Question: Heating my home has become a financial strain. I often wonder if I will have enough money to purchase propane all winter. If I do get behind in payments, are there programs that offer assistance?
Answer: If you find yourself in need of assistance, one of the first things you should do is contact your utility company. Most of them already have programs in place to help customers in need, and they can help you establish a manageable budget plan to stop your utilities from being shut off. In addition, there are numerous public and private programs available for Isabella County residents. These programs may help with financial assistance towards your bill or energy savings tips that may lower your heating expenses.
Please contact the following organizations for more information on how to apply:
Isabella County Commission on Aging
(60 years of age and older)
2200 S. Lincoln Rd, Mt. Pleasant
Department of Health and Human Services
1919 Parkland Drive, Mt. Pleasant
310 W. Michigan St, Mt. Pleasant
Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW)
535 Griswold Street, Suite 200, Detroit, MI 48226
1308 Burch St, Mt. Pleasant
TrueNorth Heat and Energy Assistance Program (emPower)
PO Box 149, Fremont, MI 49412
(231) 924-0641, ext. 155 or (855) 300-8013
Question: I’ve noticed that my mother appears to have some difficulty taking her medications. She currently uses a medication box and some of her prescriptions from earlier in the week are still in the container. She appears to be forgetting to take her medications. What can I do to assist?
Answer: There are many reasons your mother may not be taking her prescriptions. Problems might occur due to cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. She may be having difficulty affording the medications or could be experiencing negative side effects, such as a stomach ailment. There could be a multitude of reasons for why she has not taken the medication as directed.
You are encouraged to discuss this concern with your mother and to decide whether she may need to address the issue with her physician, or if she can manage with a little more organization and guidance. There are programs available that could give your mom daily telephone reminders. There are medication management devices which will dispense the proper dose of the prescriptions and give reminders until they are taken.
Commission on Aging Social Workers are able to make referrals to get medication management devices at a reduced rate. Contact a Commission on Aging Social Worker at (989) 772-0748 for a referral or for additional information to address your concerns.
Question: I am an older adult on a fixed income. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I have fallen behind on my home’s property taxes and more recently the mortgage payment. I am fearful that I may lose my home in the near future. Are there any programs available to help?
Answer: The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) has the following programs in place to help people facing different circumstances:
Unemployment Mortgage Subsidy Program
Provides monthly mortgage payment assistance while person is drawing unemployment.
Loan Rescue Program
Provides assistance to people who have fallen behind on mortgage payments.
Principal Curtailment or Modification Plan Programs
Provides help for homeowners to negotiate a lower mortgage payment to make it more affordable.
These programs are all part of MSHDA’s Step Forward Michigan Program. The Step Forward Michigan program may assist with up to $30,000. More information regarding program requirements available at www.StepForwardMichigan.org or 866-946-7432.
Question: I’m new to caregiving. What resources are available to my family and me?
Answer: We are fortunate in Isabella County to have programs at the Isabella County Commission on Aging. The Commission on Aging can assist through the following programs:
Respite Care Program which provides time away for the caregiver while a respite care aide from the agency remains with the care recipient. The agency is able to provide this service 1 or 2 times per week for 4 to 6 hours at a time.
Caregiver Training Program which provides assistance with all aspects of caregiving. A caregiver trainer is available to assist with situations or questions concerning nutrition, stress and other health and wellness issues.
Case Management which provides social workers who are well versed in the resources available locally, state-wide and federally. Case managers assist with housing issues, financial/insurance questions and many other issues dealing with caregiving.
Question: My mother is currently living in a nursing home and wants to return to her home. Due to her need for care, I would be unable to care for her without assistance. Someone mentioned the waiver program. Could you give me more information on the service?
Answer: The MI Choice Waiver Program began in 1992. Through the program, eligible adults 18 and older who meet income and asset criteria receive Medicaid covered services like those provided by the nursing home, but can stay in their home or in assisted living facilities. Participants receive supportive services, such as respite and chore services, meal delivery, personal emergency response systems medical supplies, among other assistance. All of the services provided are free of charge to the participant and paid for through the waiver program.
