Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Also in This Issue: ■ Caregiving News & Notes ■ A Look at Georgia’s AAAs Published quarterly by Georgia’s Area Agencies on Aging
Area Agencies on Aging – Gateways to Community Resources 1
Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) were established under the Older Americans Act in 1973 to respond to the needs of older adults age 60 and over in every community. To read more about each of Georgia’s AAAs and the services available, turn to a statewide map and news from each agency, beginning on page 9.
Georgia is divided into 12 AAAs, each serving a different part of the state. They are:
4 7 6
1 Northwest Georgia 2 Legacy Link 3 Atlanta Regional Commission 4 Southern Crescent 5 Northeast Georgia 6 Lower Chattahoochee 7 Middle Georgia 8 Central Savannah River 9 Heart of Georgia Altamaha 10 Southwest Georgia 11 Southeast Georgia 12 Coastal Georgia
WINTER 2008 Published quarterly
through a cooperative effort of Georgia’s Area Agencies on Aging. For information contact: Atlanta Regional Commission Aging Services Division 40 Courtland St., NE, Atlanta, GA 30303 404-463-3239 firstname.lastname@example.org
Editorial Project Development: JAM Communications, Atlanta, GA Design and Production: Wells-Smith Partners, Lilburn, GA Georgia Generations is a:
On the Cover: Dorothy Stinson of Rome puts endless love into raising Althea, the granddaughter of Stinson’s first cousin. For grandparents raising grandchildren and other seniors who are raising relative children, the challenges are many — but so are the joys. See story, page 4. Cover photography by Ben Brown.
Winter 2008, Volume 7, #2 © 2008 by the Atlanta Regional Commission. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. However, the Atlanta Regional Commission and JAM Communications make no warranty to the accuracy or reliability of this information. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission. All rights reserved.
When Mom & Dad
f living on their own is not an option for your elderly parents, you may consider following a path that many caregivers have taken — have Mom and Dad move into your home. This arrangement is much less expensive and eliminates many of the complications surrounding caregiving. But be prepared for a trade-off; such an arrangement takes careful planning. Here are important steps to follow: ✔ COmpAre the cost of your parents moving to an assisted living facility with the cost of moving into your home, including renovations to your house, as well as furnishings or medical equipment. ✔ CheCK the county and local rules on mother-in-law apartments, granny flats, etc. ✔ TAlK through expectations about privacy, caretaking, meals, grocery shopping, transportation and other potential issues. ✔ DeTermiNe the financial arrangement. Will parents pay rent or part of expenses? How will the living setup affect the parents’ estate plan? ✔ plAN how you will handle health challenges that will inevitably occur, even acknowledging the end-of-life situations that you will face.
o you want to know more about the prescription drugs you or your family members are taking? Go to Consumer Reports’ new Web site www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org to learn more about the cost, effectiveness and safety of prescription drugs. This Web site is available at no cost to the consumer.
surfing the Net Each issue of Georgia Generations offers several Web sites devoted to caregiving information and resources: www.plwc.org stands for People Living with Cancer. It lists clinical trials, coping tips and side effects, plus a database of oncologists. www.aseniorhaven.com offers reader-friendly articles on finances, health, travel, hobbies and more.
Protect Medicare and Medicaid Beneﬁts
SAVE THE DATE
“Sharing in the Caring” 7th Annual Caregiver Conference Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008, 8 a.m.–4 p.m.
Are you caring for an aging family member or someone who needs help due to chronic health problems or a developmental disability? Do you need information and support services? Location: Dunwoody United Methodist Church, 1548 Mt. Vernon Rd., Dunwoody, GA 30338. Cost is $15 per person, which includes breakfast and lunch. Call 404-778-7710 for information and registration, or visit www.emoryhealthcare.org and click on “events.”
About Clinical Trials
id you know that a very small percentage of eligible patients enroll in clinical trials? According to a survey by Thomson CenterWatch, which was reported in BusinessWeek magazine, less than 10% of eligible patients take advantage of these trials. Some medical observers believe this slows down the development of new drugs and procedures. Only 14% of trial participants learned of their study through their own doctors;
report suspected fraud and errors. Call your Senior Medicare Fraud Project for details and to request a presentation.
most, in fact, found out through the media or the Internet. You can learn about available clinical trials by visiting www.clinicaltrials.gov. This Web site offers information about federally and privately supported clinical research needing human volunteers. It explains a trial’s purpose, who may participate, locations and phone numbers. This information should be used in conjunction with advice from your own health care professionals.
metro Atlanta: 404-463-0763 Outside metro Atlanta: GeorgiaCares 1-800-669-8387
Grandchildren By Martha Nolan McKenzie
mma and Leon Carr were looking forward to their retirement. “We planned to travel a lot because we didn’t while we were working,” says Emma, 64. “We’re both in good health and we saved during our working years, so we were going to enjoy ourselves.” That’s not the way it worked out. Instead, in March 2006 — four months after Emma retired from her job as a program technician for the USDA in Claxton — the Carrs became the legal guardians of three of their grandchildren. The children’s father — the Carrs’ son — had been in and out of jail on drug-related charges since the children were born. Their mother had moved in with a new boyfriend, forming a household marked by domestic violence and substance abuse. As a result, the children — now age 17, 15 and 9 — had lived with the Carrs off and on throughout their lives. But in late 2005, Emma discovered that the local Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) office was about to put the children in the foster care system. “That’s when I went and got guardianship,” says Emma. “I wanted to adopt them, but their mother won’t let me.”
So instead of traveling, Emma spends her days helping with homework, shuttling between piano and football practices and cooking family dinners. “I’m having to do everything a parent should have done, so I’m not able to do the things that grandparents should be able to do,” says Emma. Though Emma often feels as if she’s alone, she is in very good company. Across the U.S., 5.7 million grandparents live with grandchildren in their homes, and 2.4 million of these grandparents are the primary caregivers for their grand children, according to a 2005 American Communities Survey. In Georgia, more than 193,000 grandparents have grand children in their homes, with more than 93,000 acting as primary caregivers. And this trend, which cuts across all socioeconomic, racial and ethnic boundaries, is growing. “The census just began to track the number of grandparents raising grandchildren in 2000,” says Deborah Whitley, director of the National Center on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren at Georgia State University. “That’s when there began to be an awareness of the impact this has had on the nation and on family systems. And since 2000, we’ve seen a steady increase in the numbers.” The reasons behind this trend are many. Incarceration, AIDS, mental disorders, poverty, teen pregnancy and, recently, military deployment leave many parents unable to care for their children, compelling grandparents to step in. But the biggest driving force, according to experts, is substance abuse. “I would say that at least 70% of the cases we see are the result of substance abuse,” says Susan Kelley, founder of Project Healthy Grandparents, also at Georgia State. “Drug use can lead to other problems, like jail, teen pregnancy, transmission of AIDS, poverty and death, so it can be a vicious cycle.” However they came to this place, grandparents who find themselves in this role are pulled by strong and opposing forces. On one hand, these grandparents are motivated by love, and they reap the emotional benefits of doing the right thing and of being supremely needed and useful. On the other, they must navigate a difficult and often confusing road blocked with legal, financial, housing and emotional issues.
