Tag Archives: central Illinois

Legal Advice: The Right Time for a Professional

Long View: Leaving Some Things to the Professionals

I have to admit the health insurance business is complicated and often difficult to understand. So many regulations are involved, and then there are the exceptions, annual plan changes, and the wide variety of policies that are available.

We help our Health Alliance members navigate the wonderful world of health insurance every day. Another arena that seems especially complicated to me is the law.

In central Illinois, there are resources for people who need legal advice for civil cases (not criminal), which are provided at no cost to those who qualify. One of these is called Prairie State Legal Services. Its mission is “to ensure equal access to justice and fair treatment under the law by providing legal advice and representation, advocacy, education, and outreach that serve to protect basic human needs and enforce or uphold rights.”

Adrian Barr is the Managing Attorney for Prairie State. He told me, “The legal system is a very difficult place to navigate for people who do not have attorneys. It is almost as if we in the legal community speak and write in a different language.”

“Having the opportunity to consult with an attorney about one’s legal situation can be an invaluable resource,” he said. “Prairie State will discuss a person’s legal situation with them and provide legal advice. Prairie State will also provide representation for important legal issues, including those that affect a person’s finances, safety, housing, or their health.”

Lora Felger is my co-worker in Iowa. She is very sharp, but knows legal questions are best left to the professionals. Lora suggests Iowans start with their local Area Agency on Aging. Iowa’s 6 regional Area Agencies on Aging partner with Iowa Legal Aid to offer free legal services to eligible seniors with the Legal Assistance Program. This program “serves persons 60 years of age and older by providing legal advice and representation, information and education, and referrals in civil legal matters throughout the state.”

I think I will have to be satisfied with my expertise in the field of health insurance. I feel justified in my decision to let the professionals handle any legal question that might come up. My personal experience also tells me it would be prudent to use a professional electrician whenever the need arises. I accidentally created an arc welder one time, but that’s a subject for another column.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.

Battling Winter and SAD

Long View: You Can Kick the Winter Blues

The holidays are over, and I seem to have survived. But I still have a long way to go to get through winter. I head out for work when the sun is coming up and get home well after dark. It surprises me every year, but I should probably expect it at this stage of the game. The biggest impact to me is the large increase in my power bill, but I guess that’s the price of living in central Illinois.

Unfortunately, the decrease in sunlight hours affects some people in a more serious way. They lack energy and lose interest in their work and social activities. They usually feel energetic during the rest of the year, but the winter saps their enthusiasm for everything.

If you feel like this, you might have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). But you can feel better. Dr. John Beck, Health Alliance Vice President and Senior Medical Director, has lots of advice.

“Start with your primary care physician to make sure there aren’t any underlying medical issues,” Beck says. “Your primary care physician can treat you for SAD or refer you to a specialist. It’s important to pay attention to the symptoms and what you are experiencing. Unfortunately, some of our older patients are less likely to complain about feeling depressed, even though there are lots of treatment options available. People who don’t report their symptoms will continue to experience them every year unless they address the root problem.”

People shouldn’t have to feel depressed all winter. If you have SAD, go to your primary care doctor. He or she can point you in the right direction. If you think a loved one has SAD, talk to him or her about getting the care he or she needs.

We can’t make this season any less dark or cold, but we can help you get the support and treatment you need to feel better this winter.

Active Aging

Long View: Active Aging Week Encourages Health into Golden Years

As I get older, I have noticed the changes that come with it. I think the one I notice the most lately is inertia. You find yourself sitting down to open the mail and not getting up for the rest of the evening. OK, it happens to all of us once in a while. My concern is inertia may become my hobby unless I take action.

The International Council on Active Aging sponsors an annual event called Active Aging Week. Its website explains, “Led by the International Council on Active Aging® (ICAA), Active Aging Week is an annual health promotion event held each year during the last week of September. The weeklong observance celebrates adults ages 50 and older as fully participating members of society and promotes the benefits of leading an active, healthier lifestyle. It also highlights the ability of older adults to live well, regardless of age or health conditions.”

It got me thinking which of my family members had the best quality of life as they aged. The dividing line was very clear. The active (some would say hyperactive) ones who kept a healthy weight were the ones who made the most of their mature years. The sofa-sitters aged well into their 80s, but didn’t get the same enjoyment from their golden years. The prospect of that fate was enough to get me up and moving again.