For more information or to apply you can contact either of the MI Choice Waiver Agents for Isabella County: Region VII Area Agency on Aging 1-800-858-1637 or A & D Home Care 1-800-884-3335
Question: I didn’t realize that my plan’s premium was going up this year, is it too late to change plans?
Answer: The Open Enrollment period for Medicare Part D plans is October 15 – December 7. This is the one time of year anyone can drop, change or pick up plans. If you are currently in a Part D stand alone drug plan, you will have to wait until the next Open Enrollment Period, unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. However, if you are currently enrolled into a Medicare Advantage Plan you have until February 15 to change from an Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare, with a drug plan. Listed below are a few ways in which you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period:
- Recently moved or are moving to a new service area.
- Recently lost or are losing employer coverage.
- Recently lost “Extra Help” through Social Security
- Currently have “Extra Help” through Social Security
- Currently have Medicaid
- Recently moved in or out of a long term care facility
If you are not sure if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, or if you may qualify for “Extra Help” and are an Isabella County resident and 60 or over, please feel free to call the Insurance Hotline at the Isabella County Commission on Aging at (989) 772-0748 for more information.
Question: I thought house calls were something from the past. I heard some doctors have returned to this practice. This would be great for my 95 year old mother who has difficulty getting out of the home. How do I find out about having a doctor visit my mother in her home?
Answer: Yes, there are some doctors providing medical care to older persons who are unable to leave their home. This is a convenient option for many older adults. The older adult even has access to some types of x-rays in the home. For more information, please call the Commission on Aging and ask to speak with a Social Worker. We can connect you to a couple of health care facilities in Mid Michigan offering those services.
Question: I’m currently enrolled in a drug plan that does not have mail order option available and I am unable to drive. Are there any local pharmacies that are willing to deliver?
Answer: Currently there are several local pharmacies that can deliver within city limits. Pharmacies may even make an exception if residents are close to city limits. Beneficiaries are encouraged to check with their local pharmacy to check if delivery is an option and any fees that may be associated. Below are pharmacies that may be willing to deliver. Contact the pharmacy for more information.
211 E. Railway St., Coleman, MI 48618
121 E. Broadway St., Mt Pleasant, MI 48858
4080 E. Blue Grass Rd., Mt Pleasant, MI 48858
926 S. Mission St., Mt Pleasant, MI 48858
117 N. Mission St., Mt Pleasant, MI 48858
Question: My father’s health has been declining over the years. I believe he may need more care in the future, possibly even assisted living. I am concerned that his income may not support the additional care. He only receives Social Security and a VA pension.
Answer: There are many potential programs available depending on your father’s circumstances. What caught my attention was the mention of your father receiving a VA pension. We would like to start by thanking your father for serving our country.
VA is a large establishment with many services available to Veterans. If he is not connected with the VA Health System, we would suggest looking into their programs as a first step. One program in particular is called VA Aid and Attendance. This program pays for care in-home and in assisted livings. To qualify medically, a War-Time Veteran or surviving spouse must need the assistance of another person to perform daily tasks, such as eating, dressing, undressing, etc. There are other criteria such as income and asset limits that determine eligibility. For more information on VA Aid and Attendance or other VA programs, please contact Isabella County Veterans Affairs Director, Ian Welch at 317-4093.
Question: My elderly mother is struggling to meet her expenses. I’ve heard there is government assistance to reimburse low income Social Security recipients for their Part B Medicare premiums. Could you share the guidelines for the program?
Answer: You are referring to the Medicare Savings Program, which provides eligible participants with a total savings this year of $1,258 for the Medicare Part B premium. The premium is normally deducted from monthly Social Security checks at a rate of $104.90.
Eligibility for the program is determined by the Department of Human Services. For Isabella County residents DHS can be reached at (989)772-8400. If you wish assistance with the application process, you can contact the Commission on Aging at (989)772-0748. Below are the financial guidelines for the Medicare Savings Program:
$1,333 or less- single
$1,790 or less- couple
$8,660 or less-single
$13,750 or less- couple
Note: Your homestead and one vehicle are not countable assets
Question: My granddaughter is asking that I co-sign on a car for her, should I be concerned?
Answer: There are several reasons why co-signing on any loan could be a problem:
- One of the obvious reasons is it could destroy a family relationship or friendship. As a co-signer, you are taking on responsibility that the payments are going to be made and that they will be made on time. This can cause stress on any relationship.