randchildren often arrive in a grandparent’s home abruptly, many times as the result of a crisis, and the arrangement is completely informal and believed to be short-term. However, as days stretch into weeks and weeks into months, the grandparents are forced to confront the dilemma of their legal relationship with their grandchild. Should they try to obtain guardianship? Should they adopt the child? In fact, legal status is often the “key to the kingdom.” Without that, the grandparent may have difficulty enrolling a child in school, getting medical treatment or obtaining financial assistance. For grandparents who do pursue a degree of legal status, there are various options available: ■ POWER OF ATTORNEY. A quick, easily obtained and inexpensive legal arrangement, a power of attorney lasts for as long as the parent wants, and the parent retains his parental rights. “A power of attorney is easy to get, but it is not recognized by everyone,” says Bill Broker, the managing attorney for the Savannah office of the Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP). “Schools, for example, are accepting it less than they used to.” ■ TEMPORARY GUARDIANSHIP. Parents and grandparents may work together to craft a temporary legal arrangement for the child. “Parents are often willing to go along with a temporary guardianship because they are easy to dissolve,” says Wendy A. Jerkins, kinship care project attorney for the GLSP. “But it gives grandparents more authority than a power of attorney.” ■ FULL OR PERMANENT GUARDIANSHIP. A grandparent can be awarded full guardianship if he or she has informally raised the grandchild for a period of time or if the parents can no longer care for the child. If the parent opposes guardianship, the grandparent must file a petition in court. As a legal guardian, the grandparent can act as the child’s parent, although parental rights are not terminated, and the parents can go back to court to have the guardianship revoked. ■ CUSTODY. Legal custody is like guardianship, but it has different rules. A grandparent can gain legal custody of their grandchild if the parents consent or, sometimes, even if the parents object. Among other things, the court will look at the “best interests of the child.” Grandparents may gain custody during a court hearing. “Custody is harder to dissolve than guardianship,” says Kimbley Puckett, supervising attorney in GLSP’s Piedmont regional office. “So if a grandparent is worried about the parent coming back and trying to get the child, custody would be the way to go.” ■ FOSTER CARE. A child enters the foster care system when a court removes him from his parents’ home as a result of abuse, neglect or deprivation. The grandparent can apply to become a licensed foster care parent for the child. The good news is that the grandparent will receive aid from the state — up to about $425 a month (although the amounts may
vary). The bad news is that DFCS retains legal custody of the child and the grandparent is subject to a lot of oversight. ■ ADOPTION. Adoption severs all of the parents’ rights and responsibilities and bestows them on the grandparent. Before a grandparent can adopt his or her grandchild, the parents must have given their consent or a court must have terminated their parental rights.
aking on additional mouths to feed and bodies to clothe presents a financial challenge, particularly for grandparents who may be living on a fixed income. If a grandparent becomes a foster parent, she is eligible to receive up to $425 per month. The majority of grandparents, however, do not enter the foster care system. For these grandparents, other forms of assistance, though limited, are available. One source of such assistance is the federal cash benefit program, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF. Grandparents and other relatives can apply to the state for TANF benefits one of two ways — a child-only grant or a family grant. A grandparent raising a grandchild may also be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if they are lowincome and over age 65. Low-income grandparents can also get help with food costs through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which is administered through local health departments. They may qualify for food stamps, even if they do not have legal custody or guardianship of their grandchildren. In Georgia, grandparents may be eligible for additional funds, thanks to initiatives implemented by the state’s Department of Human Resources last year. Specifically, eligible grandparent-headed households can receive monthly subsidy payments of an additional $50 per child through the TANF program. They can also apply through Emergency/ Crisis Intervention Services for funds to help pay for the cost of emergency needs such as rent, utilities, moving expenses, school expenses or furniture. And child support payments can be redirected from an absent parent to the grandparent.
bout one-third of all children who live in grand parentheaded households do not have health insurance, according to the Children’s Defense Fund. If the grandparent is still working, their employer’s insurance generally will not cover a grandchild, unless that grandchild is adopted. Medicare won’t cover a grandchild even if he is adopted. Private insurance for the children is out of reach for most. Many children in low-income households may be eligible for Medicaid, even if the grandparent is not the legal guardian. In Georgia, children through the age of 18 who do not
qualify for Medicaid but live in households with incomes at or below 235% of the federal poverty level can qualify for medical coverage through PeachCare for Kids. For more information, call 1-877-GA-PEACH.
he house or apartment that was perfect for the empty-nester may suddenly become too small when a grandchild or two moves in. And space isn’t the only problem. The grandparent may be living in a senior housing facility that does not allow children. Or they may be in public housing where rules limit the number of occupants. Federal law does not require grandparents to have legal custody or guardianship of the children they are raising to qualify for federal housing programs. These programs include public housing, housing choice vouchers (formerly Section 8 vouchers) and Section 202 senior housing. In the Atlanta area, ACHOR Center, which provides support and services for homeless women, is partnering with Noel Khalil, a developer of senior housing, to provide housing
Linda Curtis (left, with her family) is a grandmother raising grand children with special needs. Atlanta-based Project GRANDD has given her much-needed support. and support services for grandmothers raising grandchildren. The project is housed in a newly constructed apartment complex in downtown Atlanta called Park Common. About 41 of the total 332 units will be set aside for ACHOR clients. To qualify, however, the grandmother must be homeless. “The term ‘homeless’ can range from women living in shelters to women who sleep on a sofa in a relative’s home,” says Sandra Muckle, director of permit housing for the ACHOR Center. Sometimes the house itself isn’t the only problem. Two years ago Dorothy Stinson, 70, moved with her now-10-yearold adopted daughter from the Bronx in New York to Rome, GA. Stinson had been raising Althea — who is the granddaughter of Stinson’s first cousin — since the child was eight months old. She formally adopted Althea when she was two. “I’ve seen the changes in the Bronx and I didn’t want Althea growing up there,” says Stinson. “I couldn’t let her
go outside by herself because it was too dangerous. I moved down here to give her a better life.” These days, when Althea gets home from school — where she is an honor roll student — she heads outside to the culde-sac where her duplex is and plays games of kickball and tag with neighborhood friends. “I couldn’t be happier,” says Stinson. “This is exactly the kind of life I envisioned for her.”
or all the legal, medical and financial issues that grandparents-turned-parents face, the emotional issues can be the greatest — and the most conflicted. Undeniably, there are emotional rewards that come with being a grandparent head-of-household. On the flip side, some grandparents are plagued with guilt, feeling somehow responsible for their child’s inability to parent. “Such negative feelings can prevent grandparents from reaching out to access community resources and services,” says Mary Lou Vergara, caregiver program coordinator with the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). And many grandparents find that the task of parenting is complicated by the condition of their grandchildren. “These children usually come to their grandparents with a very difficult history,” says Irma Garcia Rose, caregiver support coordinator with Mercy Senior Care in Rome. “Many of these kids have special needs as a result of a parent’s drug use.” Mary Colton (not her real name) has already raised five children and two grandchildren. The 64-year-old Atlanta woman is now raising two more grandchildren — a 15-yearold girl and an 11-year-old boy. It’s the latter who causes her the most sleepless nights. As a result of his mother’s drug use, the boy has fetal alcohol syndrome, learning disabilities and ADHD. “He always had a lot of problems in school,” says Colton. “The school kept telling me he was doing fine, but he was never progressing.” Colton was able to get help through Project GRANDD (Grandparents Rearing and Nurturing Dependents with Disabilities). The program provided an advocate to accompany Colton to the school to develop an IEP (Individual Education Program) for her grandson. She was able to get him into a different school and class to meet his needs, and now his schoolwork and attitude have improved dramatically. While Colton is happy with those results, she still feels the burden she is shouldering. “I’ve already raised all my kids and I thought I’d get to visit with my grandkids and take them to movies and such,” says Colton. “My daughter will drop over to see the kids, but she doesn’t have any of the responsibility. I have all of it.”