And now the disclaimer: As with any type of exercise, it’s important to talk to your doctor to make sure you choose an activity safe for you. I started with a 15-minute walk in the morning and another 15-minute walk in the evening after work.  It’s no marathon, but it’s doable and even enjoyable in good weather. I miss my walks when our Central Illinois climate doesn’t cooperate. Plus, I am seeing results and notice I feel better overall.

Health Alliance Medicare is working with Clark-Lindsey (a continuing care retirement community in Urbana) to sponsor an Active Aging Week from September 21-27. As the hosts, we can craft a program of activities that suits our own community (and weather). Maybe you would consider doing something similar in your area.

If you have any questions, I would be happy to help. Or visit Clark-Lindsey’s website and click on “news and events” for more information. It’s time to get moving!

Fighting Hunger Through Food

Long View: Solving Hunger One Bite at a Time

It seems I might be a little fixated on food. A number of friends and family members seem to think I live mealtime to mealtime, which may explain my recent weight gain. As many of us enjoy Central Illinois’ bounty, it’s important to remember many of our neighbors are not so lucky.

In Illinois, we are fortunate to have access to food banks across the state. Julie Melton is the director of Marketing and Development at the Eastern Illinois Foodbank (EIF). They distribute millions of pounds of food to over 100,000 individuals across their network of more than 220 sites. She told me, “Based on our Hunger in America Study, a full third of the seniors in the Eastern Illinois Foodbank’s service area experience food insecurity rates of 15 percent to 41 percent. In some areas, more than 42 percent of seniors are food insecure, which is among the highest rates of senior hunger in Illinois.”

You can help fight food insecurity, which means someone doesn’t have reliable access to nutritious, affordable food.

“Every $1 donation can buy $10 worth of food or provide 6 meals for neighbors in our community,” Melton said.

Jim Hires, executive director at the EIF, said, “Older American food insecurity is a growing problem. Addressing senior hunger has become an increasingly major concern and focus across the nation, and especially in our 14-county region. The Eastern Illinois Foodbank and our agency partners are committing more of our resources to this issue in the coming months and long term.”

Donating and volunteering at your local food pantry or soup kitchen are better ways to give. Your nearest food bank will be thankful for any support you offer. Search for one nearby at FeedingIllinois.org.

Solving hunger won’t happen overnight. But we can all help one small bite at a time. There are people in all of our communities who don’t have enough to eat. After seeing these statistics, I am more thankful for my food. I bet you will be, too.

Who Can You Call? 2-1-1

Long View: Who You Gonna Call? Think Three Little Numbers

I have a good friend at Carle who seems to have all the answers. Let’s call her Sue. Sue is a great resource for me any time I have a question about Carle. She knows the department heads, where the various offices are and how things really work. She is a seasoned and respected contact for me (and many others, I am sure). It makes me wonder where average Joes can turn when they need information and resources.

It turns out there is a place to call – 2-1-1.

The program in Central Illinois is run by PATH, Inc. (Providing Access to Help), which provides services for seniors, people who are homeless and people in need of all ages. Their offices are located in beautiful Bloomington. The PATH website describes the 2-1-1 system this way: “United Way 2-1-1 is for times of crisis, as well as for everyday needs. 2-1-1 call specialists are available 24/7 to help individuals locate health and human services in their area—from mortgage, rent, and utility assistance to food, clothing, emergency shelter, counseling, and much more.”

I spoke to Jennifer Nettleton at PATH. She is the 2-1-1/Crisis Services program manager. Many times when we need help, we need it fast.

Nettleton told me, “2-1-1 helps stop the run-around between social service agencies. Rather than calling every agency in the phone book to find out if they have the services you need, you can now call one place to help get you that information.”

Funding for the program is provided in part by United Way organizations around the state. Our local service area covers 12 counties and one city with another 20 in the pipeline. Many other states have this program in place, so Illinois is making up for lost time.

Find out more about the program. I think many people in need, perhaps some of them Health Alliance Medicare members, will be comforted to know a resource is available 24/7. Of course I could just give Sue’s phone number to everyone, but I fear she might not be my friend anymore.