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Gray Matters

Prevent Fraud 3 Extra $$ Help 4 Legislative Watch 4 Volunteer Opportunities 6

A quarterly publication of Area 1 Agency on Aging

Cal Endowment Report to Give Hard look at Senior Needs in Humboldt, Del Norte


he first multi-pronged approach to determining the needs of rural seniors is nearing completion in Humboldt County. Funded by the California Endowment, Area I Agency on Aging hopes to release its twoyear study next month. “Good information makes good policy, which makes for good programs and good services,” said AIAA Executive Director Cindy Denbo. “This report provides that information.” The California Endowment wants a template to collect information about seniors to be available to all other rural counties, she said. “Rural counties traditionally have trouble raising revenues to collect and analyze this kind of hugely relevant information.” Denbo said the report is

essential with state budgets shrinking and competition for alternate revenues sources becoming more intense. “We’ve got to make the best use of the resources we have and position those resources to meet the needs of different communities,” she said. Now in its final editing stages, the report includes a survey of public officials, the results of an online research tool completed by Humboldt County boomers and seniors, information from a senior and caregiver needs survey done by AIAA, and a review of past surveys and reports detailing senior needs in the categories of money, loneliness/isolation, household chores, health care, accidents in the home, and access to information. Those six needs categories were identified by Humboldt

Summer 2011

the 1989 survey. and Del Norte County seniors “The change in how seniors and disabled adults as the top feel about their safety gives us problem areas they face. confidence that things can get For Humboldt County, acbetter; that information can cidents in the home were the top concern, identified by 62.8  continued on next page percent of caregivers and 51.8 percent of its seniors and disabled. The category Major Components was fourth among Del of Health Care Costs Norte County residents and didn’t make the top 5 Among Medicare among Del Norte caregivEnrollees in 2006 ers. In Del Norte County, Other health care was the top 9% concern mentioned by 53 Inpatient percent of residents and Hospital disabled adults and 77.8 25% percent of its caregivers. Health care was third among Humboldt County Physician/ seniors and disabled adults Outpatient (45.3 percent) and second among caregivers (61.1 Hospital percent). 35% Five of the top 10 needs in 2009 were also the top Long Term Care Facility � 13% needs in five previous surHome Health Care � 3% veys dating back to 1989. Prescription Drugs � 16% But concerns about crime and safety took up the 12th Source: Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being spot in 2009 after topping SPECIAL INSERT TO THE NORTH COAST JOURNAL • THURSDAY, JULY 7, 2011


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Cal Endowment continued from previous page drive solutions; that we can improve the lives of Humboldt County seniors,” Denbo said. The 2009 survey revealed a significant increase in concerns around food and nutrition. Affordability and preparation were the focal points. “What could be more basic than adequate food and the certainty it will be there?” Denbo said. “The steadily increasing costs of food will mean less food purchased, limited ability to select nutritious food and, potentially, aggravation of existing health conditions. The fears are very, very real.” The needs survey also included varied feedback in town hall meetings in Fortuna, Eureka and McKinleyville. “You might think our Humboldt County seniors would have a common perspective, but that wasn’t the case at all,” Denbo said. Fortuna seniors coalesced around the need for a senior center while McKinleyville’s needed help with isolation and loneliness, she said. “Eureka’s were much more eclectic and specific,” Denbo said. “But one need that stands out for everyone is transportation.”

A few “need” realities of note: As of 2005, 31 percent of people over the age of 65 and 18 percent aged 75 and older had ever gone online.  The percent of Humboldt County seniors reporting more than one fall in the past year increased to 18.3 percent in 2007 – nearly 25 percent higher than the statewide rate.  Only about 10 percent of physicians in America practice in rural areas where 25 percent of the population lives.  Living in homes perceived as easily accessible – no stairs, clear walkways – allowed for more continuity and less change in daily activities.  When older adults can no longer perform basic daily activities such as household chores, studies show a decline in quality of life, higher rates of depression and lessened feelings of control.  Those able to keep friendships despite having illness or mobility issues reported having better health than those who could not maintain social relationships.  Older adults who felt they were lonely or isolated had higher blood pressure, were more likely to have metabolic syndrome, and are more at risk for depression. 

