Gifts for Seniors

Gifts for Seniors

It can be particularly difficult to find appropriate and appreciated gifts for our elderly relatives, friends, or clients who are dealing with health issues or living in an assisted living or nursing environment. Here are some ideas that may help get you started as well as some online resources for gifts and sites geared toward seniors:

Gifts of Connection

  • Photo albums, framed pictures (you may even consider “talking” frames which allow you to record a personalized greeting to be replayed or digital picture frames which allow you to send and update pictures electronically).
  • “Photo” phone, allows you to program memory buttons and use a photo to indicate each number (see online resources).
  • Connection via technology, by purchasing a computer and lessons for the less tech-savvy elder or setting up Skype or Facetime on a mobile phone. There are many senior-friendly programs, apps and devices, depending on your elder loved one’s level of comfort with technology.
  • Phone cards or a mobile phone on a family plan/pre-paid.
  • A divided box filled with greeting cards for various occasions (These can be purchased pre-packaged at card or large discount stores or homemade. Make sure to include birthday, thank you, sympathy, get-well, and blank cards and you may wish to enclose stamps.).

Treats

  • Plants (check with facilities on space and safety regulations).
  • Soaps and lotions.
  • Tissues/decorative tissue holders.
  • Homemade treats such as cookies or snack mix (check dietary restrictions).
  • Holiday decorations to personalize the room.
  • Bring in a nice meal or favorite family treats. Or, plan a time to get together to prepare an old family recipe together so your loved one can share their memories and provide input on the cooking/baking. For someone who lives at home whom you will not be able to see during the holidays, consider sending pre-made meals.
  • Anything homemade, especially from grandchildren (pictures, poems, crafts).

Fun Stuff

  • Consider a special visit or outing, especially with the grandchildren (i.e. a trip out to see the children’s holiday show at school or church). Does your loved one enjoy plays or museums? Make special arrangements and reconnect them with a favorite pastime.
  • Large print books or books on tape. If they use a DVD player, purchase old movies or favorite shows to watch (or set up a Netflix or Apple TV account). Set up an iPad or iPod with music and podcasts from their church, covering favorite topics, etc.
  • Games and puzzles. This automatic card shuffler is great for anyone suffering from arthritis and it’s just a cool gadget too! It includes a few decks of cards, so it makes a great gift for the card player in your life.

Make Life Comfy

  • Bathrobe or housecoat, slippers (be aware of safety issues with slippers).
  • Nice blankets or warm shawls/bed jackets. We love this wheelchair blanket and fleece shawl!
  • “Good grips” products, including household tools like a jar/can opener or personal care tools such as the Mercer Rigid Sock Aid to make putting on socks super easy for people with limited flexibility (also great for those tricky compression socks!).
  • Don’t forget the simple things or feel you must buy something more elaborate. Think of items like boxes of a preferred brand of tissues, lipstick, Vaseline, lotion, toiletries, household items, a nice new set of sheets or a holiday pin.

The Gift of Help

  • Purchase companionship or extra help. If someone no longer drives, hire someone to take them on outings or set up a taxi account and put money in it for rides (check with your area about innovative programs that may allow you to purchase memberships and rides via some of your local aging agencies). Hire a cleaning service for a nice holiday cleaning or ongoing services. Offer help to a c
  • Consider safety and health items, but know how your family member might react. Sometimes these items approached as a gift go over better than trying to convince the person to get these items in place themselves, but others may take offense. Two examples are personal emergency response systems (such as falls detection or monitoring systems) and medical/personal records systems (you can offer to help your loved one gather the information and set up an online system known as an EMR or PHR, organize records in a notebook or flash drive, or hire a professional care manager to assist). These are gifts for your loved ones that also give you peace of mind.

Reprinted from Agingwisely.com

 

 

4 red flags to look for during the holiday visits with Seniors

According to a study conducted by the National Alliance of Caregiving in collaboration with AARP, 15 percent of the estimated 34 million Americans who provide care to older family members live an hour or more away from their care recipient. This means that a significant number of caregivers rely on regular telephone conversations and check-ins by other closer-living relatives to gauge an aging loved one’s well-being.

Unfortunately, age-related decline can happen quickly, and in many cases, seniors are skilled at concealing new and worsening problems. For many of these families, holiday visits are the only opportunity for them to observe a senior in person, so it’s important to pay close attention to their physical and mental health and their living situation.

During this year’s holiday gatherings, be sure to look for the following warning signs that a loved one may need some extra help at home.

