help you remain engaged in life.

Interested in social activities? See our ReConnect calendar for the latest events and activities.

From the TedXZurich site:

Of the recent changes that the human race has experienced, the increasing population numbers are especially dramatic and worrying coupled with the frightening great and continuous increase in obesity and the resultant diabetes pandemic. A particular amount of attention has been given to the rapid and continuing growth of longevity. Yet our knowledge of the aging process is still very limited as what we observe is the result of a health-destroying lifestyle. Retirement creates invalids. Chronic disease is rampant in old age resulting in such enormous medical costs that should present trends continue, together with the diabetes pandemic, some countries could become bankrupt. Diabetes is already an international public health issue and inactivity is one of the biggest killers. The loss of wasted human potential and wealth is already immense.

Successful aging requires work, diet and exercise. The huge mental and physical potential of the aged remains unexplored. Bodies can now be rebuilt at any age and a new life started. Beauty kings and queens in the 80-year-old category or a beach body at the age of 94 are not impossible. We will all, regardless of age, have to take greater responsibility for our own health in order to confront the immense challenges confronting the human race.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Questions about Medicare Annual Enrollment?

We’re now a month into the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (October 15th through December 7th) where people can join, change, or drop a Medicare Advantage health plan (HMO, PPO) or Medicare Part D plan (prescription drug plan). If you haven’t already joined or want to make changes for the upcoming year,  please call us and receive free counseling from one of our trained HICAP (Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program) counselors.  Call us now at 714.560.0424 or 800.434.0222!

The Council on Aging – Orange County HICAP Program also partners with community senior/community centers to help people on Medicare compare health plan coverage on the web site for the following year (2013).  See the Annual Enrollment Schedule for a listing of Senior/Community Centers near you.