elp is available for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, especially in Georgia. “Georgia is a model for the nation for services addressing the needs of grandparents raising grandchildren,” says Whitley of the National Center on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
Governor Sonny Perdue brought the issue to the forefront in 2005, when he allocated funds to Georgia’s 12 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) to create Kinship Care programs across the state. The goal is to develop a one-stop shop in each region, where grandparents who are raising grandchildren can get information about community services to meet their needs. In addition, the new Georgia Kinship Navigator Program, initiated by the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), helps grandparents navigate the public service system. A “Navigator” is available in county DFCS offices to serve grandparents and make sure they get all the benefits to which they are entitled. More help may be on the way. Legislation sponsored by State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-45) would make it easier for grandparents to get power of attorney for their minor grandchildren as well as provide a subsidy equal to 80% of the foster parent rate for low-income grandparents. Supporters hope Senate Bill 88 — “Care of a Grandchild Act” — will pass when the General Assembly reconvenes in January. Three Atlanta metro counties — Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton — have the highest concentration of grandparent caregivers in the state. Fortunately, the metro area offers additional resources. ARC has partnered with AARP Georgia and the Brookdale Foundation to produce an extensive resource guide, ”Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Resource Guide for the Atlanta Region.“ Georgia State University’s Project Healthy Grandparents offers a unique home-based program serving families in DeKalb, Atlanta and South Fulton. “We make monthly home visits with a nurse and a social worker and assess the health of the grandparent and grandchild and the living situation,” says Kelley, the project’s founder. “Then we’ll make referrals to legal aid, housing services, early intervention and educational services — whatever is needed.” Project GRANDD provides support and services to Atlanta-area grandparents raising grandchildren who have a developmental disability, chronic illness, learning disability or behavior disorder. “Our program is unique in the state because we focus specifically on this population,” says Janice Nodvin, project director of Project GRANDD. “A lot of caregivers don’t realize a child may have an identifiable disability that will qualify them for waivers through the state. We have nurses, social workers and family therapists who work with the families on an individual basis to determine their needs and get them the support they need.” In addition to helping grandparents get an IEP for their grandchild, as it did for Mary Colton (above), Project GRANDD can help families find a primary care physician, legal assistance and educational support. Perhaps the most helpful resource available to any grandparent is a support group of other grandparents in the same situation. The meetings provide a brief respite from their parenting duties, understanding shoulders to cry on, lessons learned by others who have traveled the same road and a break from isolation. All around the state, support groups
with names such as “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren,” “Grands Who Care” and “Grandparents as Parents” give grandparents a much-needed framework of support. Helping Hands in Covington is typical of such groups. Anywhere from 10 to 15 grandparents meet at the Newton County Senior Center for an hour or two on the last Monday of every month. Experts are often brought in to speak about topics ranging from navigating the juvenile justice system to accessing available benefits, and from parenting issues to advocating for your grandchild in the school system. The heart of each meeting, however, is the free exchange of concerns, support and ideas between the participants. “A lot of our grandparents feel like they are all alone out there,” says Josephine Brown, executive director, Newton County Senior Services. “But then they come to a support group and discover there are a lot of other people in the same situation, dealing with a lot of the same issues they are. It can make all the difference in the world.” (To locate a support group in your area, contact your local AAA.)
Perhaps the most helpful resource available to any grandparent is a support group of other grandparents in the same situation. Gladys Perkins, 71, is raising three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren ranging in age from 4 to 17 in her Riverdale home. She’s not sure what she would do without the help and support of the Kinship Care Resource Center in Jonesboro and its support group. “After so many years not having any children, you have to reach back and try to remember what to do and how to do it,” says Perkins. “I had forgotten chicken pox. I had forgotten teacher conferences. I never dreamed I’d be doing that again.” But after her son became paralyzed and his daughter passed away, Perkins and her husband, James, found themselves raising their son’s three children and that son’s deceased daughter’s two children. “I happened to see someone who was wearing a T-shirt that said ‘Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.’ I approached them, and they gave me the number for the Kinship Care center, so I called. They helped me get all the kids on Medicaid. They gave me information about housing, doctors, financial assistance. “But the support group is what is really amazing,” Perkins continues. “I’ll get down about my situation and say to myself, ‘Why me? Why am I stuck with this?’ Then I hear someone else’s story, and I say, ‘I don’t have a problem! My situation is not so bad!’ The love and concern and sharing that comes out in the support group is really something that keeps your spirits up and lets you keep going.” GG
Medicare Beneﬁciaries By Jennie Deese, Director of Community Outreach, Southeast Region, Care Improvement Plus
he number of Americans with chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart failure is reaching epidemic proportions. In fact, studies show that an estimated 125 million Americans — a large number of whom are age 65 and older — suffer from one or more chronic illnesses.1 Because these conditions account for 75% of all health care expenditures,2 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is taking a hard look at disease management, an innovative treatment program that can cut costs while improving the health and quality of life of participating beneﬁ ciaries. Disease management is a program or approach that helps people with chronic illnesses manage their health with the support of their doctors and special nurses. The goal is to help those with chronic illnesses live a more active and comfortable life and to help prevent, reduce or delay complications that may result in hospitalization or institutional care. For example, people with diabetes often see multiple doctors and have numerous prescriptions, complicated medication schedules and added concerns about diet and exercise. Disease management supports them by providing services such as medication reviews, proper foot care education and/or assistance with blood sugar monitoring devices to reduce the risk of complications such as amputation or blindness.
plan has all new members assessed by a nurse who performs a comprehensive checkup and a thorough medication review, and instructs the patient on the proper use of health monitoring equipment such as glucose meters. The nurse works with members to educate them about their conditions, medications and ways to enhance their quality of life, and develops an individualized plan that outlines steps to prevent future complications and hospitalizations. Research has shown that disease management can help to improve health outcomes.3 For example: ■ A reduction in blood pressure can reduce heart attacks, strokes and deaths from cardiovascular disease.
The goal of disease management is to help those with chronic illnesses live a more active, comfortable life and take control of their health.
or those with heart failure, disease management can help catch problems before they worsen and require hospitalization. Some programs offer access to a local nurse for healthrelated questions between doctor’s visits or blood pressure cuffs to help monitor cardiovascular health. While health plans have traditionally focused their efforts on helping members with health problems as they arise, new Medicare options such as Chronic Condition Special Needs Plans take a more preventive approach — using disease management and other services to avoid further health problems. These plans typically offer a number of supplemental services designed to educate members about their conditions and identify problems before they worsen. For instance, one
■ Improved blood sugar control in people with diabetes reduces their risk of developing complications such as eye, kidney and nerve disease. ■ Regular foot examinations and monitoring can prevent diabetes-related amputations. Managing a chronic illness can be overwhelming at times. However, disease management can help by providing patients with the day-to-day support needed to take control of their health. GG Care Improvement Plus is a Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plan that provides chronically ill members with a comprehensive disease management program. For more information, call 18667276646 or visit www.careimprovementplus.com. 1. Anderson, Gerard, Ph.D., et al.; “Chronic Conditions: Making the Case for Ongoing Care.” Johns Hopkins University. 2. Lorig, Kate, Dr. P.H. and Holman, Halsted, M.D.; “Self-Management Education: Context, Definition and Outcomes and Mechanisms.” Stanford Patient Education Research Center. 3. “The Power of Prevention,” a report by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (2003) from the CDC Web site, www.healthierus.gov/steps/summit/ prevportfolio/power/index.html.