Check Statements to Help Prevent Health Care Fraud


stimates of fraud in health care vary widely, but the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association estimates at least 3 percent – almost $78 billion – is lost to fraud. NHCAA members include government agencies and private insurers. That 3 percent includes all health care expenditures – not just Medicare, which projects $2.6 trillion of such expenses in 2010 – but former fraud investigator Malcolm Sparrow thinks the number is low. “Criminals, who are intent on stealing as much as they can and as fast as possible, and who are prepared to fabricate diagnoses, treatments, even entire medical episodes, have a relatively easy time breaking through all the industry’s defenses,” Sparrow testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs on May 20, 2009. He is now a professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. “The criminals’ advantage is that they are willing to lie. And provided they learn to submit their bills correctly, they remain free to lie. The rule for criminals is simple: If you want to steal from Medicare, or Medicaid, or

any other health care insurance program, learn to bill your lies correctly. Then, for the most part, your claims will be paid in full and on time, without a hiccup, by a computer, and with no human involvement at all.” One key place for human involvement is the beneficiary, who receives either a quarterly summary notice from Medicare or a monthly explanation of benefits for those in Medicare Advantage. “Both show exactly what Medicare was charged for services you received during that period,” HICAP Program Manager Martha Johnson said. “Reviewing it is the first step to stopping Medicare fraud and too many people fail to review it properly. Make sure you receive the services stated and that they are properly charged.” Medicare beneficiaries can also see copies of current summary notices by creating a login at The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud found 70 percent of explanation of benefit forms surveyed by health care providers were confusing and, in some cases, failed to be “even basically understandable.”  continued on page 8

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Legislative Watch

Extra Help with Medicare Can Stretch a Fixed Income


eniors on a fixed income who have difficulty paying for Medicare programs could find help by calling HICAP. HICAP determines eligibility and assists people in applying for programs that provide extra help in paying for Medicare Part A, B and D. Those programs deal with hospital care, medical expenses and prescription drugs. HICAP’s program manager said Medicare estimates several hundred Humboldt County residents are eligible for subsidies but have not yet enrolled. “We find a few people every week who aren’t enrolled and should be,” Martha Johnson said. “It can make a huge difference in their lives.” Some seniors are unaware that their homes and first car do not count against them when extra

help assessments are made. “Everybody recognizes that people are living longer on fixed incomes, and this recession has made that harder than ever,” Johnson said. “Give us a call to see if we can make it easier on you.” An individual with a monthly income of $1,361 – and couple with a combined income of $1,839 – qualify for a Part D subsidy as long as their additional resources don’t exceed $12,640 (single) and $25,260 (couple). Five other Medicare Savings Programs are available to those who meet other income and resource requirements. Medicare Savings Programs help pay for Medicare premiums, deductibles and co-pays. HICAP’s number is 707-444-3000 

AB 40: Mandated reporting of elder abuse (Yamada) Requires mandated reporters to report suspected elder abuse in long term care facilities to both the local ombudsman and local law enforcement. Current law requires reporting of suspected abuse to either ombudsman or local law enforcement. Dual reporting will help protect vulnerable seniors in long term care facilities. - Referred to Senate Human Services Committee

AB 2114: Current data reporting (Beall) Requires California Department of Aging to use and report data based on the Elder Economic Security Index. Program planning and determination of cost of living and poverty levels for senior services are now based on federal poverty guidelines that assume the same cost of living for a senior living in Chicago as a senior residing in Redway. The Elder Index is a current, geographically specific measure of the cost of living in each county in the U.S. Supporters believe it provides more accurate and more useful information. - Referred to Senate Human Services Committee. Hearing date: June 28, 2011

Heard on the Senior Streets

Senior Expo draws crowd to Seventh St. Cindy Denbo, Executive Director

Nursery and Garden Center Shop and Power Equipment Landscape Contractors 1828 Central Ave. • McKinleyville •



sually, Seventh Street in Eureka features a steady stream of cars headed one way through the F Street intersection that features the venerable Eureka Inn on the north side, the Area I Agency on Aging on the southeast

and the 107-year-old Carnegie Library — now known as the Graves Museum — on the southwest. But on June 4, Seventh Street was truly the Senior Street as the North Coast’s first Senior Expo welcomed more than 500

AB 332: Increased penalties for elder abuse (Butler) Increases penalties for individuals convicted of elder abuse by adding fines up to $10,000 to existing imprisonment options of up to one year in county jail or two to three years in state prison. Bill analysis states the last decade has seen 4,735 convictions under Penal Code Section 368: Crimes Against Seniors. That number is expected to rise in the current economic environment. California Senior Legislature originated the legislation to deter criminals from preying on the elderly in an environment where state and counties are seeking to reduce inmate populations. - Referred on June 15, 2011 from Committee on Public Safety to Senate

AB 533: Federal funds to go to senior services (Yamada) Requires that federal funds be paid to Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) regardless of whether or not the state has adopted a budget. Currently allocated funds are not released to AAAs until a state budget is adopted. As a result, funding is disrupted for nutrition, senior lunch programs and other services AAA funds to assist the elderly and those with disabilities. In submission in Appropriations Committee

guests to the Eureka Inn and AIAA. Forty organizations participated with representatives, counselors and volunteers offering a wealth of information. Standing room only crowds filled many of the 13 workshops on topics of interest to today’s and tomorrow’s seniors. Whether it was caregiving or technology; building a home or modifying it; signing up for Medicare or getting help with prescriptions; people gathered to plan for themselves, their families or their futures. Many stayed for the entire day. What we heard on the Senior