- As a responsible party, you need to make sure that the other party is taking care of payments on time and that you have the money available, should they not make a payment. If a payment is not made, many negative consequences can occur. The lender will generally sue the co-signer before the actual borrower.
- The co-signer is the reason the borrower was approved in the first place, because of good credit. Failure to make payments can also destroy your credit history. Even if a debt collector agrees to settle out of court, you may face penalties on taxes for “debt forgiveness income”.
- By co-signing for others you also limit your own possibilities. A person may have too much credit and when they need a loan for themselves, they could be denied.
- Co-signing also means that you take on that item as an asset of your own. This can cause problems when needing to apply for assistance programs such as Medicaid.
Question: I’m a caregiver for my partner who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. He cannot be left alone. How do I get some time for myself?
Answer: Caregiving is challenging and fulfilling but also time and energy consuming. For those reasons, caregivers must have some time for themselves. The Isabella County Commission On Aging is able to provide some time away for caregivers by providing respite aids in the homes for those needing care. The Commission On Aging also provides a Caregiver Training Program to assist caregivers with ideas and resources to continue to provide care for a partner. Another resource would be the Isabella County Adult Day Program.
Call the Commission On Aging and speak to one of our social workers to learn more about this program and more about Alzheimers Disease and other irreversible illnesses.
Question: My spouse was recently admitted to the hospital with stroke like symptoms. He was there for a few days and thankfully did not have a stroke. We received a larger than anticipated bill from the hospital with outrageous charges for medications. Our Medicare and secondary insurance usually covers the hospital bill. We were told from the billing provider that my spouse was not actually “admitted” to the hospital but, there under “observation.” Could Medicare or the hospital have made a mistake?
Answer: People can be classified as under observation for several days. When classified as “under observation”, it appears the person is actually an in-patient, since they are in a bed, getting care with a hospital wristband, when they are actually being monitored under outpatient status. Under outpatient status, chronic medications, such as blood pressure pills, are usually not covered. For future reference, some hospitals let you bring in your medications from home to avoid the inflated hospital medication charge. Another important piece of information is regarding skilled care. If your spouse needs skilled care in a rehab facility, Medicare will not pay for the care unless your spouse was an in-patient (or admitted) for three days prior to discharge, known as a three day qualification stay. More Medicare beneficiaries are entering hospitals as observation patients every year. We recommend checking with your nurses or physician regarding in-patient status while still in the hospital.
Question: I’m having knee replacement soon and my surgeon has informed me that I will need to obtain several pieces of medical equipment for my use once I return home. I know that my insurance will cover some of the items, but not all.
Answer: The Commission on Aging has a medical equipment lending locker with items available to county residents. Items include walkers, canes, shower chairs, and wheelchairs to name a few. Equipment is donated to our agency and passed along to those in need. Larger medical equipment such as hospital beds and mechanical lifts are not available due to space limitations. There are no time limits nor fees for the equipment. If you have an item to donate or have a need you can contact the COA and speak with our receptionist who will assist you.
Question: I recently signed up for a new drug plan and I am having difficulty using the new plan at my pharmacy, what do I do?
Answer: If you are experiencing problems at the pharmacy I would recommend:
- Contact the new plan to verify that the card you are using is the most current. Each prescription drug card has a number located on the back that can direct you to the plan for more information.
- If you haven’t received your card you will want to contact the plan to order a new card and obtain member identification information that the pharmacist can use to bill the plan directly.
- If you believe the information regarding copay is incorrect you are encouraged to contact the plan to discuss the discrepancy in pricing. You may also use your formulary list to learn about pricing information for each medication.
If you are not sure how to contact your plan or you need more information in resolving the problem you may contact 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-42277) or Isabella County Commission on Aging, at (989) 772-0748, for further assistance.
If you contact the Commission on Aging you will be directed to the insurance hotline, where a social worker will contact you for further information and assist in resolving the issue. Please note that it may take 3-5 business days for a specialist to return your call.
Question: I am the caregiver for my mom with Alzheimer’s disease. My sibling wants her to attend a big holiday gathering at her home. I think the party may be too much for mom to handle and we should just skip the festivity. I am stressed out trying to figure out how to tell my sister without causing an argument.