A Look at Area Agencies on Aging Around Georgia In communities across the country, Area
Northeast Atlanta regional Georgia Commission southern Crescent
Agencies on Aging (AAAs) serve as gateways to local resources, planning efforts and services that help older adults remain independent.
Central savannah river middle Georgia
heart of Georgia Altamaha
On the following pages are the programs and services offered by Georgia’s AAAs.
Covers a 15-county area surrounding Rome, Dallas, Dalton, Cartersville
Families come together as seniors perform
eniors from the Bremen Senior Center in Haralson County presented a Christmas play last year that was so popular, the new play they did this year sold out two nights in a row! Written and directed by Kathy Rayl, last year’s play, “A Holiday Jingle,” involved a group of older women who were facing the holidays alone. Their grown children were too busy to come visit, or were going far away to vacation spots and the women were unable to join them. As the women complained to each other, things began to change. Angels appeared in disguise and taught them how to be happy even when alone — and, more importantly, how to share their happiness with others who were alone. They sang Winter 2008
again written and directed by Rayl and performed at the Bremen Senior Center. The two sold-out shows raised money to benefit the senior center. Plans are already afoot for another original, perhaps next Talented seniors in Bremen bring the community together for a night of entertainment and fun. summer. For informa and danced, and even did a quiet scene tion, contact the AAA of Northwest with the song “The Old Lamplighter.” The Georgia, P.O. Box 1798, Rome, GA costumes, storyline, acting and musical 30162-1798; 706-802-5506 or toll-free talent were all extremely well done, and 1-800-759-2963. the audience of 600 friends and family Northwest Georgia encompasses these counties: thoroughly enjoyed the two evening perBartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Fannin, Floyd, Gilmer, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Pickens, Polk, Walker, formances at the First Methodist Church. Whitfield This year’s play, “Hot Flashes,” was 9
Atlanta Regional Commission Covers a 10-county area surrounding Atlanta
Information and assistance are increasing for ethnically diverse older adults
s the Atlanta region experiences growth in different ethnic populations, the most significant growth within those groups is that of persons over the age of 60. The numbers of the 60-plus Asian, Vietnamese, Korean, Hispanic, Russian and other ethnic groups is increasing at a much faster rate than their overall Participants at the Clarkston Community Center. population. In recognition of these growing numbers, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), wider array of ethnically diverse communiArea Agency on Aging for the 10-county ties. Information and assistance specialists region, has expanded its outreach efforts at each of these agencies are providing to provide information about services telephone and face-to-face consultations for older adults in order to better serve and information about programs and these diverse “Working with the ARC…is adding an important populations. Through concomponent to our efforts to assist older tractual agreerefugees in their adjustments to living in the ments with ARC, the Center for United States and their communities.” Pan-Asian Community Services, Clarkston Community services to help older adults live healthy, Center and Jewish Family & Career Serindependent lives. A unique aspect of vices, information and assistance services these efforts is the added component of and outreach services are extending to a translation and interpretation services. In some circumstances, translators are
Atlanta Regional Commission, 404-463-3333 www.agewiseconnection.com
If you need caregiving information, contact an AgeWise Connection partner: Cherokee County Cherokee County Senior Services, 770-345-5312 Clayton County Clayton County Aging Program, 770-603-4050 Cobb County Cobb Senior Services, 770-528-5364 DeKalb County Office of Senior Affairs, 770-322-2950 Douglas County Douglas Senior Services, 770-489-3100 10
Fayette County Fayette Senior Services, 770-461-0813 Fulton County Fulton County Aging Program, 404-730-6000 Gwinnett County Gwinnett County Senior Services, 678-377-4150 Henry County Henry County Senior Services, 770-288-7001 Rockdale County Rockdale County Senior Services, 770-922-4633
available to accompany non-English-speaking older adults to medical visits and other appointments. In order to link the older adults to appropriate services, each agency uses the Aging & Disabilities database, which contains information about more than 20,000 resources for older adults and caregivers in the state of Georgia. An important benefit of ARC’s collaboration with agencies who serve ethnically diverse older adults is that they can provide input on services that may not be in the Aging & Disabilities database.
Almaz Akalewold (left), director of the senior program at the Clarkston Community Center, and former Russian refugee Yuliya Nemteva.
Almaz Akalewold from the Clarkston Community Center notes, “Working with the ARC in providing this expanded service is adding an important component to our efforts to assist older refugees in their adjustments to living in the United States and their local communities.” To learn more about information and assistance for ethnically diverse older adults, contact Jan Kauffman, Atlanta Regional Commission, at 404-463-3239. Atlanta Regional Commission encompasses these counties: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Rockdale
Covers a 12-county area surrounding Athens, Winder, Monroe, Covington, Madison
Seniors raising relative children “Other things can change us, but we start and end with family.” — Anthony Brandt
amily Ties means providing full-time nurturing and protection to children by adults — other than parents — who have a family-relationship bond with the children (Child Welfare League of America, 1994). Most of the time, this nurturing and protection is provided by grandparents or relatives when original families are torn apart by substance abuse, incarceration, death, mental and physical illness, AIDS, child abuse or neglect. There are three types of Family Ties care arrangements: informal care, formal care and foster care. The Morgan County Senior Center
Northeast Georgia Area Agency on Aging (AAA) and grant money received provides from the Central once-monthly Georgia EMC information — Operation Round sessions Up, it has been a and support great pleasure this groups for year to assist famithose raising lies in the purchase relative chilof book bags and dren. Sessions school supplies for “Our Kids” on a Wal-Mart shopping trip. and support “Our Kids,” as well groups provide as a Wal-Mart shopping trip for an outfit, valuable information and understanding shoes, socks or undergarments. from Family Ties peers. What makes this For more information on this program, program unique is that the families share contact the AAA at 706-583-2546 or suppertime and then supervision and 1-800-474-7540. activities are provided for the children, allowing caregivers to attend meetings NorthEast Georgia encompasses these counties: Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Greene, Jackson, Jasper, Madison, with ease and peace of mind. Morgan, Newton, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Walton Through material aid money from the
Covers a 16-county area surrounding Columbus, Americus, Butler, Montezuma, Cuthbert
Gateway joins Aging and Disability Resource Connection to “go mobile”
he Lower Chattahoochee Area local newspaper of each senior center’s Agency on Aging (AAA) has been county. AAA staff also go to libraries, mobilized! Gateway staff, community centers and along with representatives courthouses. These from other services such as visits have increased GeorgiaCares and Lifelong interest and knowledge Planning, have been setting in aging services, and up shop at spots around the a host of information region. Staff from the AAA has been provided, visit each of the 12 senior cen including a focus on ters in the 16-county region the developmentally once a month and bring disabled population. information as well as wireless The service database laptops that have a database has over 55 resources of services and referral forms. Tracey Watts, GeorgiaCares specifically for the coordinator, and Aleisha Elliot, Months in advance of the developmentally Lifelong Planning coordinator road show, a schedule of disabled. — Lower Chattahoochee Area AAA visits is published in the Recently, the AAA Agency on Aging. Winter 2008
received a grant from a pharmaceutical company to pay for a kiosk station in Peachtree Mall in Columbus — so the same Lower Chattahoochee AAA/ADRC representatives and resources are now available to the mall walkers and shoppers twice a week. Through these efforts and the local CARE-NET, working relationships with developmental disability providers and consumers have been established. The Aging and Disability Resource Connection has provided the road map, and the AAA is well down the highway in making this a successful, truly one-stop shop. For more information, contact the Lower Chattahoochee AAA, P.O. Box 1908, Columbus, GA 31902-1908; 706-256-2910 or 1-800-615-4379. LOWER CHATTAHOOCHEE encompasses these counties: Chattahoochee, Clay, Crisp, Dooly, Harris, Macon, Marion, Muscogee, Quitman, Randolph, Schley, Stewart, Sumter, Talbot, Taylor, Webster
Heart of Georgia Altamaha
Covers a 17-county area surrounding Baxley, Dublin, Vidalia, Jesup, Swainsboro
