Free tax preparation help available

The AARP Tax-Aide program is again offering free income tax help to people of all ages in the Sugarloaf area. Certified volunteers will prepare income tax returns for taxpayers with low to moderate incomes.  You do not need to be over 60 or a member of AARP to qualify for this free service.

All AARP volunteer tax preparers are trained and certified anually by the IRS and will prepare and e-file both your State of Maine and Federal tax returns free.  Most returns are filed electonically which helps you get your refund quickly.

The program does not have income limits: instead, the complexity of the return dictates whether it can be prepared by volunteers.

This program will be held at the Carrabassett Valley Public Library, Fridays from 11:30 to 3:30 pm beginning Feb 6, 2015. Call 246-2157 to schedule an appointment.

When you come for your appointment, bring the following items: Social security cards and dates of birth for everyone on the tax return; photo ID; W-2’s, 1098s or other wage statements; 1099s for Interest and Dividend income; routing information if you want direct deposit (copy of blank check); copy of last year’s tax return.  If you qualify for child/dependent credit, bring the child care provider’s address and tax ID#.  If you paid for college expenses or interest on college loans, bring that information.  If you itemize deductions; health insurance, medical expenses, property and excise taxes, mortgage interest and charitable contibutions; health insurance information for taxpayer, spouse and all dependants.  If you purchased through the Marketplace, bring Form 1095-A.  If not full coverage, information on monthly coverage and/or Exemptions from IRS or from Marketplace/Exchange. ( Note: report any Premium Tax Credit received this year.)

Your Best Life–Bucket Lists and New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions, Bucket Lists, and Other Ways to Live Your Best Life

by Dr. Len Kayes, guest writer in MAINE SENIORS Magazine

The 2007 film The Bucket List portrays two terminally ill men, Edward Cole and Carter Chambers (played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, respectively) who escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of “to-dos” before they die. Included in their list was skydiving, driving a race car, flying over the North Pole, riding motorcycles on the Great Wall of China, and going on a lion safari in Africa. This touching comedy/drama reminds us that there is much that can be accomplished in life regardless of our age or health status and striving to have new experiences before we die can be exceedingly satisfying and meaningful.

Call it what you like — a set of New Year’s resolutions, a bucket list of hopes and dreams, or a life list of goals and objectives — reaching out for new experiences can represent an exciting road map for achieving your best life. And, let there be no doubt about it – it is never too late to develop and enact such a plan. The arrival of 2015 represents a great time to plan your future, whatever your age.

Marelisa Fabrega, the author of How to Live Your Best Life, tells us that a life list is simply a set of goals which cover all the different areas of your life. Taken seriously, it can represent a powerful tool for making sure that you decide what you want to do and have in life, and who you want to be, and that you take the necessary action to accomplish these things.

Remember that bucket lists are not just for those in the latter stages of life. While bucket lists are meant to contain accomplishments that you want to achieve before you “kick the bucket”, you can build your list as early in your life as you choose. Everyone, regardless of age, deserves to have aspirations, hopes, and dreams yet to be realized but consistently sought after. Walt Disney put it well when he said “all our dreams can come true—if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Prudence Searl, 63, of Bangor has a bucket list – she wants to tour the western United States and see the Grand Canyon. She also wants to go to Florida one day and drive down one side of the state and up the other visiting the many friends she has living there…then return to Disney World along the way. She wants to do it in a new Toyota Camry, also on her bucket list.

Sara Dimmick, 65, of Augusta also has a bucket list. She tells me she would like to visit the pyramids in Egypt, travel to Australia, learn about other religions, and become proficient in a language other than her own – probably Spanish.

And, so does Frank Ober, 69, of Whitefield. Frank considers his bucket list to be a “to- do” list which tends to include various projects that “need” to get done or “have” to be done and are not necessarily projects that he “wants” to do. Included on his list was painting the garage floor (already accomplished), and building a sunroom and both refurbishing and expanding the deck that is attached to his house (yet to be accomplished). He checks his list regularly and he says it helps to keep him focused.