Street that day we share with you today. They were certainly enthusiastic: - “I hope this can become an annual, event.” - “Hope this becomes a regular event. Twice a year!” - “Great to be able to have multiple resources for older adults in one location.” - “Great to connect with people!” - “It was all useful.” Others singled out specific workshops that were useful to them: Advance Directives and Physician Ordered Life Sustaining Treatment; Con Men,

SB 718: Internet reporting of elder abuse (Vargas) Allows elder abuse reports to adult protective services (APS) to be submitted through a confidential Internet reporting tool. Existing law mandates phone and then a written report, but staffing shortages and the increase in reports have led to long hold times on the phone, prompting San Diego County to report a 50 percent increase in hang-ups since fiscal year 2007-08. With incidence of elder abuse increasing, this bill will help ensure the safety and financial security of seniors by wasting less staff time and making it easier for mandated reporters to report suspected abuse. - Referred to Committee on Aging and Long Term Care. Hearing date: June 21, 2011

The AIAA Advisory Council recommends support of these proposed bills. If you wish to support, oppose or otherwise comment on legislation impacting seniors and the disabled, contact A1AA’s Project for Senior Action at 441-0449 or PSA provides contact information or sends your message in your words where you want it to go.

Scam Artists and Swindlers; Advocacy; Staying Connected; Veterans Information; and Medicare. Others offered suggestions for future workshops on nutrition, transportation, energy and the Internet. The response from our Humboldt community of seniors and nonprofit organizations was terrifi:c inspiring, informed, focused and generous. We thank the dozens of volunteers and the dozens of participating organizations who made this Saturday a special one. We also thank our partners:

Hospice of Humboldt, Humboldt Senior Resource Center, and California Center for Rural Policy. And an appreciative tip of the cap to AIAA’s manager of the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program, Martha Johnson, who was the project coordinator for Senior Expo. She and other AIAA staff members worked for months to make Senior Expo a success. We heard what people said on the Senior Street. Will there be a 2012 version? Yes. And please: keep talking. We’re listening. 



Volunteer Opportunities


he Volunteer Center of the Redwoods & RSVP has more than 300 organizations actively seeking help – your help. Following is a small sampling of current volunteer opportunities available in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. If you have time and interest, the Volunteer Center of the Redwoods & RSVP has a place that needs your help. In Del Norte County, find us at 550 E. Washington Blvd. Suite 200 in Crescent City, 95531. Phone 464-7876, fax 464-7877 or e-mail In Humboldt County, find us at 434 Seventh St. in Eureka, 95501. Phone 442-3711, fax 442-3714 or e-mail

Betty Chinn: Needs Volunteers WHAT: Help sort clothes for people in need. WHEN: Flexible WHERE: Eureka WHO: Call Betty Chinn at 496-4420 The Studio: Needs Volunteers WHAT: The Studio is a nonprofit art center for artists with developmental disabilities. Volunteers will staff the art gallery. WHEN: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. WHERE: Old Town, Eureka WHO: Janine Murphy at 443-1472 Area 1 Agency on Aging: Volunteer Driver Program WHAT: Need volunteers to help seniors and individuals with disabilities get to medical appointments. Mileage reimbursement is available. WHEN: Flexible WHERE: From the Eel River Valley to Eureka WHO: Call Julie Symons at 442-3711 Tailwaggers Thrift Store (Sequoia Humane Society) WHAT: If you love animals and enjoy the company of a fun and supportive group, you can make a positive impact in the lives of homeless animals at Sequoia Humane Society. WHEN: Flexible WHERE: Eureka WHO: Helen at 445-5837 McKinleyville Family Resource Center WHAT: Many positions are available, please call for more information. WHEN: Flexible


WHERE: McKinleyville WHO: Call Kari Christian or Hillarie Beyer at 840-0905 

United Way Switchboard WHAT: Answer phones, listen and provide support, make referrals and keep accurate records. WHEN: Weekly shifts with a 2- to 4-hour commitment. WHERE: Eureka WHO: Chris Murrietta at 441-1001

American Red Cross: Needs Volunteers WHAT: Help with raising money for the American Red Cross. An individual is needed to help thank donors and keep track of the donations. WHEN: Flexible with a 6-hour-a-week commitment. WHERE: Eureka WHO: Barbara Caldwell at 443-4521

Adult Day Health Care of Mad River WHAT: Volunteers needed to visit elderly and disabled people. Come and enjoy a warm, loving, and fun day helping people in our community. WHEN: Flexible WHERE: Arcata WHO: Laura Codispoti at 822-4866

Friends of the Dunes WHAT: Volunteers needed for various restoration projects. WHEN: Every Saturday WHERE: Different locations, check the website at http://www. WHO: YOUTH FRIENDLY: Yes