CARE-NET and Rosalynn Carter Institute recognize regional winners
n November 5, regional caregiver is no job too small or too dirty for Vian awards were given to three outGlosson when it comes to caring for standing caregivers — among a crowd others. She has a true servant’s heart.” of 200 people attending the 4th Annual Also receiving an embossed medallion, Caregiver Conference at the Heart of Georgia Technical College in Dublin. Vian Glosson — a pastor’s wife, a grandparent raising her granddaughter, and a caregiver for her motherin-law — was awarded a Rosalynn Carter embossed Rosalynn Carter recognizes outstanding caregivers. medallion in recognition of her contributions as a family caregiver. Glosson had been nominated by Lucille Brock-Thomas, founder of Care women of the Southside Baptist Church givers Resource and Support Systems, Inc., in Hazlehurst, Georgia, who said, “There was recognized as a volunteer caregiver
and an exceptional advocate for caregivers and care receivers. Brock-Thomas works with more than 25 churches and community coalitions, advocating on behalf of caregivers. Nominated by Altamaha Home Health and awarded a bronze medallion, Lee Green was recognized for 18 years of service as a para-professional caregiver or certified nurses assistant. Co-worker Pauline Carter said that Green “is loved by all of her clients because of the kindness she shows to each.” For further information, contact Heart of Georgia Altamaha RDC, 331 W. Park er St., Baxley, GA 31513; 912-367-3648 or toll-free 1-888-367-9913. heart of georgia encompasses these counties: Appling, Bleckley, Candler, Dodge, Emanuel, Evans, Jeff Davis, Johnson, Laurens, Montgomery, Tattnall, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, Wheeler, Wilcox
Covers an 18-county area surrounding Waycross, Valdosta, Tifton, Douglas, Folkston
S.E.L.F. seniors enjoy dancing the night away!
throughout Southeast Georgia. Often, the dances are associated with a certain theme, such as Patriotic Night or Halloween Costume Night. In addition to the social benefits of the Friday night dances, the weekly activity provides the seniors an outlet for physical activity. “People who dance on a regular basis have been known to experience less stress, less depression and decreased loneliness,” says Lisa Whitley, Southeast Georgia’s AAA wellness coordinator. For more information, call the Southeast Georgia AAA at 1725 South Georgia Parkway West, Waycross, GA 31503; 912-285-6097 or toll-free 1-888-732-4464.
eniors in four Southeast Georgia counties are extending their activities beyond normal senior center hours — in fact, they are dancing the night away! This vivacious ensemble of seniors has created a group called S.E.L.F. (Singles Enjoying Lively Fellowship), and each Friday night they host a dance for seniors looking to make new friends and have a good time. This weekly event has also resulted in marital bliss for a few. “Several people have met and found mates at our dances,” says Betty Ellis, Tift County S.E.L.F. president. “We have a good time.” Currently, four counties participate in hosting the “Friday Night Fever” S.E.L.F. events. Each week, the dance is held at the 12
senior center or a nearby facility in one of the participating counties of Tift, Coffee, Ben Hill or Berrien, drawing seniors from
Southeast Georgia encompasses these counties: Atkinson, Bacon, Ben Hill, Berrien, Brantley, Brooks, Charlton, Clinch, Coffee, Cook, Echols, Irwin, Lanier, Lowndes, Pierce, Tift, Turner, Ware
Covers a 13-county area surrounding Gainesville, Cumming, Clarkesville, Toccoa, Hiawassee
SCSEP modifies focus at Legacy Link
n 2006, Congress modified the regulations applying to the SCSEP (Senior Community Service Employment Program). SCSEP has been and continues to be a valuable resource for individuals 55 and over. It offers qualified applicants the opportunity to receive training and work experience in preparation for permanent full- or part-time employment. Faye Christopher, director and program graduate, enthusiastically champions SCSEP. For her, the program performed exactly as advertised, providing a pathway to full employment. The modification has shifted the program’s focus from job placement to job training. The goal is still to help place mature workers in a part-time position at a nonprofit or governmental organization.
which the trainee might be eligible. Job developers promote current and new employer contacts for job placements, and they However, the recruit trainees to the program emphasis now as well. Legacy Link has been is on training contracted by SCSEP to provide workers to services in the following counties: learn and gain Banks, Bartow, Catoosa, Chatnew skills, tooga, Cherokee, Dawson, Fannin, which prepare Floyd, Forsyth, Franklin, Gilmer, them to move Faye Christopher, SCSEP director for Legacy Link. Habersham, Hall, Hart, Lumpkin, into regular Murray, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, employment. Union, Walker, White and Whitfield. Trainees, with the help of counselors, For information, contact Legacy develop Individual Employment Plans. Link, P.O. Box 2534, Gainesville, GA By applying self-improvement methods 30503-2534; 770-538-2650 or toll-free that they have learned and new skills 1-800-845-LINK. that they have acquired, trainees will find employment that matches their talents Legacy Link encompasses these counties: Banks, Dawson, Forsyth, Franklin, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Lumpkin, and utilizes those skills. Each trainee also Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union, White receives a Benefits Checkup, a helpful evaluation tool that identifies benefits for
Covers a 10-county area surrounding Franklin, Newnan, LaGrange, Griffin, Carrollton
Southern Crescent’s Older Employee and Older Employer of the Year
or 61 years, Herschel has congratuAndrews has been in lated him for his Georgia’s workforce, having leadership role driven more than three milin training and lion miles as a truck driver. assisting 160 At the age of 79, he serves as displaced workcoordinator for the truckers from Ford driving program at Griffin Motor Company. Technical College, and in the Art Durden, month of May, Older Ameristore manager cans Month, he was named of the Publix Southern Crescent’s Older supermarket in Employee of the Year. Newnan, was Herschel Andrews, Older Employee of the Year. As coordinator for the selected as the CDL-B/Forklift Programs, Older Employer Andrews is constantly devising new ideas of the Year. The Publix supermarket can to better serve the truck-driving industry. boast that 29% of their staff is over the Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond age of 55. Of those older workers, 21% Winter 2008
have been with Publix for more than six years. These older workers are utilized in all departments of the store and have received training in their specialized areas. Durden has partnered with local agencies and companies for fundraisers for the local senior center. He is willing to help with any local charity event and always says, “Let me see what I can do.” Andrews, Durden and the Publix at Coweta Crossing were honored at the 19th Annual Older Workers Conference luncheon at the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort in St. Simon Island. For additional information, con tact the Southern Crescent AAA, P.O. Box 1600, Franklin, GA 30217-1600; 706-675-6721, 770-854-6026 or tollfree 1-866-854-5652. Southern Crescent encompasses these counties: Butts, Carroll, Coweta, Heard, Lamar, Meriwether, Pike, Spalding, Troup, Upson
Covers an 11-county area surrounding Macon, Warner Robins, Milledgeville
Middle Georgia children benefit from summer camp and school supplies
his summer, the “Kinship Care/ Relatives as Parents Program,” through the Middle Georgia Regional Development Center/Area Agency on Aging, participated in several projects for grandparents/relatives raising grandchildren in the Middle Georgia area. One particular project gave Kinship Care families an opportunity to receive several hours of respite each day for the entire summer. Through the Kinship Care Program, the Area Agency on Aging sponsored summer camp participation for 22 children under the age of 18 who are being raised by a grandparent or relative. The summer camp lasted nine weeks, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. The camp offered several learning oppor-
County Board of Education and Twiggs Board of Education were tunities and all excited about activities for receiving assiskids, includtance. Their staff ing academdistributed the ics, drama, school supplies to technology, grandparents or Natalie Brown (center), Kinship Care specialist art, music, for the Middle Georgia Regional Development relatives raising Center/Area Agency on Aging, with two members swimming, children in their of the Twiggs County Board of Education staff. computer counties. literacy, socFor further cer camp, public speaking and mannerism, information on the Kinship Care basketball camp, cheerleading camp and Program, contact Natalie Brown at the field trips. Middle Georgia Area Agency on Aging, Also this summer, the Kinship Care 175-C Emery Highway, Macon, or call Program donated school supplies to four 478-751-6409. grandparent-headed households and to Middle Georgia encompasses these counties: three Middle Georgia Board of Education Baldwin, Bibb, Crawford, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach, Pulaski, Putnam, Twiggs, Wilkinson sites. The Bibb Board of Education, Peach
Central Savannah River
Covers a 14-county area surrounding Augusta, Thomson, Martinez/Evans, Waynesboro, Sandersville
Back to school!