It seems that a lot of people tend to have various life goals that fall into one or more of the following categories. These may serve as a useful guide for readers to organize their own personal bucket lists:

*Adventure
*Career
*Entertainment
*Family
*Finances/Money
*Friends/Friendships
*Fun
*Health
*Hobbies
*Home
*Learning/Education
*Love/Love Life
*Marriage
*Relationships
*Self-improvement
*Spiritual Life
*Sports
*Travel

Here are a few suggestions to consider when developing your own bucket list:

  • Make sure that your list contains things that YOU really want to accomplish, obtain, or do. Don’t be influenced by the opinions of others. After all, it is YOUR list so let it contain things you want to have, things you want to do, things you want to be, places you want to visit, and people you want to meet. It should be about what you find meaningful and what brings you joy.
  • Even though the list is yours doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t share it with others. Go public with it. Doing so can give you additional motivation and incentive to pursue the items on the list. And, those you share your dreams with may be able to help you achieve them by offering helpful words of advice. Research actually suggests that success in reaching your goals is more likely when your goals are made public and support is received from friends. You may also discover along the way that your dreams are held by others and that pursuing them can become a joint venture.
  • Try to include some far reaching or longer term goals as well as some that are probably more easily attainable in the short term. The things you want should be a mix of both exceedingly challenging as well as more attainable accomplishments. Also, it is OK to think big, be creative, and go outside your comfort zone. If what you want is to lose weight, exercise more, and eat healthier, that is fine but don’t be afraid to reach beyond the usual resolutions–that are too often broken before the first week has passed.
  • Remember, and this is very important, don’t waste time creating your personalized bucket list if you don’t intend to take the actions required to achieve the items on it. Being engaged in goal setting, including keeping track of small but measurable progress toward reaching your goal, is helpful as well. Ultimately, however, whether you succeed or not may be less important than being able to honestly say you tried. And, maintaining a life list, even though you eventually are unable to achieve all that you set out to accomplish, in and of itself is a sign of an active mind, a vibrant spirit, and a motivated and positive thinker. It can help give you continued meaning, purpose, structure, identity, and direction in life as you grow older.

We have one precious life to live – be it resolved that in 2015 and beyond that we will live it well – with purpose and identifiable goals that we aspire to achieve.

Reprinted with permission from Maine Senior Guide.

 

Protecting Senior Skin from Winter Weather

Contrary to the popular jingle, Jack Frost doesn’t just nip—he often bites. And, far from attacking just your nose, he targets the largest organ you possess—your skin.

The bitter cold and blistering winds of winter can quickly strip skin of its moisture, leaving it prone to itching, cracking and bleeding. Broken skin is a recipe for infection, says Rebecca Baxt, M.D., a board certified dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Even the welcoming warmth of a climate-controlled building adds to your skin’s suffering. According to James C. Marotta, a Long Island-based facial plastic surgeon, the same heating system that keeps your house toasty also sucks much of the moisture out of the air.

Seniors more susceptible to skin problems

Seniors are particularly prone to skin issues. Over time, a person’s skin becomes thinner, drier and more fragile.

Shingles and senile purpura—skin that bruises easily—are two ailments that often strike the elderly, regardless of the season.

According to Baxt, winter weather further compounds these problems, making a senior more prone to itchy skin and certain types of rashes, including:

  • Eczema craquele (xerosis) is an itchy rash that seniors sometimes develop, typically on their legs and arms.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis, a condition marked by patches of itchy, flaky skin, typically in oily areas such as the scalp, eyebrows, nose and chest is also worsened by winter weather. According to Baxt the yeast that causes this type of skin malady thrives in frosty, moisture-free climates.

Six skin-saving strategies

Baxt and Marotta offer six essential cold-weather skin protection tips:

