Winter tips: stay warm this winter

 Being prepared is the best way to ensure that you can enjoy (or at least tolerate) the quiet that comes from being at home without electricity, which is often what creates a cold emergency.

Especially this time of year, when snowfalls are wet (and heavy) it’s good to plan for a few days without electricity. Here are some steps you can take now to prepare your home:winter tips

  • Decide on an alternate way to heat your living space in case of a power failure. Bring in some extra wood for the woodstove or fireplace, or make sure you have kerosene for the heater. Some people get small generators that can keep the refrigerator going, power an electric heater or keep the hopper moving on the pellet stove.  Having a plan in place, and all the pieces accounted for, will lead to peace of mind.
  • Remember that elders have a more difficult time regulating body temperature. Wear a hat, keep several layers on, make sure your feet are warm, and don’t hesitate to cover up when you’re sitting still and reading or listening to the radio.
  • Make sure you have a flashlight with WORKING BATTERIES. And crank-type rechargable flashlights are also good.  With the advent of “lantern” type flashlights that work for hours, I don’t advocate candles. It’s just too easy to forget and leave one burning, and much too easy for folks to catch a bulky sweater or fleece on fire.
  • Get a battery powered or crank radio.
  • Make sure the kitchen has a non-electric can opener for items like tuna, that taste good cold. Other foods that need no cooking or preparation include peanut butter, crackers, cereal and dried fruits. Explore the grocery aisles now for chicken, salmon and other meats in packages that don’t require refrigeration.
  • Remember any medications.
  • Store some bottled water. At my house, we use gallon milk containers, clean and refill them and put them in the cellar. Since our pump doesn’t work without electricity, it’s handy to have water for washing and flushing . You should count on 5 gallons per person per day. (I also buy and store the water we need for drinking and cooking.)
  • If your house can’t be prepared for a winter emergency, make sure you have a back-up plan in place. Make plans now with a family member, neighbor or friend, or know where your local winter storm shelter is, what you’ll need to take, and how you’ll get there.

reprinted from Maine Senior Guide

Digital security and privacy talk

  • Learn how to prevent unknown apps from accessing your Facebook account
  • Don’t allow random companies to have access to your personal information about your friends.

Attend Tim Flight’s talk about security and privacy. Tim will share tips to keep track of passwords, selecting secure PINS for your smartphones, dos and dont’s for WiFi, safely paying for goods online, and keeping malware off your computer.

  • Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 4:30 p.m.
  • Carrabassett Valley Public Library

Free Tax Help

Free tax help for people of all ages with low to moderate income.  AARP tax-aides will help prepare federal and state of Maine tax returns from February 5- April 8, 2016 at the Carrabassett Valley Public Library at 3209 Carrabassett Valley Drive on Fridays: 11:30 to 3:30 p.m.  Appointments must be scheduled by calling (207) 246-2157.

Taxes are prepared and filed electronically by IRS Certified Volunteer Tax Preparers.

18 Signs Your Aging Parent Needs Help

Sometimes age sneaks up on everyone. Mom and dad may have seemed themselves last time you visited, whether a month—or even year—has passed. Physical and mental health decline often surprises family members, especially if aging parents seemed fine on the last visit. The key is to be aware of the small signs or problems that something may be wrong, so that your family has an inkling of health decline and can properly prepare for the future.

A Place for Mom expert and geriatric psychologist Dr. Melissa Henston provides some guidance on how to not only spot common problems, but tips on how to deal with any issues to get your elderly loved one the help they need.

How to Notice There’s A Problem With Your Aging Parents

Aging parents and their children are often in denial that there is a problem. “It’s often hard for parents to admit that they need help, and no one wants to lose their independence,” notes Henston. “But daily living tasks sometimes get to be too much as we age, and it’s important for family members and loved ones to step up and address the problem when this happens—even if it is painful. The problems will not go away and usually need to be addressed in a timely manner.”

