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By ROBERT VILLANUEVA firstname.lastname@example.org HARDIN COUNTY — For Betty Jo Guenthner of Eastview, finding the Senior Medicare Patrol/State Health Insurance Program meant she wouldn’t have to use a wheelchair. “They are absolutely fabulous,” Guenthner said of the people who helped her. The prescription assistance program under SMP/SHIP, which — like all services offered through Central Kentucky Senior Corps in Elizabethtown — is free, made it possible for Guenthner to get medication without which she would have needed a wheelchair to get around. It also saved her $1,770 per month in other prescription medication costs. “That was a godsend,” Guenthner said. Connie Hardesty of Bardstown made the same comment about the help she received from SMP/SHIP for two adult disabled daughters and a niece. “That program has been a godsend,” Hardesty said. Before finding SMP/ SHIP, Hardesty had tried for 18 years to get help for her daughters. “She is an angel,” Hardesty said of SMP/ SHIP Director Carol Baldwin. Baldwin has been director of the program for the last six of its eight-year existence. “I’m still amazed at the number of people who don’t know about the program,” Baldwin said. “The goal is to educate our Medicare recipients and our providers on how to prevent and detect Medicare waste, fraud and abuse,” Baldwin said. That includes dealing with Medicare billing and prescription issues, helping clients choose supplemental insurance and assisting with Medicaid issues, among other things. “A big, big part of our job is finding those resources,” Baldwin said. The prescription assistance program alone has grown since Baldwin started it, when only one pharmaceutical company worked to help clients. Currently, 175 companies work with the program to help low-income, uninsured clients. In addition to SMP/SHIP, Central Kentucky Senior Corps includes Senior Companion Program and RSVP. SCP consists of volunteers who provide daily living assistance and companionship to seniors seeking to live independently longer. Senior companions might drive a client to an in-county doctor’s appointment, run errands for them, do light housekeeping or just visit. Senior companions also provide respite. “Respite is relief for a caregiver to give them a break,” program Director Richie Hamilton said. Like Baldwin, Hamilton said a lot of people don’t know about the program and how it works. People who are age 60 or older and meet income guidelines are paid a stipend of $2.65 an hour as well as some mileage and meal reimbursement. They are matched with clients based on the client’s needs. Potential senior companions are given a background check, physical and a tuberculosis test. They receive training and are required to attend in-service training once a month. “The program requires them to work 20 hours a week,” Hamilton said. Forty-four volunteers serve as companions and find it’s not just the homebound clients that benefit. “Not only does it help her, but it’s helping me,” Faye Stratton, 81, said of one of her clients. Being a senior companion, the Radcliff resident said, gets her out of the house, lets her know she’s needed and will keep her out of a nursing home as much as it will her clients. “If I didn’t have this, I might stay inside,” Stratton said. “I might become unproductive.” For P. Linden Hebert, 81, a former Louisiana resident who “lost everything” in Hurricane Katrina, volunteering as a senior companion gives him a chance to do something with his time and help others who might not have anyone else in their lives. “I like to help people out,” the Elizabethtown resident said. Though recent budget cuts have not meant a big change in services for the three programs, rising fuel prices might affect the volunteer base for at least one of the programs. “Several of my volunteers came to me and told me they might have to quit volunteering because of the high cost of gas,” RSVP Director Janet Lee said. RSVP is a volunteer program for people 55 or older who choose from 47 nonprofit agencies in Hardin and Nelson counties at which to serve. “I think the RSVP program helps the community by saving employee dollars,” RSVP Director Janet Lee said. The program — which currently has 198 volunteers — provides supplemental insurance and mileage reimbursement. RSVP volunteers also get to choose how much and how often they serve. With the end of the Meals On Wheels program, some former recipients might have lost the only social interaction they had. To limit that impact, Lee hopes to be able to create friendly visitor positions within the RSVP program where volunteers can make regular contact with seniors living alone. For seniors who volunteer, the service proves invaluable to health and wellness, Lee said. “It helps to keep them a viable part of the community,” she said. “It keeps them healthy and active.” One of those volunteers is Del Chase, 78, who serves at North Hardin HOPE in Radcliff doing administrative work and stocking the food bank, among other things. The RSVP volunteer benefits from serving by being able to get out and help others, something he felt was important. “I was born during the Depression years, the youngest of 12 kids,” Chase said. “You might say I’ve been there and done that. I guess it’s just in my nature to try and help.” North Hardin HOPE has counted on volunteers like Chase since its inception, Executive Director Priscilla Riddell-Terwilliger said. “It’s a work of heart,” she said. Central Kentucky Senior Corps programs at a glance Central Kentucky Senior Corps office is at 1111 N. Dixie Ave., Suite 2, in Elizabethtown in the breezeway area of Lakeshore Plaza shopping center. To find out more about any of the programs, call the corresponding director at (270) 737-0669.
Potential senior companions undergo a background check, physical and a tuberculosis test. They receive training and are matched with clients based on each client’s needs. Volunteers also are required to attend in-service training once a month.
Senior companions get paid a stipend of $2.65 per hour, receive mileage reimbursement up to $75 per month and get meal reimbursement up to $20 per month. They are required to work 20 hours a week.
The program serves Hardin, Nelson, Marion, Washington, Breckinridge and Grayson counties.
Director: Richie Hamilton.
Individuals seeking prescription assistance must be uninsured and meet income guidelines.
SMP/SHIP serves Hardin, LaRue, Nelson, Grayson, Meade, Breckinridge, Washington and Marion counties.
Director: Carol Baldwin.
Non-profit agencies from hospitals to schools, from domestic violence shelters to food banks, get help from RSVP volunteers.
RSVP provides volunteers supplemental insurance to and from the volunteer site as well as while doing volunteer work. Also, volunteers get mileage reimbursement up to $135 per month.
Forty-seven non-profit organizations in Hardin and Nelson counties are partnered with RSVP, offering volunteers a wide range of service opportunities. Volunteers get to choose where and when they serve as well as how many hours they serve.
Director: Janet Lee.
Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743