  1. Make sure to moisturize: There’s no better cure for winter skin woes than a bottle of your go-to moisturizer. “It’s critical that people, especially elderly people, moisturize their skin in the winter months, says Baxt, who suggests applying moisturizer immediately after showering. She also says that, while lotion may provide enough protection for some people, seniors might want to seek out heavier creams or ointments. Just be sure to check the ingredients. Many heavy-duty moisturizers contain lanolin—a common allergen for the elderly. Vaseline petroleum jelly can be a skin saver—if you can get over the greasiness. Marotta offers the following tip for making moisturizers more effective: after application, immediately cover the area with clothing (i.e. pants, shirt, gloves, socks) to enhance absorption and prevent evaporation.
  2. Don’t forget to drink: By the time December rolls around, sweat-inducing temperatures may seem like a distant memory, but don’t assume that cooler weather means you can skimp on hydration. Keep your fluid consumption consistent—Marotta suggests sticking to eight glasses of water a day. One way to know if you’re getting enough water is to check your urine color. Unless you’re on certain medications that may affect your urine hues, aim for shades that lie somewhere in the range of pale-to-moderately-yellow.
  3. Bundle up: Before braving the frigid outdoors, be sure to cover as much exposed skin as you possibly can. The skin on your fingers and toes is particularly susceptible to frostbite and windburn.
  4. Remember your sunscreen: It may be a summertime staple, but according to Baxt, sunscreen is essential during cloudless winter days—especially if there’s sun-reflecting snow on the ground.
  5. Keep showers short: As satisfying as a steamy shower can be on a cold winter’s night, Marotta warns that basking in too much scalding water can strip your skin of much of its moisture.
  6. Crank up the humidity: Full room humidifiers can help re-infuse dry, artificially-heated air with some much-needed moisture.

Reprinted from Agingcare.com

 

Discounts for Seniors

Here is a list of restaurants, supermarkets,department stores, travel deals and other types of offers giving various discounts with different age requirements.  YOU MUST ASK FOR THESE DISCOUNTS!

RESTAURANTS:
Applebee’s:            15% off with Golden Apple Card (60+)
Arby’s:                   10% off (55+)
Ben & Jerry’s:         10% off (60+)
Bennigan’s:             Discount varies by location (60+)
Bob’s Big Boy:        Discount varies by location (60+)
Boston Market:       10% off (65+)
Burger King:            10% off (60+)
Chick-Fil-A:             10% off or free small drink or coffee (55+)
Chili’s:                    10% off (55+)
CiCi’s Pizza:            10% off (60+)
Denny’s:                 10% off, 20% off for AARP members (55 +)
Dunkin’ Donuts:       10% off or free coffee (55+)
Einstein’s Bagels:    10% off baker’s dozen of bagels (60+)
Fuddrucker’s:          10% off any senior platter ( 55+)
Gatti’s Pizza:           10% off (60+)
Golden Corral:        10% off (60+)
Hardee’s:                $0.33 beverages everyday (65+)
IHOP:                     10% off (55+)
Jack in the Box:       Up to 20% off (55+)
KFC:                       Free small drink with any meal (55+)
Krispy Kreme:         10% off (50+)
Long John Silver’s:  Various discounts at locations (55+)
McDonald’s:            Discounts on coffee everyday (55+)
Mrs. Fields:             10% off at participating locations (60+)
Shoney’s:               10% off
Sonic:                    10% off or free beverage (60+)
Steak ‘n Shake:      10% off every Monday & Tuesday (50+)
Subway:                10% off (60+)
Sweet Tomatoes:   10% off (62+)
Taco Bell :              5% off; free beverages for seniors (65+)
TCBY:                   10% off (55+)
Tea Room Cafe:    10% off (50+)
Village Inn:            10% off (60+)
Waffle House:       10% off every Monday (60+)
Wendy’s:              10% off (55 +)
Whataburger:        10% off (62+)
White Castle :        10% off (62+)
RETAIL & APPAREL:
Banana Republic:    30% off (50+)
Bealls:                   20% off first Tuesday of each month (50+)
Belk’s:                   15% off first Tuesday of every month (55+)
Big Lots:                30% off
Bon-Ton Dept        15 % off on senior discount days (55 +)
C.J. Banks:           10% off every Wednesday (50+)
Clarks :                 10% off (62+)
Dress Barn:           20% off (55+)
Goodwill:              10% off one day a week (date varies by location)
Hallmark:              10% off one day a week (date varies by location)
Kmart:                  40% off (Wednesdays only) (50+)
Kohl’s:                  15% off (60+)
Modell’s Sporting Goods:  30% off
Rite Aid:               10% off on Tuesdays & 10% off prescriptions
Ross Stores:        10% off every Tuesday (55+)

The Salvation Army Thrift Stores:  Up to 50% off (55+)
Stein Mart:           20% off red dot/clearance items first Monday of every month (55 +)