accredited post-baccalaureate program and a national examination to become a registered dietitian. The dietetic interns will spend one of their 44 weeks learning about com-
ooler weather and changing leaves means just one thing: Fall is here and school is back in session. As a participant in community education and a gateway to community resources, it is only natural for the CSRA Area Agency on Aging to be partnering with local institutions to educate tomorrow’s leaders. Twelve of those leaders are dietetic interns who are enrolled in the University Hospital Dietetic Internship program. These 12 individuals hail from all parts of the nation and were selected on the University Hospital Dietetic Internship class. basis of academic standing, letters of recommendation, work experience and community activities. Each intern munity nutrition through a rotation with must successfully complete a 44-week Cindy Elia, RD, the CSRA Area Agency on 14
Aging’s new nutrition services specialist. During their rotation, the dietetic interns will have an opportunity to provide nutrition screening and education at the community senior centers, in addition to participating in the development and evaluation of the congregate and homedelivered meals. Elia is also mentoring a Lakeside High School student with his senior project on the study of factors that influence eating preference. Until the bell rings, we will be hard at work studying in the Central Savannah River Area. For more information, contact the Area Agency on Aging at 706-210-2000, 1-888-922-4464 or www.areaagency onaging.com. Central Savannah River encompasses these counties: Burke, Columbia, Glascock, Hancock, Jefferson, Jenkins, Lincoln, McDuffie, Richmond, Screven, Taliaferro, Warren, Washington, Wilkes
Covers a 14-county area surrounding Albany, Bainbridge, Moultrie, Thomasville
Caregivers as advocates
he Southwest Georgia CARE-NET and SOWEGA Council on Aging sponsored a “Breakfast with Your State Legislators” in late September. This event brought together legislators and approximately 50 family and professional caregivers to discuss pending legislation and issues of concern to caregivers for the elderly, physically and mentally disabled adults and children and those with developmental disabilities. The 2008 Georgia General Assembly will be in session for the next several weeks to pass legislation that affects us all. Caregivers can help to bring about changes in laws and public policies by letting their legislators know that they are interested and concerned. Below are two bills affecting caregivers that will be
decided during this legislative session: House Bill 188 — Jury Exemption for Caregivers: This would allow caregivers for care-dependent children and adults to be relieved from serving on jury duty. Senate Bill 88 — Care of a Grandchild Act: This would create a power of attorney that biological parents could give
Senator John Bulloch, District 11, discusses issues with constituents who attended the “Breakfast with Your State Legislators” on September 29, 2007, for the CARE-NET/ SOWEGA Council on Aging.
to grandparents raising their grandchildren, authorizing them to obtain services for the child. It also would create a new means of financial support for some grandparents raising grandchildren. To advocate for yourself and other caregivers, call your Representative and Senator to request that they support the bills you favor. Everyone has the power to make a difference if they take the time and speak up! For more information about these and other bills, as well as how to contact your legislators, go to www.legis. state.ga.us. For further information, contact the Southwest Georgia Area Agency on Aging at 1105 Palmyra Road, Albany, GA 31701-2508; 229-432-1124 or toll-free 1-800-282-6612. Southwest Georgia encompasses these counties: Baker, Calhoun, Colquitt, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Grady, Lee, Miller, Mitchell, Seminole, Terrell, Thomas, Worth
Covers a 9-county area surrounding Brunswick and Savannah
Coastal advocates meet with elected officials
n November, the Coastal Georgia Area communication and advocacy techniques. Agency on Aging (AAA) and the Council Seniors and other advocates in the field of Advocates for Georgia’s Elderly (COof aging services were able to put their AGE) jointly sponsored a new skills to the test the day of advocacy training for following day, when they area seniors and caregivers attended a special Legislawanting to learn more about tive Luncheon at the Stellar becoming effective advocates Conference Center, also in on issues that impact older Brunswick. Elected officials Georgians. from across the region, The day-long training including county commisbrought more than 100 sioners, mayors and city Rev. Lloyd Dees, chair seniors from across the council representatives as man of the Coastal AAA Advisory Council, at the region to the Brunswick well as state and federal Multi-Purpose Center, where November Legislative legislators, were invited to Luncheon. More than 100 they learned basic advocacy participate in discussions senior advocates, along skills, discussed critical issues and to hear concerns from with elected officials, and participated in interactive participated in the event seniors about the issues exercises designed to sharpen held in Brunswick. most important to them. Winter 2008
Rev. Lloyd Dees, chairman of the Coastal AAA Advisory Council, participated in the training and the luncheon, and spoke enthusiastically about his experience: “It’s good to learn new things and to share important issues with the men and women who represent us. I’m so glad we had this opportunity to make our voices heard.” Seniors will be able to put their new skills to the test when they participate in the next Senior Week at the Capitol, scheduled for February 2008. More than 50 advocates plan to make the trip to Atlanta to voice their concerns about critical programs for the elderly in Georgia. To learn more about advocacy in Coastal Georgia, contact Monica Couch at the Area Agency on Aging at 1-800-580-6860, ext. 226. Coastal Georgia encompasses these counties: Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh
By Martha Nolan McKenzie
ean Karr saw an ad in her local newspaper in Hudson soliciting “secret shoppers” — people who are paid to pretend to be patrons in order to report on the service they receive. She thought it would be a fun way to earn a few extra bucks, so she responded by email. Soon afterward, she received a letter saying she had been accepted into the secret shopper program, along with a check for $4,700. Her assignment — to test the Western Union capabilities of a local Wal-Mart by wiring $4,000 to an address in Canada. She could keep the extra $700 for her trouble. First, of course, she would need to deposit the $4,700 into her bank account and then write one of her own checks to wire. “I thought to myself, ‘No one pays $700 for five minutes’ worth of work’,” says Karr, 59. So she took the letter and check to the local sheriff ’s department, and sure enough, the check was a phony. If Karr had deposited it and then wired $4,000 of her money, she would have been liable for the amount. And what has Karr learned? “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” she says. Karr is one of the lucky ones. Across the country, seniors are being parted from their savings by unscrupulous telemarketers, fraudulent investment advisors and even sticky-fingered family members at ever-increasing rates. The National Center on Elder Abuse, a Washington, D.C., clearinghouse for elder rights advocates, estimates there might be as many as five million victims a year. In 2005, reported losses to fraud victims of all ages nationwide exceeded $680 million — an increase of almost 49% from 2003. Losses to Michigan victims surpassed $12.7 million — an increase of 72% over 2003, according to a report put out by the Area Agency on Aging 1-B. 4