The burden often falls on the family to recognize the signs that an aging parent might need help with daily living tasks. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your loved one has to go to assisted living or a nursing home, but they may need some extra help in their home environment. And if they’re not willing to admit it, there are signs that your elderly parent needs help.

According to Henston, you can spot problems the minute you drive up to your loved one’s house:

“There are a whole bunch of warning signs that are easy to spot. For example, the exterior of the house has peeling paint, or the driveway isn’t shoveled or the walkway isn’t treated. Once you enter the home, newspapers are still in plastic wrap and mail is piled up. Maybe the house isn’t as clean as normal or has an odor. You can usually tell when something is ‘off’.”

Since a health crisis in the elderly can escalate quickly and catch everyone involved off guard, it’s important to not ignore signs that something may be wrong. Ideally, families will have conversations with their children or loved ones about getting their affairs in order and end of life care well in advance of having any issues, but here are some signs to be cognizant of when visiting aging loved ones .

  1. House and yard need care / maintenance
  2. Disheveled clothing
  3. Broken appliances
  4. Changes in mood or extreme mood swings
  5. Spoiled / expired groceries that don’t get thrown away
  6. Poor personal hygiene
  7. Cluttered, dirty and/or disorganized house
  8. Depressed or low energy temperament
  9. Unexplained bruising
  10. Trouble getting up from a seated position
  11. Missing important appointments
  12. Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks
  13. Forgetfulness
  14. Poor diet or weight loss
  15. Late payment notices, bounced checks and calls from collections
  16. Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  17. Forgetting to take medications
  18. Unexplained dents or scratches on car

If health or happiness seems to be compromised, it’s time to have a conversation and address problems, whether it’s finding in-home care, a retirement community or a senior living community. It’s important to find the right care options for each unique family situation.

Henston emphasizes the importance of noting anything out of character or outside of normal behavior as there are ways to improve quality of life if independent living in the family home is no longer working.

Reprinted from A Place for Mom.

Free Senior Living Planning Guide

When faced with a decision about senior living, many seniors and their families find themselves in a whirlwind of information-gathering that is more daunting than at any other time in their lives. We suddenly find ourselves needing to be experts on complex issues in a very short period of time.Free Senior Planning & Guide

Fortunately, there is help. A Place for Mom, North America’s largest senior referral service, pooled its years of expertise to create this e-book called the Senior Living Planning Guide. The guide walks you through the major steps of choosing assisted living based on your specific needs and priorities. Download the Senior Living Planning Guide and keep it with you at every stage of the process – from touring communities, to managing finances, to moving in. Here is what you’ll find in the Senior Living Planning Guide.

Senior Living Types Explained

The first part of the e-book guides you through the different types of senior living. It explains the differences between senior apartments, independent living, assisted living, memory care, and the entire continuum of care one may need. It also includes a glossary of common terms for your reference as you move through the transition into senior living. With this quick reference by your side, you can confidently discuss various living arrangements and take notes about which one suits you best.

  • For Active, Healthy Seniors – you’ll know the differences between 55 and over apartments vs independent living facilities.
  • For Seniors Who Need Daily Support – we compare assisted living, residential care homes, memory care and nursing homes.
  • For Seniors Who Live at Home – there are options for home care, respite care and adult day care

Understanding the fundamental differences between each senior living type will help you focus on more important issues, like location, amenities and services at any given community.

Paying for Senior Living

Paying for senior care is often the primary deterrent in making a decision – and with good reason. There are many things to consider, and often these issues are not discussed with other family members. The Senior Planning Guide helps you have those conversations.

What does senior living actually cost? Many people are surprised at how affordable senior care really is, particularly when comparing the cost of living at home.

How does one pay for senior care? Despite common understanding, there are many ways to pay for senior living. Here are some popular methods:

  • Income and savings
  • Support from family members
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Veteran’s benefits
  • Reverse mortgage and home equity
  • Life insurance policies
  • Medicaid

Keep your e-book handy and prepare your questions before calling your Senior Living Advisor. You can also use the online Senior Care Cost Calculator to compare costs.

