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Benefits counselors with LifePath are volunteers who assist elders and people with disabilities with learning about the benefits to which they are entitled and filling out applications.

“LifePath focuses so much on helping the elders stay as independent as they can in their lives,” says one volunteer benefits counselor.

“It’s just nice to be able to reassure them that there is help out there,” says another.

Volunteer benefits counselors from all over Franklin County and the four Worcester County towns of Athol, Petersham, Phillipston, and Royalston in the North Quabbin help their neighbors access benefits programs offering assistance with home repair, weatherization, fuel assistance, disability modifications, foreclosure protection, utility discounts, and SNAP (food stamps). Usually meeting in an elder’s home or other setting of their choice, the counselors will work with an elder to assess their needs, explain what they can expect, help gather the necessary paperwork, and begin application processes.

Benefits counselors agree that LifePath has been a supportive setting for their volunteer experience. “I feel like I can call on somebody,” says one volunteer. Volunteers receive initial training and continue to grow their knowledge with workshops throughout the year.

Volunteers who are interested in assisting with administrative tasks in LifePath’s Greenfield office are also needed in the Benefits Counseling program.

Would you like to learn more about becoming a benefits counselor?

To see if volunteering with Benefits Counseling would be a good fit, contact us.

Talking with your providers about your healthcare needs and coverage

Lorraine York Edberg headshotLorraine York Edberg

How can I communicate effectively with my providers?

Be prepared

Arrive at your doctor’s office prepared with any relevant insurance cards, a copy of your health history, and a list of questions you want to ask your doctor. Bring a pen and paper to take notes, and consider bringing another person, like a caregiver, to your appointment if you think they can help.

Share information

Tell your doctor about any current symptoms or concerns, or if you are having trouble with activities of daily living, like bathing or dressing. Tell them also about other providers you have seen and any treatments they recommended.

Ask questions

If you do not understand something your doctor says, ask them to explain it.

Get it in writing

Ask your doctor to write down what you should do between now and your next visit, including instructions for how to take medications, specialists you should see, and/or lifestyle modifications.

Follow up

If you experience any problems after your appointment, call your doctor’s office to schedule a follow-up. Ask your provider’s office if they use email or an online portal to communicate with patients.

What if my provider doesn’t think a service will be covered?

If you have Original Medicare

Jan 2019 SHINE Talking with your doctor photoWhen going to an appointment with your medical provider, there are steps you can take before, during, and after the appointment to make the most of your visit.If you have Original Medicare and your provider believes, based on Medicare’s coverage rules, that Medicare will not pay for an item or service, they may ask you to sign an Advance Beneficiary Notice (ABN) before you receive that service.

The ABN allows you to decide whether to get the care in question and to accept financial responsibility for the service if Medicare denies payment. The notice must explain why the provider believes Medicare will deny payment. Providers are not required to give you an ABN for services or items that are never covered by Medicare, such as hearing aids.

Note that your providers are not permitted to give you an ABN all the time or to have a blanket ABN policy.

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you or your provider should contact your plan to request a formal determination about whether an item or service will be covered.

If the plan denies coverage before you receive the service, you should get a Notice of Denial of Medical Coverage within 14 days of requesting the determination (or within 72 hours if you request an expedited appeal and your plan approves your request).

Follow the instructions on this notice to appeal your plan’s determination. Ask your doctor to submit evidence to the plan that you meet the coverage criteria for the item or service and that it is medically necessary. If you need assistance filing an appeal, contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for information and counseling about the appeals process. See the last page for contact information.

Does Medicare cover second and third opinions?

A second opinion is when you ask a doctor other than your regular doctor for their view on symptoms, an injury, or an illness you are experiencing in order to better help you make an informed decision about treatment options.

Original Medicare covers second opinions if a doctor recommends that you have a surgery or major diagnostic or therapeutic procedure. Medicare does not cover second opinions for excluded services, like cosmetic surgery.

Medicare will also cover a third opinion if the first and second opinions are different from one another. The second and third opinions will be covered even if Medicare will not ultimately cover your procedure (unless it is an excluded service). If the first and second opinions were the same but you want a third opinion, you may be able to see a third doctor for a confirmatory consultation.

Medicare may cover a confirmatory consultation if your doctor submits the claim correctly and the service is reasonable and medically necessary.

If you are in a Medicare Advantage plan, your plan may have different cost and coverage rules for second and third opinions. Contact your plan for more information about costs and restrictions.

The SHINE Program, Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone… with Medicare, provides free, confidential, and unbiased health insurance counseling for Medicare beneficiaries. To reach a trained and certified counselor in your area, contact the regional office at 1-800-498-4232 or 413-773-5555 or contact your local council on aging.

“Experience On Call” might be the right fit for you

Ginger ElliotGinger ElliotRSVP of the Pioneer Valley has over 600 volunteers who serve at more than 65 nonprofit agencies throughout Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire Counties. Our volunteers represent a wide variety of skills, interests, and lifestyles. One placement option that works for many is “Experience On Call.”

What is Experience on Call at RSVP of the Pioneer Valley?

Experience On Call is not a regular weekly or monthly commitment. It provides the opportunity to volunteer for specific, time-limited events and projects. RSVP Experience On Call volunteers have helped artists to set up for fairs, provided consultation for information technology projects, cleared hiking paths, served on building project planning boards, and decorated historic homes for the holidays, among many other things. The possibilities are as varied as our volunteers are.