Humboldt Botanical Garden Foundation: WHAT: Volunteers needed to help install plants, pull weeds, perform maintenance, or other Garden tasks WHEN: Every Saturday WHERE: The Humboldt Botanical Garden is adjacent to the College of the Redwoods via exit 698 off Hwy 101. Proceed to the North Entrance of CR and make a left up the hill. WHO: Please call 707-442-5139 or e-mail YOUTH FRIENDLY: Yes Fortuna Grandparent Support Group WHAT: A support group of grandparents who are raising their grandkids needs respite child care for children up to age 5. Without volunteers to watch the little one, grandparents who rely on the group for support and resource information will not be able to continue to attend. WHEN & WHERE: Fireside Room @ the Fortuna United Methodist Church, 922 N St., Fortuna at 10:30-11:30 on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. WHO: Contact Allisen Souza at (707) 267-5486

Long Term Care Ombudsman WHAT: Ombudsmen advocate for residents’ rights and promote quality of life in local long term care facilities. WHEN: Flexible WHERE: Eureka WHO: Humboldt Senior Resource Center at 443-9747 ext. 3

Area 1 Agency on Aging WHAT: Help answer the phones during the lunch break. WHEN: Flexible days WHERE: Eureka WHO: Mary Jo Gonzalez at 442-3763 ext. 200

Pen Pals WHAT: Seniors needed to write letters to school age children. WHEN: Flexible WHERE: Humboldt County WHO: In Fortuna, Sharon Richmond at 725-3693. All others call Paloma at 839-7926. Information and Assistance WHAT: Help provide seniors with information and assistance. WHEN: Flexible WHERE: Eureka WHO: Call Vicki at 442-9591

Help Win an Orchard for Rio Dell Community Garden The Rio Dell Community Garden is in a nationwide competition to win a fruit tree orchard to help support the local food pantry. Only 20 orchards are given away, and there are 125 competing for the donation. WHAT: To win, residents of the U.S. visit, register their name and valid e-mail address, and cast their vote each day. The 20 communities with the highest votes win a fruit tree orchard. Volunteers are also needed to help cast votes on behalf of those who support this campaign but cannot find the time to vote themselves. Currently the Rio Dell Community Resource Center is voting for 115 people, but they need help. WHY: There are nearly 100 households in Rio Dell/Scotia that rely on our local food pantry. A fruit tree orchard would help to provide nutritious fruits for generations to come to those most in need. WHEN: Voting is currently taking place and will continue throughout August 31. There are four voting periods, where the top five communities with the highest votes in each period will win a fruit tree orchard. You can vote once a day per e-mail address. WHERE TO VOTE: WHO: Brian Olson at

Woodcrafters WHAT: Seniors needed for community projects involving woodworking. WHEN: Flexible WHERE: Humboldt County WHO: Call Duncan MacLaren at 8400126 

Craf-T-Crafters: Needs Volunteers WHAT: Need volunteers to knit and crochet items for those in need. WHEN & WHERE: Flexible in Fortuna WHO: Gloria Sells @ 725-3036 




continued from page 3 “They can be confusing and that can discourage people from reading them,” Johnson said. “But the beneficiary is the first line of defense. If you think some charges are incorrect, or you don’t understand the bill, start by calling your doctor, hospital or provider – an honest mistake may be the explanation.” If the answer isn’t satisfactory, report suspected fraud by calling 1-800-MEDICAR, the Inspector General’s fraud hotline at 800-HHS-TIPS, or

the Senior Medicare Patrol liaison in the HICAP program at 444-3000. The U.S. expects to spend $2.6 trillion on health care in 2010, Medicare reported. In 2008, Medicare officials recovered about $2.4 billon related to fraud, even though it spent only $120 million on fraud investigation. “They could use your help,” Johnson said. For more information about fraud prevention, go to the SMP website at


The following are examples of Medicare fraud and should be reported:  Billing Medicare for services you didn’t receive;  Billing Medicare for services that are different than the ones you got (usually more $$$);  Continuing to bill Medicare for rented durable medical equipment after it’s been returned;  Offering or performing unnecessary services to increase Medicare charges;  Telling you Medicare will pay for something when it won’t;  Using another person’s Medicare number or card.

Gray Matters is a quarterly publication of the Area I Agency on Aging. Cindy Denbo is Executive Director and Publisher and can be contacted at Carol Harrison is the Editor and can be reached at AIAA is located at 434 Seventh Street in Eureka, 95501. Phone: 707-442-3763. Gray Matters is designed by graphic artist Siobhan Calderwood of the NCJ and is posted on the NCJ website at

Gray Matters  
Gray Matters  

A quarterly publication of Area 1 Agency on Aging. Summer 2011. © North Coast Journal