Get Your Nat’l Park Pass

If you’re 62 or over and you haven’t gotten your senior pass to the national parks, stop right now! The clocks a-ticking! Go on-line and order your pass at the senior pass page on the national parks website. (You can get passes at Acadia, too, if you happen to be going up, and a number of national park sites in NH and Mass.) Honestly, the processing time is pretty slow because of the massive increase in requests, but if your envelope or email request is postmarked by August 27, you’ll get your pass for $10 (plus $10 processing) instead of $80. (You probably won’t get it until Halloween, but you can use it the rest of your life!) These passes allow everyone in your car into the park. What a wonderful way to see America!

Hang Up on Tech Support Scams

Scammers have gotten good at convincing unsuspecting victims that they have a computer virus. Their end game is to take your money or gain access to your personal financial information.
 How It Works:
  • You get a call or see a pop-up message on your computer warning that you have a virus (the caller will claim to be from Microsoft or Apple or another well-known tech company).
  • They convince you to give them remote access to your computer so they can fix the problem, but they actually install malware that steals sensitive data like user names and passwords.
  • Or, they get you to fork over credit card information and charge you for phony services, or services you could get for free.
What You Should Know:
  • Criminals have figured out how to spoof caller ID numbers so they appear to be calling from a legitimate company, so don’t rely on caller ID.
  • Even tech savvy consumers get caught up in this scam, so don’t assume you are immune.
What You Should Do:
  • Hang up on anyone claiming to be from tech support.
  • If you get a pop-up alert that appears to freeze your computer, don’t follow the instructions. Just shut down your computer and restart to get rid of the phony ad.
  • Look inside the tech support scam from the perspective of a former scammer at www.aarp.org/techscams

Reprinted from AARP Fraud Network.

New Scam Targets Social Security Benefits

Special Alert: New Scam Targets Your Social Security Benefit
 How It Works:
  • A scammer calls from a 323 area code, posing as a Social Security Administration (SSA) employee.
  • In some instances, the scammer tells the victim he or she is due a cost-of-living adjustment increase in their Social Security benefit.
  • The caller then tries to get the victim to verify their Social Security number, name, date of birth, parent’s name and other personal information.
  • If the scammer succeeds, they use the information to make changes to the victim’s direct deposit, address, and telephone information.
What You Should Know::
  • The SSA does  occasionally call people for customer service purposes.
  • Only in very limited situations, usually known by the person being called, will the SSA ask to confirm personal information.
What You Should Do::
  • Never provide information such as your Social Security number or bank account numbers to unknown people over the phone or internet unless you are certain who is receiving it.
  • If you have questions about any SSA communication ; a call, letter, email or text , contact your local Social Security office or 1-800-772-1213.
  • Report suspicious calls to the Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report.

Reprinted from AARP Fraud Watch.

IRS Imposters Don’t Take Summer Break

 How It Works:
  • Scammers call taxpayers to claim the IRS has already mailed them two certified letters about an outstanding tax bill, but the letters were returned as undeliverable.
  • The scammer threatens immediate arrest unless the tax bill is paid using a prepaid debit card.
  • The scammer falsely contends that the prepaid debit card is linked to the IRS’ Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS).
 What You Should Know:
  • The IRS and its authorized private collection agencies do not accept prepaid debit cards, wire transfers or gift cards as forms of payment.
  • It’s a scam if you are threatened with arrest for nonpayment.
  • The IRS will not direct you to pay through a third party. Tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury.
 What You Should Do:
  • If you are in doubt about whether or not you owe taxes, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.
  • If you don’t owe taxes and get a call like this, hang up immediately.
  • Report IRS imposter scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration online or by phone, 800-366-4484.

Reprinted from  AARP Fraud Watch Network.