Jan 2019 RSVP Experience On Call photo WEBThe annual Meals on Wheels Walkathon at LifePath is an great example of an "Experience On Call" opportunity. At the annual event, volunteers help with setting up, registration, passing out t-shirts and water, guiding guests, driving the golf cart, face painting, and breaking down.Experience On Call volunteers may have registered for service in response to something they’ve seen in the “Upcoming Events” section of our monthly newsletter. Alternatively, they may have been contacted directly by an RSVP volunteer coordinator because of a specific skill set that was included in their volunteer profile upon registration. Either way, they are experiencing the benefits of volunteering, such as meeting new people, gaining confidence, and experiencing a continued sense of purpose, without making a long-term commitment.

Are you at least 55 years old? Are you interested in volunteering but too busy for a regular time commitment? Do you thrive on newness and variety? Do you enjoy the challenge of a concrete project? Would you like the chance to try out a specific volunteer activity in a limited way to see if you like it? All of these are excellent reasons why our Experience On Call program might be the right fit for you.

To get started, contact your volunteer connectors, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Hampden County) or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Hampshire & Franklin Counties), or call (413) 387-4558.

MOW Walkathon banner 2019

Carol Foote Headshot July 2018Carol FooteWith the turn of the calendar, I’m happy to be a part of the Meals on Wheels Walkathon season for a second time. The morning event scheduled for Saturday, April 27, 2019, outside LifePath’s office at 101 Munson Street in Greenfield, represents what is so wonderful about our area - community supporting community.

We’re again looking for generosity from local businesses to offer support to Meals on Wheels through this event in its 27th year. Its longevity can be attributed to our community’s commitment to ensuring that local elders receive a noontime meal and wellness check.

People, organizations, and businesses from across our community come out in support because Meals on Wheels serves more than 1100 elders each year in 30 area towns, with about 550 meals being delivered each weekday by 52 volunteer drivers who clock a whopping 267,372 miles annually to offer that nutrition and wellness check.

The funds raised specifically for Meals on Wheels address the funding gap that would otherwise create a waiting list for elders in need. Can you imagine -  because of a lack of mobility or following an illness or surgery - not being able to access the balanced meal and wellness check seniors need to stay healthy?

Want to become a 2019 Meals on Wheels Walkathon sponsor?

As the momentum builds for our largest fundraiser of the year, please join in the commitment to local elders by sponsoring the 2019 Meals on Wheels Walkathon. Additionally, employees or other groups can make a difference by forming a fundraising/walk team, collecting gifts in support of the Meals on Wheels program and showing their spirit at the Walkathon.

Meals on Wheels Walkathon sponsor opportunities and forms may be found here as of mid-January, or contact me for more information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 413-773-555 x2225 or 978-544-2259 x2225.

Here’s to a great Walkathon season ahead!

Tips to stay active all winter, indoors and outdoors

Winter is here and so is the cold weather. Staying motivated about your fitness can be a challenge when it’s cold outside!! Exercise has benefits all year, even during the winter. Winter brings cold weather and, for some, sickness, the “blues,” and isolation. So don’t put your exercise gear away – instead, stay active!

Q: How do I stay fit in the winter months?

A: Stay active! Choose an activity that you already do, or now might be the time to try something new. There are types of exercise that can be done outside or inside. Choose one or more that you might enjoy.  

Exercising outdoors in the winter

Jan 2019 ICRC Winter fitness photo WEBWhen the weather permits, walking is a good outdoor fitness activity for the winter, either on its own or as a warm-up for more intense activities. Photo by Annie Spratt on you want to walk, ski, ice skate, shovel snow, or do other outdoor activities when it’s cold outside:

  • Check the weather forecast. If it’s very windy or cold, exercise inside with a fitness video and go out another time.
  • Also watch out for snow and icy sidewalks.
  • Warm up your muscles first. Try walking or light arm pumping before you go out.
  • Wear several layers of loose clothing. The layers will trap warm air between them.
  • Avoid tight clothing, which can keep your blood from flowing freely and lead to loss of body heat.
  • Wear a waterproof coat or jacket if it’s snowy or rainy.
  • Wear a hat, scarf, and gloves.
Exercising indoors in the winter
  • If you enjoy walking, go to the local mall and walk around inside or use a treadmill at home or at a gym.
  • You can take a tai chi class as tai chi helps to reduce stress; improve posture, balance and general mobility; and increase muscle strength in the legs.
  • There is also yoga. Regular yoga practice benefits people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains – including lower back pain – depression and stress.
  • You can also join the local YMCA or fitness club to do activities such as swimming or rock climbing.  
  • If home is where you want to be, you could use a workout video, do routine exercises, or use at-home equipment (weights, an exercise bike, jump rope, etc.).

Exercising daily can help prolong your life and improve the quality of it. It’s important to include aerobic activity, strength training, balance exercises, and stretching in your routine. Start slowly and build your endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility gradually.

Almost anyone, at any age, can exercise safely and get meaningful benefits. Staying safe while you exercise is always important, whether you’re just starting a new activity or haven’t been active for a long time.

You can find more information from Go4Life, a fitness campaign of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging.

The Healthy Living Program at LifePath can help you exercise more and develop healthy habits.

Remember, keep moving!!!