Touring Senior Communities Checklist

Download the Senior Living Planning Guide
Once you’ve identified what your needs are and settled into your financial decision, your Senior Living Advisor will suggest several choices in your desired location that meet your requirements. It’s time to start touring. With the helpful Senior Living Planning Guide you’ll know which questions to ask. We provide a working checklist as your tour facilities so you can observe and compare important features. For example:

  • Safety features – How do they handle medical emergencies? Is there a visiting physician, or a doctor on staff?
  • Legal and financial questions – Will you need renters insurance? Are there move-in incentives?
  • General observations – Do staff call residents by name? Do residents appear engaged and happy?

Moving Into Senior Living

Making the decision is now much easier thanks to your Senior Living Advisor’s help, and the notes in yourSenior Living Planning Guide. Still, there is a transition period that your e-book can assist with, such as having a family conversation, supporting your aging loved one emotionally through this new journey, and what important documentation and keepsakes should be taken to your new home.

Don’t allow the emotional and logistical challenges of finding senior living overwhelm you. Use the Senior Living Planning Guide as your ultimate resource as you walk through the process of discovering your next home. The best decision you can make is a confident one once you’ve thoroughly researched all of your options. A Place for Mom is here to help you every step of the way. Download the e-book today and keep it with you as you work with your Senior Living Advisor to fine tune your search and find the perfect home.

Reprinted from A Place for Mom

Fake IRS scammers get more aggressive

In the past 2 weeks , the Maine Attorney general and Bureau of Consumer Protection, have issued warnings about these scams.

Callers pretend to represent the IRS.  They claim they’re calling because taxes are past due: unless payment is made immediately, the caller threatens to file a lawsuit, seize property, even do them physical harm.

The fake IRS scams usually hit high gear around tax season but this year,however, crooks have been hitting the phone lines pretending to be IRS agents, police officers, court officials and others who might be in the business of collecting delinquent taxes.

Except they are criminals trying to get you to wire them money you can never get back.

As with most scams, the crooks demand that money be sent by wire transfer or prepaid cash cards.  Both methods are untraceable and crooks count on that fact in addition to their scare tactics to make their scams work.

Aiding their schemes are electronic tactics, such as spoofing, which makes a phony number appear on caller ID devices.  The criminals can make it appear they are calling from an IRS office, when they may be halfway around the world.

The callers can make their threats sound real, but they are as phony as the call itself.  The real IRS never cold calls : they always send a letter first on real IRS stationary. They NEVER ask for credit or debit card information or that money be sent by wire transfer.

If you are in doubt, locate the phone number of the real tax office and call to find out if you have taxes that are overdue.  Don’t disclose personal information–date of birth, Social Security numbers, credit or bank account numbers to unknown callers: you could become a victim of identity theft.

Report suspicious activity to the BCCP ( 800-332-8529), to an IRS office or to a federal law enforcement officer in Maine or Boston. The anti-scam guide Gone Phishing is available free to Maine residents who call the BCCP at the above phone number or online at CreditMaine.gov

 

Seniors and Physical Fitness

Physical fitness is one of the pillars of a healthy life, but that doesn’t mean you have to tie yourself to a regimented routine. Most experts recommend a half hour of walking as a good standard for daily exercise, plus other strengthening.

If you’re walking outside, make sure you’re wearing appropriate clothing and footwear, and you’re dressing in layers for the weather. Even more fun: walking with friends on a circuit inside the mall or even the local gym or  school.

Don’t forget the many fitness programs available on TV, or from the library via tape. Many senior centers now have Wii consols and Wii fit, which is a fun way to track your progress.

There’s nothing that says you can’t put on a little bit of Chubby Checker and twist the night away, too! Dancing is a great form of exercise, and every bit of movement counts, from bowling to raking the lawn.