 

 

Recognizing Signs It’s Time for Assisted Living

Sometimes caring for someone with dementia takes a toll on the caregiver and their family. We asked a psychologist how to tell if assisted living is right for your parent or loved one.How to Recognize Signs It's Time for Assisted Living

More than 15 million Americans devote time and energy to caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, but sometimes the cost of caregiving becomes too high. Caregivers find themselves unable to bear the burden of providing home health care without suffering from stress and illness themselves. At that point, it may be time to consider whether to move a loved one into assisted living if their health needs become too much to handle at home.

Signs that Your Loved One May Need Assisted Living

Moving a family member into residential care is never an easy decision. However, there are some telltale signs that caregivers can look for in order to recognize when it’s time for assisted living:

  1. Wandering: In later stages of dementia, the risk posed by wandering becomes much greater, notes Rita Vasquez, M.A., an MFTI Clinician at Quail Lakes Counseling Center in Stockton, California. “They can wander even if you just take the time to go to the bathroom,” she says, and the probability of falls and injuries increases.
  2. Sundowning: Sundowner syndrome” — very agitated behavior that becomes more pronounced later in the day — is a common characteristic of those with Alzheimer’s. Vasquez says that this can take a heavy toll on caregivers, and when it begins to severely disrupt family routines, this may be a sign that the caregiving burden is too hard to handle.
  3. Aggression: Verbal, physical, and even sexual aggression frequently happen in those with dementia, and caregivers and other family members may suffer or begin to feel resentful. “I tell people when they’re getting to that state, it’s time to start considering placement,” says Vasquez.
  4. Home safety issues: Ask yourself honest questions about your senior family member’s health and your own abilities to care for them. Is the person with dementia becoming unsafe in their current home?
  5. Escalating care needs: Is the health of the person with dementia or my health as a caregiver at risk? Are the person’s care needs beyond my physical abilities? If you’re answering yes to those questions, it might be time to have that tough family conversation.
  6. Caregiver stress: Stress and other caregiver symptoms can be just as telling a sign as the dementia behaviors described above.

Caregiver Stress May Indicate a Need for Help

An article in the New York Times discussed the psychological costs of caregiving and of making difficult care decisions, which some professionals are likening to the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Caregivers may experience symptoms like “intrusive thoughts, disabling anxiety, hyper-vigilance, avoidance behaviors,” and more. Rita Vasquez attributes these symptoms not only to the pressures of caring for someone with dementia, but also to the disruptions to normal sleep and eating patterns that result when one is spending so much time on caregiving: “When the brain is always on alert, many things are going to happen — you’re not going to eat well, your nutrition is going to go down,” and physical health suffers. The emotional, mental and physical toll of caregiving can be particularly pronounced for spouses of those who need care. In one of the families Vasquez works with, the wife and primary caregiver is 80 years old. “She’s taking care of her 85-year-old husband and it’s draining her,” Vasquez says. “When he fell recently, she couldn’t pick him up and had to call the paramedics.” In cases like this, it might be clear immediately when the demands of care become too great. In other cases, it might not be so obvious. However, if you are feeling isolated and alone, or if you begin to feel resentful of your loved one, it might be time to examine the source of those feelings, says Vasquez. “Sleep deprivation, anger, resentment, all those things will become part of what happens to a caregiver,” she says. “And, of course, the guilt, when you think, ‘I’m not doing enough.’” When that happens, it’s important to recognize how much you’ve been giving to your loved one, and perhaps tell yourself, “Okay, I’m not living a life for myself anymore, I’m living for that person.”

My Loved One Needs More Help Than I Can Give — What Now?

Deciding between assisted living vs in-home care is never easy, and caregiver guilt and grief are common reactions to moving seniors out of their homes. As Rita Vasquez puts it, “We lose our family member twice: once to the disease, and again when they pass.” Caregivers may wonder if they could or should have done more; they may feel separation anxiety in moving their loved one to another location. If family dynamics are difficult — if, for instance, a caregiver caring for a parent had an unhappy childhood — that may further complicate the decision process. This is why planning ahead is so important: “If you know your family member is in the early stages of [illness], first and foremost you want to get all your paperwork together,” Vasquez says. “It’s in our culture that we don’t want to talk about those things,” but before dementia begins to affect your loved one’s cognitive health, it’s important to have someone help them collect the right paperwork and make those critical decisions, whether it’s a friend, family member, or physician. Planning ahead, getting informed, and involving the appropriate persons in the decision will ultimately help ease the process when it’s time to move your loved one into care. The best way to be there for them, Vasquez says, is to know that they are in the proper place for getting the care that they need. Visit communities before choosing one, and make sure they have activities and medical support appropriate to dementia patients. Ultimately, she says, try to remember that if you’ve done that research “They are going to thrive wherever you send them.”