GROCERY:
Albertson’s:                       10% off first Wednesday of each month (55 +)
American Discount Stores: 10% off every Monday (50 +)
Compare Foods Supermarket:  10% off every Wednesday (60+)
DeCicco Family Markets:      5% off every Wednesday (60+)
Food Lion:                          60% off every Monday (60+)
Fry’s Supermarket:            Free Fry’s VIP Club Membership & 10% off every Monday (55 +)
Great Valu Food Store:      5% off every Tuesday (60+)
Gristedes Supermarket:     10% off every Tuesday (60+)
Harris Teeter:                    5% off every Tuesday (60+)
Hy-Vee:                            5% off one day a week (date varies by location)
Kroger:                            10% off (date varies by location)
Morton Williams Supermarket:   5% off every Tuesday (60+)
The Plant Shed:               10% off every Tuesday (50 +)
Publix:                             15% off every Wednesday ( 55 +)
Rogers  Markelace:          5% off every Thursday (60+)
Uncle Guiseppe’s Marketplace:  15% off (62+)

TRAVEL:
Airlines:

Alaska Airlines:               50% off (65+)
American Airlines:           Various discounts for 50% off non-peak periods (Tuesdays – Thursdays) (62+) and up (call before booking for discount)
Continental Airlines:        No initiation fee for Continental Presidents Club & special fares for select destinations
Southwest Airlines:          Various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
United Airlines:                 Various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
U.S. Airways:                    Various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)

Rail:  Amtrak:                  15% off (62+)
Bus:  Greyhound:           15% off (62+)  Trailways Transportation System: various discounts for ages 50+

CAR RENTAL:
Alamo Car Rental:           Up to 25% off for AARP members
Avis:                               Up to 25% off for AARP members
Budget Rental Cars:       40% off; up to 50% off for AARP members (50+)
Dollar Rent-A-Car:         10% off (50+)
Enterprise Rent-A-Car:  5% off for AARP members
Hertz:                            Up to 25% off for AARP members
National Rent-A-Car:      Up to 30% off for AARP members

OVERNIGHT ACCOMMODATIONS:
Holiday Inn:                     20-40% off depending on location (62+)
Best Western:                40% off (55+)
Cambria Suites:            20%-30% off (60+)
Waldorf Astoria – NYC: $5,000 off nightly rate for Presidential Suite (55 +)
Clarion Motels:              20%-30% off (60+)
Comfort Inn:                   20%-30% off (60+)
Comfort Suites:             20%-30% off (60+)
Econo Lodge:               40% off (60+)
Hampton Inns & Suites: 40% off when booked 72 hours in advance
Hyatt Hotels:                  25%-50% off (62+)
InterContinental Hotels Group:  Various discounts at all hotels (65+)
Mainstay Suites:          10% off with Mature Traveler’s Discount (50+); 20%-30% off (60+)
Marriott Hotels:             25% off (62+)
Motel 6:                         Stay Free Sunday nights (60+)
Myrtle Beach Resort:   30% off (55 +)
Quality Inn:                    40%-50% off (60+)
Rodeway Inn:                20%-30% off (60+)
Sleep Inn:                      40% off (60+)

ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT:
AMC Theaters:                          Up to 30% off (55 +)
Bally Total Fitness:                    $100 off memberships (62+)
Busch Gardens Tampa, FL:     $13 off one-day tickets (50 +)
Carmike Cinemas:                    35% off (65+)
Cinemark/Century Theaters:    Up to 35% off
Massage Envy – NYC:               20% off all “Happy Endings” (62 +)
U.S. National Parks:                  $10 lifetime pass; 50% off additional services including camping (62+)
Regal Cinemas:                         50% off Ripley’s Believe it or Not: @ off one-day ticket (55 +)
SeaWorld, Orlando , FL :          $3 off one-day tickets (50 +)

CELL PHONE DISCOUNTS:
AT&T:                          Special Senior Nation 200 Plan $19.99/month (65+)
Jitterbug:                     $10/month cell phone service (50 +)
Verizon Wireless:       Verizon Nationwide 65 Plus Plan $29.99/month (65+).
MISCELLANEOUS:
Great Clips:      $8 off hair cuts (60+)
Supercuts:        $8 off haircuts (60+)

 

If you would like to print out this list go to : http://theeco-senior.blogspot.com/2013/11/senior-discounts-us-and-canada.html   and click on The Eco-Senior: Senior discounts US and Canada

Phony phone copys bully consumers out of millions

The phone rings and a scary voice on the other end tells you that you owe them money and need to pay up … or else. The caller leads you to believe that a recent loan you took out has come due and that its time to pay or face legal action. Frightening, right?

