Guest column: Knowledge is empowering: A guide to senior services

Published 6:02 am Wednesday, May 15, 2024

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Guest column by Martha Jones Sichko

Seniors, this article contains information worth saving. The content equips you with services and contacts to help you take charge of your health care. Having the knowledge to make informed decisions, coupled with the ability to advocate for yourself, is empowering and necessary to receive the care you need. Remember, asking questions, understanding medical records and exploring choices are all essential ways to manage your health and well-being.

Martha Jones Sichko

Health care provider: As a patient, you have the right to receive information about your health care and bills. You also have the right to have a patient advocate who can provide help and education. Most hospitals and clinics have patient relations/experience departments, so don’t hesitate to contact them. For example, here’s how to address concerns, ask questions and provide feedback to Mayo Clinic, call 844-544-0036 and/or email

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Long-term care: Understanding long-term care options and ensuring excellent care is vital. Facilities differ in services, licensing and funding. Beyond recommendations and visiting providers, read their report cards on how they compare in our community:
Nursing homes:
Assistant Living:

Problem resolution: One important organization you may not know is called the Joint Commission. They accredit health care organizations for quality and safety. They encourage patients to voice problems about hospitals and clinics. If you experienced an adverse action and have concerns that affected your care, call 630-792-5800 and/or email Importantly, they will not share your name without your permission.
The federal government offers a health quality company called Livanta to help those on Medicare with concerns about the quality of care at hospitals, clinics or long-term care facilities. Call 888-524-9900 and speak to a caseworker who can advocate for care concerns (e.g., ER wait times, appointment issues). You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE or the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-4200.
Medicare insurers must promptly address concerns through their grievance process. Contact the member services number on your card for complaints and appeals. Know that complaints relate to care issues, while appeals concern service denials, premature discharge or medication coverage.

Senior support: Lastly, note this free resource — the Minnesota Board on Aging offers a counseling service called Senior LinkAge Line. Do not hesitate to contact the counselors at 800-333-2433 with questions about Medicare and long-term care facilities. They also manage an online resource where you can select Freeborn County and find numerous services, such as care providers, nutrition services, transportation and more. Bookmark
You are not alone, help is available, and you deserve quality health care.

Martha Jones Sichko is a senior advocate, helping to ensure affordable, accessible health care in Freeborn County.