And don’t forget the usual advice: Check with your doctor before you begin a fitness program.

Reprinted from Maine Senior Guide.

 

Fraud Hotline

Sound the Alarm: Fraud Hotline Shines Light on Scams Targeting Seniors

 

 

Our parents and grandparents worked hard their entire lives and saved for retirement. Unfortunately, there are criminals who are targeting them and who want to rob them of their hard-earned savings. Far too many older Americans are being financially exploited by strangers over the telephone and in the mail.  Worse yet, they also may be targeted by family members or by people they trust.  Many of these crimes, however, go unreported because the victim is too afraid or embarrassed to do so.

In early 2013, as Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, I, along with then-Chairman Bill Nelson of Florida, made consumer protection and fraud prevention a primary focus of our Committee’s work.  From the beginning, we held hearings examining telephone scams, tax-related identity theft, Social Security fraud, and the impact of “payday loans” on seniors, among other issues.  In November of 2013, recognizing the epidemic of fraud perpetrated against seniors and the extent to which victims are often unsure of where they should turn for help, our Committee launched a toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.  

Today, as Committee Chairman, I oversee the Fraud Hotline and remain committed to protecting older Americans against fraud and to bringing greater awareness to this growing problem.  The Hotline has been successful in meeting both of those goals, responding to thousands of individuals over the telephone or through the online form on the Committee Website.

The Hotline allows the Committee to keep a detailed and current record of common fraud schemes impacting seniors.  This record informs the efforts of the Committee, and ultimately the work of the U.S. Congress.

Just as important, the Hotline offers real help to victims and potential victims.  The Hotline is consistently staffed during business hours with investigators who have experience with investment scams, identity theft, bogus sweepstakes and lottery schemes, Medicare and Social Security fraud and a variety of other scams of which seniors are often the victims.  The Hotline seeks to assist individuals by providing callers with important information regarding steps that can be taken when a senior is the target of a scam, including where to report the fraud and ways to reduce the likelihood that the senior becomes a victim or repeat victim.

Seniors are typically referred by investigators to the local, state and/or federal law enforcement entities with jurisdiction over the particular scam. In addition to law enforcement, Committee staff may also direct seniors to other resources, such as consumer protection groups, legal aid clinics, Congressional caseworkers or local nonprofits that provide aid to seniors.

The range and frequency of scams reported to the Hotline demonstrate the extent of this epidemic.  The highest number of complaints this year are about criminals posing as IRS agents who falsely accuse seniors of owing back taxes and penalties. Due to this extremely high call volume, I called for an Aging Committee Hearing in April to investigate and raise awareness about these scams. Last Congress, the Committee held a hearing to investigate a Jamaican Lottery Scam as a result of increased calls to the Fraud Hotline.

Another common scam is identity theft, in which thieves access personal information through numerous means, including stealing a wallet, purse, or mail; posing as a legitimate company and requesting information in a phone or email scam; sifting through the trash; gaining information provided to an unsecured Internet site; and obtaining credit reports by posing as a landlord or employer.  The Federal Trade Commission reports that identity theft is the number one consumer complaint, with 20 percent of the complaints coming from victims age 60 and older.

 

Among the other top complaint generators are computer scams, in which fraudsters posing as “tech support” from a well-known technology company, gain control of the victim’s computer and the sensitive personal information it contains.  Lottery and sweepstake scams, in which the victim is told he or she must make substantial advance payments of taxes or fees in order to claim winnings that do not exist, are also common.

 

A particularly alarming type of fraud is the grandparent scam.  In these cases, scammers call a senior pretending to be a family member, often a grandchild, claiming to be in urgent need of money to cover medical care or a legal problem, such as for bail or legal services following a supposed arrest.  This is a particularly cruel scam, as it combines financial loss with unwarranted worry over a loved one.