This terrifying scenario has been experienced by thousands of consumers in recent years due to con artists running the “phantom debt collector” scam. In recent weeks, consumers have contacted Fraud.org in increasing numbers, suggesting the scam is once again on the rise. The fake phone calls started in Maine sometime during the summer.

The phantom debt collection scam comes in a number of variations, but the common element in almost all of them is a claim that a consumer owes money on a debt and needs to pay or else face serious consequences. Often, the scam begins when a consumer inquires about a payday loan or other short-term credit online or over the phone. The Web site or phone number that the consumer contacts may or may not be associated with a legitimate lender. Regardless of whether the consumer actually takes out a loan, he or she may receive a call later demanding money be paid. Since consumers interested in payday loans are often financially strapped, they may be susceptible to such demands whether or not they actually took out a loan.

Even for consumers who do not have outstanding debts, the con artists are threatening and convincing and have led some consumers to wonder whether someone has taken out loans in their name. In cases where a consumer actually does have outstanding loans, the scam artist may claim that the victim owes far more in fees and interest than he or she actually does. In other cases, the victim of the scam may be behind on a loan, but the caller has no authority to actually collect on the debt. No matter the consumer’s actual situation, skilled con artists are convincing them to hand over precious cash to settle the “debt.” Scammers often demand payment on these phantom debts via wire transfer, credit or debit card.  Consumers may believe these calls because the scammers have some personal details about them.

Consumers should be on the lookout for these scams. Here are some tips for spotting and avoiding being a victim:

  • If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a debt collector, ask for the person’s name and address, the company they represent and the original creditor (if indeed you have an outstanding loan). If they can’t provide this information, hang up;
  • If you’re concerned about the status of an unpaid debt, hang up and call the creditor back yourself at the phone number provided on your loan paperwork;
  • If the amount demanded is significantly more than the debt you owe, it’s probably a scam;
  • Check your credit report. If the debt the caller claims you owe is not listed on there, it’s probably a scam;
  • Don’t be intimidated if the debt collector is abusive or threatens legal action or arrest. Request that written notice of the debt be mailed to you and tell them that you do not wish to be contacted again about the debt. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a debt collector must respect this request.
  • If you suspect that the caller is a phantom debt collector, hang up and report the scam to Fraud.org.

4 scams to look out for during Medicare Open Enrollment

4 Scams to Look Out For During Medicare Open Enrollment

Con artists and scammers are constantly inventing new ways to take advantage of elderly people.

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period offers the perfect opportunity to dupe seniors. Identity thieves are targeting Medicare recipients for their personal and financial information, then running up huge bills in their names before anyone is the wiser.

Here are some common scams that target seniors during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period:

Scam:
An “official Medicare agent” knocks on a senior’s door. The agent says she’s selling Medicare insurance that can save the senior thousands of dollars in healthcare costs next year. The offer is only good during Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period.

Fact:
There are no Medicare sales representatives. Ignore cold calls. If you haven’t asked for an agent to contact you, federal law prohibits an agent from trying to sell to you — whether it’s a phone call, an e-mail or a knock on your front door. If an agent tries to sell you something on behalf of Medicare, you should report that person to authorities.

Scam:
A senior receives a call that says they must have a prescription drug coverage plan or they will lose their other Medicare benefits. If the senior doesn’t join a plan during enrollment time, their Medicare benefits will be terminated.

Fact:
If someone says you must join or you’ll lose your other Medicare benefits, it’s a scam. The Medicare prescription drug benefit is voluntary. It supplements your other Medicare benefits.

Scam:
A senior gets a call from someone claiming that the senior Medicare recipient is owed a $250 refund because they’ve reached the prescription drug coverage gap known as the “donut hole.” The senior is asked to provide her birth date, Social Security number, bank account and Medicare numbers so the refund can be automatically deposited into her checking account.

