By Betty Berry, Dec. 13, 2011

Q: I have used Senior Concerns advocacy services at the Goebel Senior Adult Center in Thousand Oaks and wonder whether those services are available elsewhere.

A: The services also are available at the Simi Valley Senior Center and will be available beginning in January at the Moorpark Active Adult Center.

Advocates can assist with questions about housing, transportation, legal issues, health issues, in-home care, facility placement, senior programs and assistance programs. Advocates also help complete forms and applications for programs and services.

The services at the Moorpark center, 799 Moorpark Ave., will be available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month starting Jan. 25. Call 571-6261 for more information.

The advocacy services will continue to be available at the Simi Valley center, 3900 Avenida Simi, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays. For information or to schedule an appointment, call 583-6363.

The main office for the advocates is at the Goebel center. An advocate is available there 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. For information or to make an appointment, call 495-6250.

The Goebel center services also include counseling on Medicare, Medi-Cal, Social Security and long-term care insurance.

In addition to one-on-one counseling, the advocacy program offers seminars at each of these locations.

Q: Will Social Security payments stop being available in check form?

A: Yes. Those new to Social Security no longer may get payments of their benefits in check form. When enrolling, they may have their benefits deposited directly into a bank or credit union account or put on a prepaid debit card.

The change took place this year. This also applies to most other types of federal payments, including veteran, railroad retirement and Supplemental Security Income benefits.

Those who currently get their benefits in check form can continue to receive paper checks until March 2013. Then they must change to direct deposit or a debit card.

Eliminating payment by check will save the government millions of dollars and be a much safer way to receive benefits.

Q: I just placed a family member in a nursing facility, and there was mention of a long-term care ombudsman. What does an ombudsman do?

A: “Ombudsman” is a Swedish word that means “citizen representative.” The long-term care ombudsman is a state-certified volunteer trained to investigate and resolve problems objectively for long-term care facility residents.

The ombudsman’s main goal is to ensure residents of these facilities get the services to which they are entitled. Many facility residents have little or no contact with the outside world and little control over their lives. The ombudsman is a resident advocate and helps improve their quality of life.

In Ventura County, at least one experienced and trained ombudsman is assigned to each facility and must spend a specified period there each week or month. He or she is available to help solve problems about residents’ rights, physical and mental care, dignity, activities, legal or financial problems and regulatory red tape.

The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program is a nonprofit. Its services are free of charge and confidential. Call 656-1986 weekdays.

Betty Berry is a senior advocate for Senior Concerns. The advocates are at the Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362. Call 495-6250 or email (please include your telephone number.) You are invited to submit questions on senior issues.

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