Caring for the Caregiver

As a caregiver, it can be difficult enough to find time to care for your senior loved one, let alone yourself — even if your family member is in residential care. But staying healthy is one of the best things you can do to provide the support your loved one needs. Arranging a short stint in respite care is one way to get some time to rest and recuperate, especially if you are caring for someone at home. Taking care of your mental health is also critical, and there are many benefits to seeking out a circle of support to bolster you when times are difficult. Counseling, therapy, and support groups all exist to help family members going through transitions relating to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Check with the facility that your loved one is moving to, suggests Vasquez, who has led caregiver support groups and coordinated family services at a local residential care facility. Many care homes, she says, offer support groups and other resources for families. These resources can help you come to terms with the idea that sometimes the best decision for the health and happiness of both parties is putting your loved one into care. “We have to know that as a human being, we can only do so much without taxing our health,” says Vasquez.

Reprinted from A Place for Mom

Prize Scams

AARP Fraud Watch
Watch Out for Prize Scams

There are plenty of reputable contests and sweepstakes out there (including some from AARP). But there are also a lot of bad players looking to bilk you out of your money.

How it Works:
You’re told you’ve won a prize but:

  • You have to pay a fee to collect your winnings;
  • You have to wire money to a well-known company to insure delivery of the prize;
  • You have to deposit a check they have sent you;
  • Your notice was mailed by bulk rate; or
  • You have to attend a sales meeting to win.
What You Should Know:
You can’t win a contest you didn’t enter. Don’t believe claims that you were automatically entered.
What You Should Do:
  • Be vigilant. The Federal Trade Commission recommends looking up a contest or promoter in a search engine with the words “scam” or “complaint”.
  • Warn others. If you think you’ve been targeted by a prize scam, report it at www.ftc.gov/complaint and share on the Fraud Watch Network scam-tracking map.
When it comes to fraud, vigilance is our number one weapon. You have the power to protect yourself and your loved ones from scams. Please share this alert with friends and family.

Sincerely,

Kristin Keckeisen
Fraud Watch Network

P.S. Spotted a scam?  Tell us about it.  Our scam-tracking map gives you information about the latest scams targeting people in your state.  You’ll also find first-hand accounts from scam-spotters who are sharing their experiences so you know how to protect yourself and your family.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network connects you to the latest information about ID theft and fraud so you can safeguard your personal information and your pocketbook.
Visit the site ›
GET HELP:
If you or someone you know has been a victim of identity theft or fraud, contact the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Center at 877-908-3360.
FORWARD TO A FRIEND:
Share this alert with your family and friends so they know how to spot the scam.

“Can You Hear Me?” or “Say Yes” Scam

Warning Seniors about the “Can You Hear Me?” or “Say Yes” Telephone Scam

Senator Collins, the Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, is warning of a new kind of telephone scam that is being reported to the committee’s Fraud Hotline. 

Through this scam, the caller will ask a simple question such as “Are you there?” or “Can you hear me?” in hopes that the recipient of the call will say “Yes.” The scammer records the affirmative answer and then uses that recorded voice to authorize unwanted charges on items like utility bills, phone bills, or even stolen credit cards. 

In recent weeks, the committee’s Fraud Hotline has received an increasing number of reports from Mainers who are receiving this fraudulent call. If you or a loved one receive a call like this, hang up immediately and report it to the Aging Committee’s toll-free Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.