Fact:
Medicare will never call and ask for your Medicare or social security number. No senior should ever give their Medicare number to any caller. Guard your personal information. Treat Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security numbers like a credit card number, and should never give these out to a stranger. If someone claims to be with Medicare and asks for your information, ask for their name and report it to 1-800-MEDICARE. Seniors won’t be issued new Medicare cards and do not need to register with anyone to receive the $250 rebate check. The check will be mailed directly to each senior at their home after they hit the prescription drug coverage gap known as the “donut hole.”

Scam:
A senior receives some official-looking brochures about new Medicare products that available at a discounted price during Medicare open enrollment.

Fact:
Don’t be fooled by sales materials that look like they’re from the government. Con artists often try to impress consumers with official-looking sales materials that look like they’re from a government agency. Private companies – not the government – sell Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans. Be skeptical of promotional materials claiming to come from the government.

Another thing to bear in mind during the 2014 Medicare Open Enrollment Period:Medicare beneficiaries need not (and cannot) enroll in health insurance plans on the Health Insurance Marketplace created by Obamacare. No one is allowed to attempt to sell a Marketplace plan to an individual who already has Medicare.

For more information check out www.agingcare.com or sign up for their newsletter.

Avoid falling for phone scams

According to Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols, phone scams are on the rise and tracing them is near impossible. ” They use numbers that are false, in other words they appear to be from one particular location but the number is just a front.  You can’t trace it back, and when you take the time to do it, they originate out of the country,” explained Nichols.

The caller says they are from the State Attorney’s Office of Criminal Investigation and that legal charges were being brought against the recipient’s name and social security number.  The caller went on to say that it was extremely urgent that the recipient or their attorney return the call immediately or prosecution would be the next step in the criminal case.

Nichols said the Attorney General’s Office does NOT contact people.. “Their job is to take reports, not generate them.  If they really needed to talk with you, they would send an investigator,” he said.

The Maine Attorney General’s office says one of the more common scams involves an offer to lower credit card interest rates.  An automated phone call will state that the call is coming from a company like “card services” or ” card holder services”.  The caller will report that interest rates on credit cards can be lowered but that a credit card number, social security number or other personal information will be needed.  The Maine Attorney’s office advises to never give out credit card or bank information base on an automated call.

“Don’t be fooled by scammers who contact you and already know your social security number, date of birth or other personal information,” Nichols said.  Even if a phone call appears legitimate, Nichols advises people to hang up and then call a number that is known to be associated with the agency or group rather than the number the caller provides.

Websites and emails that appear very similar to those from legitimate companies ( such as Microsoft)  are also used to con people out of their personal and financial information.

 

Getting the flu shot is important for seniors

The U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state 90 percent of deaths due to influenza occur in people 65 years of age or older. Six out of 10 people who are hospitalized for flu-related problems are older adults, last year 215,000 seniors were hospitalized as a result of severe complications. The flu is especially dangerous for people with chronic conditions, like heart or pulmonary disease, or diabetes. Our immune system weakens with age making it more difficult for older adults to fight illnesses.

Reality is the flu is easy to catch: It’s passed from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or contact with fl­uids from an infected person’s mouth or nose. It is important for everyone to take preventive measures — like washing your hands often, staying away from people who are sick, and encouraging others to cover their coughs. An annual vaccination is still the best way to prevent the flu. As an added bonus — if you get a flu shot, it helps protect your family and everyone around you. Anyone who is around someone with a chronic condition and grandparents who care for grandchildren should get a flu shot. Do it for others, if not for yourself.

There is a flu vaccine made specifically for people age 65 and older. It improves the body’s production of antibodies against the flu. This higher-dose vaccine contains four times the antigen compared with the traditional, standard-dose vaccine. Antibodies help your immune system protect you against infection when exposed to the virus. Most people have minimal or no side effects after receiving the higher-dose vaccine. The most common side effects include swelling, or redness at the injection site, muscle aches, fatigue, headache, or fever.

The higher-dose shot for seniors is available through your doctor, your workplace clinic, local pharmacies, or other flu shot clinics. Medicare Part B covers the full cost of one flu shot per flu season. You pay nothing for the shot, so be sure to ask in advance if your doctor, clinic or other health care provider accepts Medicare.

Your doctor can explain who should not get a flu shot. Anyone with a severe allergic reaction to any vaccine component, including eggs, egg products, or to a previous dose of any flu vaccine, should consult their physician for options to consider. Anyone who has experienced Guillain-Barré syndrome (severe muscle weakness) after a previous flu shot, also should not get a shot. If you notice any other problems or symptoms after a shot, contact your health care professional immediately.