SENIORS A disproportionate number of those fraud victims are seniors. Though adults age 60 and older comprise 15% of the population, they account for nearly 30% of fraud victims, according to the AAA 1-B report. A recent FBI investigation discovered that fraudulent telemarketers direct nearly 80% of their calls to older adults. Yet, experts acknowledge that these fraud statistics are the barest tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of cases of senior financial fraud — perhaps as much as 75% — go unreported. “It’s embarrassing for anybody to admit they’ve been scammed, but older adults have an extra fear that others may view it as a sign they are incompetent,” says Tom Wyllie, community planner/health specialist with the AAA 1-B. “They fear they may lose their independence, perhaps be institutionalized, so they hide it — even from family members.” Scammers target seniors because they perceive them to be more vulnerable to their pitches, and this may be true, particularly for elders who suffer from dementia and/or who are socially isolated. But more importantly, seniors have the green stuff. “We know that older investors are much more targeted by con artists than younger investors,” says John Gannon, senior vice president for investor education for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). “That’s largely because they have been saving and investing for a long time, so they have the money. Scammers are targeting this group with increasingly sophisticated cons and they are customizing their pitches — for example, they might target a married, college-educated male for investment fraud and a widow living alone for a sweepstakes fraud.” And so seniors fall prey to scams and frauds in disproportionate numbers, and their losses are disproportionately devastating. Unlike younger victims, seniors who are bilked out of their life savings have no hope of recouping their losses. “They don’t have an income stream to make up their losses,” says Anita Salustro, associate state director of AARP Michigan in Lansing. “They may have to tap into their home equity to make ends meet if they lose their savings to scammers.”
SEVEN DEADLY SCAMS Like a virulent strain of the flu, scams can opportunistically morph into endless forms. “There is literally nothing that has not been thought of,” says Jody Schlaufman, an adult ser-
vice worker with the Department of Human Services (DHS) in Otsego County. “There are scams on every corner, and they are always changing and adapting with the times.” That said, here’s a look at some of the common scams targeting seniors:
Investment fraud Investment fraud. Often called a “free lunch seminar,” these scams typically lure seniors with the promise of a free meal and some investment education. Many times the con artist follows up with a visit to the senior’s home, using high-pressure tactics to convince him to invest in an either inappropriate or entirely bogus investment. “A lot of people think that the average victim of investment fraud is a woman who is widowed and living alone,” says Gannon. “However, our research (a 2006 study titled Off the Hook Again: Understanding Why the Elderly Are Victimized by Economic Fraud Crimes) showed that the typical investment fraud victim is a white male, married, college educated, fairly well-off and with above-average financial literacy. They also tended to be optimistic and self-directed — unlikely to seek a second opinion about an investment.” The most common tactics used in investment fraud pitches, according to the report, were phantom riches (“Double your money in two years”), social consensus (“Hundreds of people have already invested in this”) and scarcity (“Hurry! There are only three investment units left!”).
Prizes, lotteries and sweepstakes Prizes, lotteries and sweepstakes. Seemingly, it’s a dream come true. You get a letter in the mail saying you have won a big sweepstakes or a foreign lottery. Typically, the “winner” is asked to send some money to cover foreign taxes before he can claim his prize. Later he is hit up for processing fees, lawyer fees and other bogus charges. Like most scams, there are several variations on the theme. “Prize and sweepstake scams are huge right now,” says Susan Grant, director of National Consumers League (NCL) Fraud Center in Washington, D.C. “And 53% of the people who reported them to us last year were age 60 or older. There are lots of variations of this scam, and a relatively new twist we’ve seen is combining it with a fake check scam.” An Otsego County man fell prey to such a scam. According to DHS’ Schlaufman, the man received a letter 5
informing him that he had won $100,000 from some sort of Indonesian lottery or sweepstakes. The letter also contained a check for $4,000 and instructions for him to keep $500 as an advance and send $3,500 back to cover foreign taxes and fees so he could claim his winnings. “Of course, the check was no good, and he ended up being liable for $4,000,” says Schlaufman. “We only discovered it because the bank teller reported it. This was a well-educated man who had been a plant manager for Ford Motor for 34 years, so he would not be considered vulnerable by most standards. I asked him why he did it, and why he didn’t report it when he realized it was a scam. He said he thought it was just a quick $500, and he didn’t report it because he was too embarrassed.” A simple rule of thumb can help protect seniors. “If you haven’t entered a sweepstakes or lottery, you couldn’t have won,” says Grant. “And it’s against the law for a sweepstakes or lottery to ask you to pay anything to claim your winnings.”
Nigerian money offer scams
Nigerian money offer scams.
Closely related to the foreign lottery scams, the Nigerian money offer typically arrives via email offering a once-in-alifetime opportunity. The writer, stressing privacy, wants your help to move a large sum of money out of his country. All you have to do is allow him to transfer millions of dollars into your bank account. He promises you’ll get a large part of that money after the transfer. To accept, you need to send your bank information, business letterhead, telephone and fax numbers. Sounds like an easy way to make millions. And if you do send that information? Then you get another letter asking you to pay a series of fees for taxes, bribes, attorney expenses or transaction costs before the money can be released. And on and on. In the end, you lose your money, never receive the money you were promised, and stop hearing from the “official.”
Home improvement scams Home improvement scams. “I hear about this one all the time,” says Sharon Gire, director of the Michigan Office of Services for the Aging. “Someone knocks on your door and says, ‘I’m in the neighborhood repairing your neighbor’s roof and I noticed yours needs repair too.’ Or ‘I have half a batch of concrete left from a nearby job and I can give you a good price on a new driveway.’ Then they either take money in advance and never come back, or do a shoddy job and disappear.” Seniors who live alone seem to be particularly vulnerable. “Con artists actually go through the obits to find recent widows and target them with these kinds of scams,” says Edward Hutchison, program director of the National Association of Triads, Inc., which is part of the National Sheriffs’ Association. “Or they’ll go through the phone book and look for antiquated names. One guy charged an older woman $7,000 to plant new trees in her yard, and instead he took a bunch of branches he had trimmed 6
from other trees, stuck them in the ground and put mulch around them.”
Phishing Phishing. In this type of scam, seniors receive a call or an email from someone claming to represent a bank or other reputable governmental or financial institution. They’re warned that their financial information or credit card has been compromised, and are asked to verify their bank account number or call an 800 number where they’re asked for their personal financial information. The latest version of this scam, according to the FBI, involves jury service. Con artists identifying themselves as court employees call citizens and tell them that they have been selected for jury duty. They then ask for the person to verify his name, Social Security number and credit card numbers. If he refuses, the caller threatens him with fines. The information that con artists glean from phishing allows them to move on to the next scam.