Answer: The holidays offer plenty of reasons to be stressed out and anxious. The goal is to try and make this season as peaceful and stress free as possible for yourself, as caregiver, and your mom.
Depending on your situation and the distance from her home, your mom may still be able to be a part of the festivities for a short duration. You may not be able to stay as long, but stopping in to make an appearance may avoid an argument. Just keep in mind that many people with dementia find multiple conversations and background noise disturbing. They can become over stimulated. To avoid this anxiety, your mom may benefit from time in a quieter room, where family members could take turns visiting with her.
If these options will not work, as hard as it might be, just be up front with your sibling. Let her know that mom will not be able to handle a big festivity. Possibly suggest your sister or additional family members stop in to see mom at her home on different days around the holidays, so it is not too overwhelming for her and they still get to be a part of their mom’s life during the holidays.
Question: My spouse recently lost his job, and we’re having difficulty paying our mortgage with what we receive from social security. I’m wondering if there is anyone in Isabella County who can assist us in negotiating with our lender.
Answer: A Homeownership Counselor may be able to assist you. The counselor is trained by MSHDA, Michigan State Housing Development Authority to assist both individuals and families facing financial hardship, obtaining local resources or avoiding foreclosure. In Isabella County you can call Listening Ear at 989-773-6904 ext. 228 to speak with a housing counselor.
Question: Why should I review my Medicare Part D Prescription Plan?
Answer: This is the only time each year that all people with Medicare can join or change their Medicare prescription drug plan. Even if you like your current Medicare drug plan, it is strongly recommended that you review your plan for the upcoming year. It may be possible for you to save time, money and frustration by choosing a plan with lower premiums and fewer restrictions. Here are a few frequently asked questions that may answer your specific concerns.
How may my plan have changed?
Your current plan may have changed:
- The monthly premium
- The annual deductible
- The co-payments to your pharmacy
- The formulary (list of covered medications)
What do I have to do if I decide I want to stay in my current plan for 2014?
You are not required to do anything. You will stay enrolled in your current Part D plan unless you sign up for a new plan, or your plan is no longer renewing its Medicare contract. (You will receive a letter from your plan if it is no longer being renewed).
What if I change plans and decide I do not like my new plan?
Changes can only be made during Open Enrollment October 15th – December 7th for most people. You will not be able to cancel the plan until the next Open Enrollment. Low income beneficiaries meeting certain criteria may change their plan throughout the year.
What if I did not join a Part D plan when I was first eligible, but would like to join now?
You can enroll in a plan during the Annual Open Enrollment. You may have to pay a penalty for enrolling late.
How do I receive help to compare plans for 2014?
Beginning October 1, you can call the Commission on Aging at 772-0748, to schedule an appointment with one of our trained volunteer counselors. Sessions are available for Isabella County residents 60 years of age and older and are by Appointment Only. There is no cost for the sessions, although donations to the agency are welcomed. You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE or go to www.Medicare.gov during the Open Enrollment Period.
Question: When do I need the shingles vaccine and who pays for the vaccine?
Answer: According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), it is recommended that anyone 60 years of age or older should get the shingles vaccine, regardless of whether they recall having had chicken pox. Studies show that more than 99% of Americans age 40 and older have had chicken pox, even if they don’t remember having the disease. Even if a person has had shingles, it is still recommended that she/he receive the vaccine as it may help prevent future occurrences.
Who Should Not Get the Vaccine?
The CDC recommends the following people should not get the shingles vaccine:
- A person who has ever had a life-threatening or severe allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of the shingles vaccine.
- A person who has a weakened immune system because of:
- HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
- Treatment with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids
- Cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy
- Cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma
- Women who are or might be pregnant
Medicare Part D plans must cover the shingles vaccine. Before getting a vaccination, you should check with your Part D Plan to discuss coverage rules and where you might get the shot covered at the lowest cost.
You may pay the least for your shingles vaccine if you are vaccinated at:
- A pharmacy that is in your drug plan’s network (an “in-network” pharmacy)
- A doctor’s office that can work with a network pharmacy that will bill your Part D plan for the entire cost of the vaccine or can bill your Part D plan for the vaccine, directly