From Medicare to meals, La Jolla forum shares ways to care for the community’s elders

Hila de Anda summarizes services at the White Sands La Jolla retirement community.
Hila de Anda summarizes services at the White Sands La Jolla retirement community during a La Jolla Town Council forum on geriatric care April 13.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

To let local senior citizens know “they’re supported by us in the community,” La Jolla Town Council President Jerri Hunt invited a panel of experts to speak about the various services they provide to the community’s elder population.

The forum on geriatric care was held April 13 at the La Jolla Recreation Center.


“The details of Medicare are pretty intense,” said Teresa Goodbody, a health insurance agent who specializes in the national government program.

“[Once] you turn 65, happy birthday to you, you get to enroll in Medicare,” she said.

It comes in two parts: Part A is hospital and other facility coverage, and Part B is doctor and lab visits and “everything outside of the hospital,” Goodbody said.

Those two parts combined are called “Original Medicare” and will cover 80 percent of medically necessary expenses. They do not cover prescription drugs.

“So we then have to figure out how we’re going to cover that [remaining] 20 percent,” she said.

There are two options.

One is called the Medicare Advantage Plan, an “all-encompassing” plan that replaces Original Medicare and includes coverage of a “local network of doctors and hospitals that are contracted with this particular local area plan,” Goodbody said.

Option 2 is getting a supplement plan with Original Medicare, she said, such as Medigap, which will cover the extra 20 percent left out by the original plan.

“But remember, Original Medicare doesn’t pay for your prescription drugs, so you’re going to need to also get a stand-alone prescription drug plan,” Goodbody said.

To make the decision, seniors should think in terms of vacation choices, she said.

“Do you like to go to that all-inclusive resort [where] everything’s included: your airfare, your hotel, all the meals on this gorgeous property? That’s kind of like your Medicare Advantage Plan,” Goodbody said. “All-inclusive. All your services provided in this local area network of doctors and hospitals.”

Those who prefer to buy vacation components like airfare separately and tack on extra legs to a trip or book various restaurant reservations might like the Medicare supplement plan, she said.

“You have the choice to see the doctor you want, where you want. … A Medicare supplement plan offers you that opportunity to go to any doctor, any hospital across the nation that accepts Medicare.”

Goodbody encouraged people to focus on “what’s going to serve your needs.”

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Living arrangements

Seniors also have choices on where they live.

A retirement home may offer multiple levels of care such as independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing.

White Sands La Jolla on Olivetas Avenue is such a place, according to its community outreach liaison, Hila de Anda.

With more than 40 different committees and a wide range of activities and classes, White Sands residents “stay very active,” de Anda said. “They’re more busy now than before retirement.”

The average age of new residents is mid-70s, she said. “We do have a few that are still working. They just didn’t want to worry about taking care of their homes. They don’t want that stress. They want to be taken care of.”

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Tara Izzo discusses her company, Care Choice Health Systems, at the La Jolla Town Council meeting April 13.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Instead of a senior-living community, some turn to home care. Tara Izzo said her company, Care Choice Health Systems, has an expansive list of services throughout San Diego County.

“I’ve been doing this for 35 years,” she said. She previously worked for a large hospital district “and I saw the need for somebody with a medical background to be providing non-medical home care.”

Care Choice Health Systems operates on a case management model, she said, helping “families navigate the entire health care process, not just home care,” including coordinating insurance, meals, home modification and more.

“It can be really overwhelming for a senior, and we take every family under our wing and take care of them,” Izzo said.

The company is unique due to its contract with the San Diego office of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, she said, meaning “the VA pays me directly to take care of [veterans who] need assistance with any activities of daily living.”

The VA will pay for services nine to 56 hours a week, Izzo said, “which is a huge savings for that veteran.”

Care Choice Health Systems also has a program to help transition seniors being discharged from a hospital or another setting and understand instructions about medication and care.

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La Jolla Meals on Wheels was established in 1973 and continues to deliver meals to seniors and others five days a week.

“We’ve got about 100 volunteers who will go out every day and deliver meals to La Jollans,” said La Jolla Meals on Wheels President Ron Jones, who also is a Town Council trustee.

After noticing that many seniors are experiencing isolation and loneliness, La Jolla Meals on Wheels began a sister program, La Jolla Friendly Visitors.

“We just talk and visit,” Jones said.

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Elder abuse prevention

“The crime of elder abuse is skyrocketing,” retired San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood said via Zoom. “We don’t know the truth and statistics because so many victims of elder abuse remain silent and are often embarrassed.”

Greenwood led the Elder Abuse Prosecution Unit at the county DA’s office for 22 years until his retirement in 2018. He now consults on elder abuse cases and provides training to law enforcement and adult protective services agencies globally.

He urged people to “be on the lookout for our friends and neighbors who are older adults.”

To report possible elder abuse, call San Diego County Adult Protective Services at (800) 339-4661. “You can remain anonymous,” Greenwood said.

Scams also tend to prey on senior citizens.

“The pandemic saw a huge spike in the number of internet-related crimes,” Greenwood said. “And I’ve prosecuted ... a large number of cases where the victims have resided in La Jolla.”

Those who suspect or are a victim of an internet scam can contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network at (877) 908-3360.

“They have a counseling service online and on the phone for victims of internet scams and they can also help put you in touch with the authorities,” Greenwood said.

Urgent matters should be reported to the San Diego Police Department as a violation of California Penal Code 368, he said.

The code covers different forms of elder abuse, including physical, emotional, neglect by a caregiver and false imprisonment.

“The largest part of it is financial exploitation of older adults,” Greenwood said.


State Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas), whose 77th District includes La Jolla, is introducing a few bills aimed at senior assistance, according to her field representative Mariah Kallhoff.

Among them is Assembly Bill 265, called the Fairness for Senior and Disabled Homeowners Act, which seeks to secure a permanent funding source for a property tax postponement program for senior and disabled citizens, Kallhoff said.

Other Town Council news

Obed Brefo, Bill Podway, Eric Fletcher, Jeremy Duimstra and Peter Wulff
From left, Obed Brefo, Bill Podway, Eric Fletcher, Jeremy Duimstra and Peter Wulff are sworn in as La Jolla Town Council trustees April 13.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Swearing-in: Hunt swore in five newly elected Town Council trustees: Obed Brefo, Jeremy Duimstra, Eric Fletcher, Bill Podway and Peter Wulff.

“Our trustees are a committed and talented group of community leaders. … I couldn’t be more grateful,” Hunt said.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Town Council next meets at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 11, online and at the Recreation Center, 615 Prospect St. To learn more, visit