Identity theft Identity theft. A thief who has your Social Security number, birth date and other personal information can take out loans, run up credit card charges, drain your bank accounts and destroy your credit. In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth several pounds of cure. Deter identity thieves by safeguarding your personal information. That means you should shred financial documents and paperwork, don’t give out your Social Security number or carry your Social Security card in your wallet, don’t click on links in an unsolicited email and keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates or employ outside help.
Friends and family Friends and family. The person taking the senior’s money is not always a stranger. In many cases, a family member, friend or caregiver is helping himself to the senior’s savings. This can range from a visiting aide “borrowing” first $10, then hundreds of dollars, from the senior’s wallet to a caregiver obtaining power of attorney and then emptying the senior’s accounts. “Often it starts out slow and small and then escalates, particularly if the perpetrator is a family member,” says Schlaufman. “Many times it’s adult children who come in to help the senior manage the finances, adding their name to the bank accounts, using their credit cards. We’ve seen professional guardians and caregivers do it as well. Other family members may not be aware that there is a problem until the utilities are cut off, or until the senior has passed away. We stress that family members need to be as aware and involved Michigan Generations
in the senior’s life as possible. Know who is befriending your mother, who is coming in to take care of your father.”
MICHIGAN FIGHTS BACK As the incidence of elder abuse and fraud grows, so does awareness of the problem. “In the 1980s, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) made us much more aware of the drunk driving problem,” says Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Edward Sosnick. “In the ’90s, we had the movement to curb domestic violence. I think in this decade, the focus is on elder abuse.” Indeed, statewide and local efforts to combat senior fraud and exploitation are proliferating, including one led by Sosnick. Along with Lynn Alexander, former senior advocate for Oakland County, Sosnick founded the SAVE Task Force (Serving Adults Who Are Vulnerable and/or Elderly). The task force brings together representatives from the AAA, home care agencies, senior residences, financial institutions, local law enforcement and government entities to do educational outreach symposiums and to develop systems to spot financial exploitation. “We want to teach banks, businesses and senior care facilities to recognize signs of potential financial exploitation,” says Sosnick. “Things like unusual bank activity, sudden withdrawals of funds from CDs and pensions, the use of an ATM where account holder is immobile. We also want to come up with best practices — what is the ideal way for a financial institution to respond if they spot these signs? How do we get all these different organizations working together in a coordinated response?” In Otsego County, Schlaufman is working to establish a local triad that would be composed of representatives from the county sheriff ’s office, local chiefs of police and senior citizen leadership. “The focus is working together to reduce the criminal victimization of older citizens,” says Schlaufman. “We want to identify safety and security issues in a particular area and develop services and programs to address those.” In Macomb County, the prosecutor’s office has developed a program called S.C.A.M.S. (Stop Crime Against Macomb Seniors). The program features a series of workshops that address fraud and identity theft. In Calhoun County, the AAA Region 3-B is teaming with Senior Health Partners to create an elder abuse coalition. “The coalition, in turn, will educate the public about financial exploitation,” says Carrie Taft, program coordinator for Senior Health Partners. “We are looking at all kinds of fraud, including telemarketing scams, home repair fraud, funeral and cemetery fraud, counterfeit prescription drugs and Medicare fraud.” Across the state, senior centers and AAAs offer “shredding days,” when seniors can bring their documents and paperwork in to be shredded. The Michigan Attorney General’s office started a program aimed at nursing home residents called MI Identity. “As part of that program, Winter 2008 Fall 2007
people went around to nursing homes and did free credit checks for residents,” says Lynne McCollum, legal services developer for the Michigan Office of Services for the Aging. “The concern was that residents of nursing homes were not likely to be applying for credit, so they might never find out if their identity and credit had been compromised.”
TIPS FOR AVOIDING SCAMS Caregivers and family members can help safeguard seniors from fraud. Begin by putting him or her on the national Do Not Call Registry (see sidebar). Buy your loved one a shredder or make arrangements to have financial documents shredded. Educate your loved one about the “red flags” of fraud: a promise that you can win money, make money or borrow money easily; a demand that you act immediately or else miss out on this great opportunity; a refusal to send you written information before you buy or donate; an attempt to scare you into buying something; insistence that you wire money or have a courier pick up your payment, and a refusal to stop calling. Caregivers need to be alert to signs that a senior might have fallen prey to a scam. Seniors may be in trouble if they: receive lots of mail for prizes, sweepstakes, contests and free
State and local efforts to combat senior fraud and exploitation are proliferating. trips; get frequent calls offering great deals or asking for charitable contributions; make repeated or large payments to companies in other states or countries; have difficulty buying groceries or paying utility or other bills; or subscribe to more magazines than anyone would normally read. Above all, seniors need to be encouraged to come forward if they have been a victim of fraud or attempted fraud. “We had a case of a 93-year-old woman who was living in an assisted-living facility,” says Schlaufman. “She had no living family members, and while she was mentally still very sharp, she had mobility problems. So she gave power of attorney to a long-time friend and business associate to help her with the logistics of her finances. After a while, she stopped getting her bank statements. She noticed immediately, and she started telling anyone who would listen — her hair dresser, her aide at the facility, her Avon lady — that she was concerned about her finances. One of those people reported it, and sure enough, her “friend” was funneling money out of her account. We were able to recover the money in this instance.” The lesson, says Schlaufman, is to speak up. “This woman was embarrassed and hurt, but she didn’t hide it,” says Schlaufman. “So you can be 93 years old and weigh 80 pounds and still stand up for yourself.” MI 7 7
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Smart Anti-Scam Resources National Fraud Information Center. You can report actual or attempted fraud at 1-800-876-7060 or www.fraud.org. The website also maintains a list of the top Internet and telemarketing scams and tips for avoiding fraud. Michigan Attorney General’s Office. The office posts a list of fraud alerts at www.michigan.gov/ag. At the site, click on “Consumer Alerts.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI maintains a list of common fraud schemes and tips on how to avoid them. Go to www.fbi.gov/majcases/fraud/fraudschemes.htm. Regulatory agencies. A legitimate securities salesperson must be properly licensed, and his or her firm must be registered with FINRA, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or a state securities regulator. To check a broker, contact FINRA at 1-800-289-9999 or www.finra.org. For an investment advisor, go to the SEC’s Investment Advisor Public Disclosure website at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov/IAPD/Content/IapdMain/iapd_ SiteMap.aspx. For an insurance agent, check with the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Services at 1-877-999-6442.
Consumer Reporting Companies. To check your credit for activity that could be linked to identity theft, request a free copy of your credit report at 1-877-322-8228 or www.AnnualCreditReport.com. You are entitled to one free report per year. Opt out. You can register to opt out of getting solicitations for new credit cards, mortgages and other loans by calling the credit bureau’s dedicated line at 1-888-567-8688 from your home telephone or registering at www.optoutprescreen.com. Do Not Call. You can bar telemarketers from calling you (with the exception of charities, political groups and surveys) by registering your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry maintained by the Federal Trade Commission at 888-382-1222 or www.donotcall.gov. FTC’s Identity Theft Site. At www.ftc.gov/idtheft you can learn how to avoid identity theft — and learn what to do if your identity is stolen.
Published on Dec 1, 2008
Georgia Also in This Issue: ■ Caregiving News & Notes ■ A Look at Georgia’s AAAs Published quarterly by Georgia’s Area Agencies on Aging...