Two issues that have arisen repeatedly during the Committee’s investigations are the frequency with which victims do not report fraud and the difficulty they encounter in determining where they should turn for help.  Fortunately, the Committee’s focus on increasing awareness of senior fraud is paying dividends.

Thanks to the cooperation of police departments and senior-oriented agencies in Maine in getting the word out, our state is leading the nation this year in Hotline usage.  Our small state, with the nation’s oldest median age, is at the forefront in bringing attention to the serious problem of fraud against our seniors.  

My monthly SeniorSource newsletter, which provides regular updates on a range of aging issues, includes an insert with anti-fraud tips and the Hotline’s toll-free number (1-855-303-9470) than can be clipped out and placed near the telephone or on the refrigerator.  To sign up for this informative newsletter, please email Senior_Source@collins.senate.gov.  There will always be ruthless individuals who will try to defraud seniors of their hard-earned life savings.  Working together, we can stop them.

The 5 Most Common Infections in the Elderly

Infections in the Elderly

Common infections like UTIs and influenza can happen to anyone, but for adults over the age of 65, these illnesses may be much harder to diagnose — leading to ongoing discomfort, chronic poor health and a higher risk of hospitalization or even death.

In fact, one third of all deaths in seniors over 65 result from infectious diseases, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Though seniors are more susceptible to infection overall, seniors with dementia or those who are in long-term care may be at an even greater risk.

For caregivers, it’s critical to learn about the most common infections in the elderly and their often-elusive signs and symptoms: “Nonspecific symptoms, such as loss of appetite, decline in functioning, mental status changes, incontinence and falls, may be the presenting signs of infection,” according to an article in Infectious Disease Clinics of North America.

If we stay alert to any changes in senior health, and take steps to ward off any infections that might be preventable, we can help promote greater wellness and quality of life for our loved ones in their golden years.

Here are the five most common infections in the elderly:

1. Urinary Tract Infections in the Elderly

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are the most common bacterial infection in older adults, reports the AAFP. The use of catheters or the presence of diabetes can increase the risk of UTIs in elderly people. Sudden changes in behavior, such as confusion or worsening of dementia, or the onset of urinary incontinence, are common warning signs — pain or discomfort don’t necessarily happen with UTIs in seniors. If you suspect a UTI, a physician can perform a urinalysis or other testing to confirm the diagnosis, and then prescribe antibiotics if needed. Caregivers should make sure their loved ones drink plenty of water, as this can help prevent UTIs.

2. Elderly Skin Infections

Changes to aging skin and its ability to heal and resist disease mean that skin infections get much more common as we get older. These include viral infections like herpes zoster (shingles), pressure ulcers, bacterial or fungalfoot infections (which can be more common in those with diabetes), cellulitis, and even drug-resistant infections like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Stay alert to any unusual skin itching, lesions or pain, and seek treatment if your loved one is in discomfort. Most skin infections are treatable, and shingles is preventable with a simple vaccine. Ward off other skin infections by practicing good hygiene such as proper hand washing, particularly if your loved one lives in a senior care community.

3. Bacterial Pneumonia in the Elderly

More than 60% of seniors over 65 get admitted to hospitals due to pneumonia (AAFP). Seniors are at greater risk for pneumonia for a variety of reasons, including changes in lung capacity, increased exposure to disease in community settings, and increased susceptibility due to other conditions like cardiopulmonary disease or diabetes. Classic symptoms like fever, chills and cough are less frequent in the elderly, says the Infectious Disease Clinics of North America; instead, keep an eye out for nonrespiratory symptoms like weakness, confusion, or delirium. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotic treatment for bacterial pneumonia. Some types of pneumonia can be effectively prevented using a pneumococcal vaccine, and this is highly recommended for nursing home residents.

