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Holinger: Help is here for caregiver, senior

Lately, my mailbox and phone have spilled over with Medicare supplemental insurance plans. “Medicare?” I wondered, dumbstruck. “That’s for old people. Oh, wait, I’m turning 65 next year.”

In a recent Kane County Chronicle opinion piece, Geneva Township Trustee Dick Sharp suggested seniors in a “precarious situation” contact Senior Services Associates Inc. for advice. No matter where they live, seniors at least 60 years old (as well as some younger and disabled clients) can make an appointment to meet with Betty Erickson on Wednesdays at the Geneva Senior Center in Wheeler Park.

Not so much in a “precarious situation,” Tia and I were merely confused. Medicare? Plan A, B, C, D, F, A.A.R.P.? Donut holes and Advantage Plans? Huh?

That’s why we met with Betty. However, before getting to Medicare questions, I asked about her organization.

“Senior Services Associates is a not-for-profit, which helps seniors live independently in their own homes as long as they’re safe,” she explained. “We help them understand and sign up for everything from Medicare to food stamps.”

Additionally, if a caregiver feels overwhelmed, Senior Services will conduct a comprehensive assessment to determine what’s needed. Often it will suggest a homemaker from one of several companies contracted by the state or Kane County, and paid for by the state, providing services such as cooking, laundry and transportation.

“I could have used that when taking care of my mom,” Tia said. “She fired 22 people I hired because they didn’t cook the way she wanted.”

“Exactly,” Betty agreed, emphasizing that the first match may not be the best.

Betty listed other services, including an elder abuse unit (hotline number 866-800-1409; help-line number 800-252-8966); an ombudsman to investigate complaints from “skilled care facilities;” and hospital screeners to assess options for hospital and rehabilitation needs.

Following this overview, Betty guided Tia and me through the labyrinthine issues of Medicare, giving us various options and strategies. We left feeling relieved and confident.

“Betty is incredibly knowledgeable,” Tia now tells anyone who might want senior counseling or a speaker to any size group on aging. Contact her at 630-762-2737 (Geneva) or 630-897-4053 (Aurora).

On our way out of the Senior Center, its gorgeous interior decorating reminiscent of a country club, we bumped into Mary Jane Potts, who used to babysit our son.

“This is a wonderful place,” she assured us. “Everyone is friendly and welcoming. Sheri does a wonderful job.”

Sheri McMurray, the center’s director, is responsible for its newsletter, field trips, luncheons and many other services.

“We want people to come and have it feel like their living room,” Sheri said. “Those over there,” she indicated the foursome playing cards by a large picture window, “have a weekly game of poker going.”

“We only play for pennies,” one of the silver-haired gamblers assured me later on her way to lunch.

For Senior Center information, call Sheri at 630-232-3602. Or just come on down; it’s a sure bet you’ll revel in the ambiance, enjoy the camaraderie and – like me – even learn something new, even at our age.

• Rick Holinger has lived in the Tri-Cities area since 1979. He teaches high school in Aurora, and his poetry, fiction, essays and book reviews have appeared in more than a hundred literary journals. Contact him at

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