AARP Fraud Watch Network

AARP Fraud Watch Network gives you access to tips that will help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud, and is a resource for helping people who’ve been victimized get their lives back.

Anyone interested in learning how to protect themselves from fraud and identity theft can access the Fraud Watch Network information and resources for free.

You can receive alerts about scams and local events in your area. You’ll also get the inside scoop on the tactics and strategies con artists use to identify and swindle their victims out of their hard-earned money.

By becoming part of the AARP Fraud Watch Network, you can pass this knowledge along to family and friends who might need it. To learn more about the Fraud Watch Network, go to aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

Getting the most from your doctor.

How to Get the Most from Your Doctor

I get a lot of questions from patients surrounding: “How should I treat my doctor appointments?” “What should I ask?” and, “I feel like it’s a one way street.” So, I am sharing with you some of the advice I have given to my patients.

For anyone 65 years or more, a visit to their doctor can be a real advantage. It can prevent potential problems and treat known conditions. It is perhaps best scheduled as an event much like the seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter.

I use the word “event” deliberately, rather than a chore to be avoided or dreaded. As an event, there are ways to take advantage of the visit – to maximize the benefits. A doctor visit as a planned occurrence can represent a major tool for independence and control, and which of us doesn’t relish these life qualities at any age?

For many, it’s also an issue of you making the difference and becoming part of the solution. How you prepare, manage and organize the visit is key. With this type of thinking you can make the most of the visit, and believe it or not, make the most of and organize your doctor as well.

If you are prepared to relate precisely what you are feeling and how you are doing, it elicits both attention and interest from your physician.

Manage, Organize and Prepare for Visits

You should come to your doctor’s appointment ready to describe and quantify the following:

  • Note any changes in your condition – when, how and how severe, as well as anything you did for it to modify or ameliorate it
  • Note any changes in your response to the medications your doctor has prescribed
  • Note any new signs or symptoms
  • Note any changes in your activities and the results

Remember to Exchange Information

Your appointment must not be a haphazard event. Prepare by writing a list short and to the point for each of these. Leave space beneath each for your doctor’s answers and suggestions.

Additionally, be sure to:

  1. Always bear in mind it takes two to tango, as the saying goes. A white coat doesn’t disable the communication or importance of your full presence and understanding. A simple “could you repeat, or explain” if you don’t get something, is not an imposition – as a matter of fact, it asks for recurrence or mistreatment, neither of which your doctor wants.
  2. Be sure your doctor answers in “patient language.” If he’s using medicalese, and you don’t get it, in effect it hasn’t happened.
  3. Deal with each category, and ask until you fully understand the answer and the solution.
  4. Most importantly, write down the suggestions the doctor is giving you.
  5. Upon your next visit to his office, refer to this list, noting whether his solutions have been helpful, so-so or ineffective.

Preventive Care Tips for Seniors

On concluding your visit, be sure you understand what your doctor has recommended. Understand both the effects desired and any major side effects. Remember:

  1. After the call with your doctor, write down the essentials like change of medication or activities on your visit sheet.
  2. If what he has suggested is not possible or even probable for you to do, let him know so that he can come up with a modification that makes it achievable.
  3. If it’s something that requires a trial and report, be sure you establish when it’s best to talk to him. (For most doctors if it’s an emergency, he will respond even in the middle of seeing patients.) But, be sure that you are calling about something that needs immediate attention. I always told my patients that at the end of my day, I would be available to answer all questions, even the repetitive or slightly inane.
  4. Keep a notebook of all of your visits and the significance of each. One sheet (dated of course), can serve as your working “visit sheet.” The next page is for your reactions to what was proposed.

The bottom line is whenever you visit your doctor, it is important to take responsibility for your health and become part of the solution, and to maximize and organize your visit. With this approach you will find that your old one-way street has turned into a bright open highway for health – yours!

About the Author

M.E. Hecht, M.D., is a published author, freelance writer and Orthopedic Surgeon. Her published books and articles have been written for Vogue Magazine, Sunrise River Press, The Wall Street JournalAmerican Medical NewsMedical TribuneNations Business and others. She is also author of “A Practical Guide to Hip Surgery” and “The Slip and Fall Prevention Handbook, You Make the Difference” – both books are available online at Amazon.