4. Elderly Influenza

Influenza and pneumonia combined add up to the sixth leading cause of death in America — 90% of these in senior adults (AAFP). Weakened immunity in the elderly, along with other chronic conditions, increases the risk of developing severe complications from influenza, such as pneumonia. Because influenza is easily transmitted by coughing and sneezing, the risk of infection increases in a closed environment like a nursing home. Cough, fever, and chills are the common symptoms, though, again, influenza may present different signs in older adults. Annual flu vaccinations are usually recommended for seniors in order to prevent infection, but for those already infected, a physician may prescribe antiviral medications to reduce symptoms.

5. Gastrointestinal Infections in the Elderly

Age-related changes to digestion and gastrointestinal flora put seniors at increased risk of developing gastrointestinal infections. Two of the most common are Helicobacter pylori, which may cause nausea, upper abdominal pain, and fever as well as leading to long-term illness such as ulcer or gastritis; and Clostridium difficile, an increasingly common diarrhea-causing infection, which usually occurs due to antibiotic treatments that suppress healthy gastrointestinal flora. Both illnesses are more common in long-term care facilities. While H. pylori is treated using a combination of drug therapies, C. difficile treatment involves halting the use of the antibiotic causing the problem.

Reprinted from A Place For Mom.

For the Elderly, Falls May Prove Deadly

Taking a tumble may do more than break a senior’s bones—it could also increase their risk of death.

For people 65 years old and older falls are the number one cause of death from an injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2013 alone, more than 25,500 seniors died from injuries sustained in a fall.

And, while the death rates of ailments such as cancer and heart disease have declined over time, death rates from falls have increased, particularly among the elderly—with 55% of fall deaths in 2013 happening to people who were at least 65 years old.

The real cause of death

The most common form of fall among the elderly population is a ground-level fall (where a person is standing on the ground before the fall). While this may not seem very dangerous when compared to a fall from a second-story window, consider this: a study conducted by researchers from the University of Mississippi, found that seniors older than 70 years experienced a three-fold increase in their risk of death after a ground-level fall when compared with those 69 years and younger.

What’s behind this increased risk of death?

Depending on how a senior lands when they fall, they could experience everything from a broken hip to a traumatic brain injury.

According to the CDC, trauma to the brain was the cause of death in 41% of fall fatalities among seniors in the year 2010.

Even a less serious injury, like a broken bone, could require risky a surgical procedure involving sedation and further trauma—two things that can also put an older person’s life in jeopardy. Preexisting conditions as well the overall physical frailty that plagues many aging adults can also impede their recovery from an injury-causing fall.

Even if a senior survives the fall and subsequent medical care, a longer recovery time translates to a longer hospital stay that can make a senior more vulnerable to disease and may ultimately render them incapable of caring for themselves. Only 22% of seniors in the University of Mississippi study could handle living on their own after being released from the hospital after a fall.

Preventing a treacherous tumble

A variety of factors can increase a senior’s risk of falling. Age alone contributes to this risk by interfering with a person’s eyesight, balance, and coordination. Add in elements like slippery floors, patches of ice and snow, and medications that can disorient a senior, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for an accident.

Even the just the fear of falling may increase a loved one’s risk, according to a study done on older Australians.

Not every fall can be prevented, but taking certain steps can reduce a senior’s risk:

  1. Construct a fall-proof environment: Whether your elderly loved one lives in their own home or with you, there are several things you can do to reduce their risk of falling. Removing clutter, throw rugs, and low-lying furniture can prevent tripping and installing grab bars in the bathroom and other slippery areas can provide additional stability for a senior.
  2. Double-check medications: Certain prescription meds can make a senior dizzy and thus increase the chance that they might fall. Have a pharmacist double-check your elderly loved one’s medications to make sure that they are not increasing their risk of falling.
  3. Encourage exercise: Exercise, particularly weight-bearing exercise can increase a senior’s coordination and strengthen their bones, which can help prevent and/or minimize the negative effects of fall.
  4. Get their eyes and bones tested: Remedying vision problems and treating osteoporosis can go a long way to protecting your senior from deadly falls.

Reprinted from Aging Care.