The flu season can start in early fall and peaks in January or February, but can continue well into the spring. It takes approximately two weeks following a flu shot to produce a protective immune response. Even if you don’t get a flu shot early in the season, it is still recommended that you get a shot into the winter months and beyond.

It is essential to get a flu shot every year because the flu viruses usually change from season to season, and protection from the vaccine decreases over time. A new vaccine is made each year to protect against the strains that are expected to cause disease. Immunity to ­flu viruses weakens after a year, so an annual shot is important—even if the same viruses are used in the vaccine. Keep in mind that the fl­u shot does not contain the live virus, so it is impossible to get the flu from the shot. To learn more about the flu, or the special flu vaccine for seniors, go to: http://ncoa.org/flu, or www.cdc.gov/Flu .

 

Debunking the Myths of Older Adult Falls

Debunking the Myths of Older Adult Falls

Many people think falls are a normal part of aging. The truth is, they’re not.

Most falls can be prevented—and you have the power to reduce your risk.

Exercising, managing your medications, having your vision checked, and making your living environment safer are all steps you can take to prevent a fall.

Every year on the first day of fall, we celebrate National Falls Prevention Awareness Day to bring attention to this growing public health issue. To promote greater awareness and understanding here are 10 common myths—and the reality—about older adult falls:

Myth 1: Falling happens to other people, not to me.

Reality: Many people think, “It won’t happen to me.” But the truth is that 1 in 3 older adults—about 12 million—fall every year in the U.S.

Myth 2: Falling is something normal that happens as you get older.

Reality: Falling is not a normal part of aging. Strength and balance exercises, managing your medications, having your vision checked and making your living environment safer are all steps you can take to prevent a fall.

Myth 3: If I limit my activity, I won’t fall.

Reality: Some people believe that the best way to prevent falls is to stay at home and limit activity. Not true. Performing physical activities will actually help you stay independent, as your strength and range of motion benefit from remaining active. Social activities are also good for your overall health.

Myth 4: As long as I stay at home, I can avoid falling.

Reality: Over half of all falls take place at home. Inspect your home for fall risks. Fix simple but serious hazards such as clutter, throw rugs, and poor lighting. Make simple home modifications, such as adding grab bars in the bathroom, a second handrail on stairs, and non-slip paint on outdoor steps.

Myth 5: Muscle strength and flexibility can’t be regained.

Reality: While we do lose muscle as we age, exercise can partially restore strength and flexibility. It’s never too late to start an exercise program. Even if you’ve been a “couch potato” your whole life, becoming active now will benefit you in many ways—including protection from falls.

Myth 6: Taking medication doesn’t increase my risk of falling.

Reality: Taking any medication may increase your risk of falling. Medications affect people in many different ways and can sometimes make you dizzy or sleepy. Be careful when starting a new medication. Talk to your health care provider about potential side effects or interactions of your medications.

Myth 7: I don’t need to get my vision checked every year.

Reality: Vision is another key risk factor for falls. Aging is associated with some forms of vision loss that increase risk of falling and injury. People with vision problems are more than twice as likely to fall as those without visual impairment. Have your eyes checked at least once a year and update your eyeglasses. For those with low vision there are programs and assistive devices that can help. Ask your optometrist for a referral.

Myth 8: Using a walker or cane will make me more dependent.

Reality: Walking aids are very important in helping many older adults maintain or improve their mobility. However, make sure you use these devices safely. Have a physical therapist fit the walker or cane to you and instruct you in its safe use.

Myth 9: I don’t need to talk to family members or my health care provider if I’m concerned about my risk of falling. I don’t want to alarm them, and I want to keep my independence.

Reality: Fall prevention is a team effort. Bring it up with your doctor, family, and anyone else who is in a position to help. They want to help you maintain your mobility and reduce your risk of falling.

Myth 10: I don’t need to talk to my parent, spouse, or other older adult if I’m concerned about their risk of falling. It will hurt their feelings, and it’s none of my business.

Reality: Let them know about your concerns and offer support to help them maintain the highest degree of independence possible. There are many things you can do, including removing hazards in the home, finding a fall prevention program in the community, or setting up a vision exam.

For more information check out ncoa.org.