Reprinted from A Place for Mom.

Why Women Need to Plan for Long Term Senior Care

Planning for retirement isn’t an easy task — and it’s even more challenging for women. We have an ever-increasing life expectancy, so we’re more likely to live long enough to need assisted living or other types of senior care. We’re also more likely to be a caregiver for others, or to live solo due to widowhood. Yet, studies show that women are less likely to plan effectively for a long life.

Getting educated about retirement planning and learning how to make the right financial investments is a critical step to maximizing your life for the future. Women in particular need to plan ahead, especially if they want to continue to live comfortably and take care of their own needs in retirement.

  1. Women are more likely to age solo. Women are more likely to live alone in their older age, whether due to divorce, widowhood, or other reasons, and that often means bearing the financial burden of retirement solo, too.
  2. Women are more likely to have higher healthcare costs. The MetLife study mentions a variety of reasons for this, including less accessibility to insurance and more out-of-pocket expenses. Women are also more likely to either need long-term care themselves, or be the providers of long-term care.
  3. Women live longer. If you’re age 60 today in the U.S., and you’re female, says the report, you can expect to live to about 84 — but if you’re male, it’s 81. Having more years to live translates directly into more retirement costs.

Ways Women Must Approach Finances Differently

Women have historically needed to approach finances differently, and that’s another reason why we can get behind in our retirement planning.

Here are a few specific examples of how women’s financial situation significantly differs from men’s:

  1. Women are less likely to have a retirement plan. Although more women are participating in the workforce than ever before, they are less likely to have a retirement plan — either because they choose not to even if they qualify, or they work part-time and don’t qualify. Women are also likely to work fewer years if they take time off for caregiving or child rearing. What this all adds up to, is lower lifetime savings, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
  2. Women earn less than men: Not only are women more likely to work part-time, they only earn 81% of what men earned. That, of course, has nothing to do with our own financial behavior, but it translates into less contribution to pensions, savings and Social Security.
  3. Women invest more conservatively: Women are more likely to have a penny-pinching attitude when it comes to savings, but although we’re confident about our ability to stretch a dollar, we tend to be less confident when it comes to investing our money for the future. According to a TIME article, this may be because we feel we don’t know enough about it, or feel intimidated by the male-dominated financial world; in some cases, women were raised to consider investment to be the man’s domain.

What Should Women Be Doing to Plan for Senior Care?

In past eras, women tended to leave all the financial planning to men, in fact, many women today grew up surrounded by the attitude —conscious or not — that husbands take charge of the long term finances.

Obviously, this is an attitude we can’t afford. It may seem daunting, but women can start with a few simple strategies for saving:

  1. Come up with a contingency plan. Don’t wait for emergencies to actually happen before you figure out how to deal with them financially. Consider what contingencies are likely for your situation, whether it’s a health emergency or long-term care, and figure out how you plan to round up the necessary resources.
  2. Don’t delay. There’s no better time to start than now !
  3. Get educated and build your financial confidence. Research any financial planning matters you don’t understand, consult a variety of resources, and don’t be afraid to talk to a financial planner or investment expert. “Be careful not to conclude too quickly that you have ‘all the information you need,’” . Learn about insurance, savings plans and senior care costs.
  4. Learn about your retirement benefits. If your employer offers a retirement plan, join it and start saving now, and find out how long you need to contribute before you’re vested. If your spouse has a pension, Social Security or Veteran’s benefits, make sure you know what the rules are when it comes to spousal rights in cases of death or divorce, notes the Department of Labor.
  5. Review your finances regularly, and set a budget. In a Forbes article, CPA Laura McNutt suggests, “Once a year conduct a retirement analysis. Look at what you own, your spending needs and determine if what you have is going to accomplish those needs.” Be detailed about what your goals are and what you need to save to reach them.