  1. Weight Loss
    One of the most obvious signs of ill health, either physical or mental, is weight loss. Possible causes could be cancerdementia or depression. Seniors may also experience reduced energy, which can make it challenging to shop for and prepare a nutritious meal and clean up afterwards. Furthermore, all this effort can seem especially unnecessary if they live and eat alone. Certain medications and aging in general can also change the way food tastes. If weight loss is evident, talk to your loved one about your concerns and schedule a doctor’s appointment to address the issue.
  2. Changes in Balance and Mobility
    Pay close attention to the way your loved one moves and how they walk. A reluctance to walk, changes in gait or obvious pain during movement can be a sign of joint, muscle or neurological problems. If your loved one is unsteady on their feet, they may be at risk of falling, which can cause severe injury or worse. If you notice changes in their mobility and coordination, make an appointment with their doctor to discuss options to keep them safe and mobile, such as pain management, physical therapy and mobility aids.
  3. Emotional Well-Being
    Keep an eye out for changes in your loved one’s moods and behavior. You can’t always gauge someone’s emotional state over the telephone, even if you speak daily. Look for signs of depression and anxiety, including withdrawal from social activities, changes in sleep patterns, loss of interest in hobbies, and changes in basic home maintenance and personal hygiene. The latter can be an indicator of dementia or other physical ailments like dehydration, which often happens to elders in the winter months and can be serious. If you notice sudden odd behavior in your loved one, such as confusion or agitation, be sure to seek medical attention. These are common symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI), which is prevalent in seniors and easily resolved with antibiotics.
  4. Home Environment
    Attention must also be paid to a senior’s surroundings. For instance, if your loved one has always been a stickler for neatness and paying bills promptly, but you discover excess clutter and piles of unopened mail while visiting, it indicates a problem. Take a walk-through of their home while you’re visiting to see if they are keeping their house to the usual standards. Be aware that sometimes the signs of trouble are a bit subtler. Scorched cookware could indicate that your loved one forgets food on the stove or in the oven, and an overflowing hamper could mean they don’t have the strength and/or desire to do laundry. Check the expiration dates on their prescriptions and over-the-counter medications and try to determine if they’re taking their medications as prescribed. You know your loved one and their habits best, so go with your gut if something seems off.

How to Handle Signs of Decline

The issues explained above are the four most common signs of age-related decline that long-distance caregivers experience during visits with their loved ones, but there are others to look out for. You can view a comprehensive list here: Signs a Senior Needs Help at Home.

While you may want to keep things light during the holiday season, do take this opportunity to address any red flags that you observe. Collect any necessary information while you are in town to avoid added frustration and confusion in the event of a crisis down the road.

The Initial Conversation

First, have a heart-to-heart conversation with your loved one about their present circumstances and both of your concerns. Suggest making an appointment with their primary care physician for a complete health assessment. The results of this evaluation will help you both determine what next steps are necessary to keep your loved one safe, happy and healthy.

Identify Supportive Resources

If possible, pay a visit to the local Area Agency on Aging or department of human services for information on resources and services available in your loved one’s community. It may be difficult to get in touch with these offices around the holidays, but it is still worth reaching out, leaving a message and researching the services they offer.

Sit down with your loved one to create a current list of people they interact with on a regular basis. This list should include friends, neighbors and clergy whom you trust to keep an eye on your loved one and can contact in the event of an emergency. Double check their addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses, and be sure to share your own contact information with them.

Prepare a To-Do List

Now is the time to begin compiling a to-do list to be implemented over a period of future visits. There are three categories to this list: medical, legal and financial.

You’ll want to develop a complete medical record for your loved one, including their health conditions, prescriptions and their doctors’ names and contact information. This is extremely helpful for you to have on file, and your loved one can keep a condensed copy on hand for both routine appointments and medical emergencies.

Read: The Emergency Medical File Every Caregiver Should Create

A financial list should contain all of a loved one’s property ownership, debts, income, expenses, and bank account and credit card information. Should you need to assume control of their finances over the short or long term, this list will help minimize confusion and ensure all their bills are paid on time.

Reprinted from AgingCare.com

10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimers

10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.

Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. There are 10 warning signs and symptoms. Every individual may experience one or more of these signs in a different degree. If you notice any of them, please see a doctor.

 

1. MEMORY LOSS THAT DISRUPTS DAILY LIFE

One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; increasingly needing to rely on memory aids (e.g., reminder notes or electronic devices) or family members for things they used to handle on their own.

What’s a typical age-related change? 
Sometimes forgetting names or appointments, but remembering them later.

2. CHALLENGES IN PLANNING OR SOLVING PROBLEMS

Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.

What’s a typical age-related change? 
Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.

GET CHECKED — EARLY DETECTION MATTERS

If you notice any of the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s in yourself or someone you know, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.

3. DIFFICULTY COMPLETING FAMILIAR TASKS AT HOME, AT WORK OR AT LEISURE

People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

What’s a typical age-related change? 
Occasionally needing help to use the settings on a microwave or to record a television show.

4. CONFUSION WITH TIME OR PLACE

People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.

What’s a typical age-related change? 
Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.

5. TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING VISUAL IMAGES AND SPATIAL RELATIONSHIPS

For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.

What’s a typical age-related change? 
Vision changes related to cataracts.

6. NEW PROBLEMS WITH WORDS IN SPEAKING OR WRITING

People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).

What’s a typical age-related change? 
Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.

7. MISPLACING THINGS AND LOSING THE ABILITY TO RETRACE STEPS

A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.

What’s a typical age-related change? 
Misplacing things from time to time and retracing steps to find them.

8. DECREASED OR POOR JUDGMENT

People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.

What’s a typical age-related change? 
Making a bad decision once in a while.

9. WITHDRAWAL FROM WORK OR SOCIAL ACTIVITIES

A person with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.

What’s a typical age-related change? 
Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations.

10.CHANGES IN MOOD AND PERSONALITY

The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.

What’s a typical age-related change? 
Developing very specific ways of doing things and becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ALZHEIMER’S AND TYPICAL
AGE-RELATED CHANGES?

Signs of Alzheimer’s/dementia Typical age-related changes
Poor judgment and decision-making Making a bad decision once in a while
Inability to manage a budget Missing a monthly payment
Losing track of the date or the season Forgetting which day it is and remembering it later
Difficulty having a conversation Sometimes forgetting which word to use
Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them Losing things from time to time

WHAT TO DO IF YOU NOTICE THESE SIGNS

If you notice any of the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s in yourself or someone you know, don’t ignore them. Schedule an appointment with your doctor.

With early detection, you can: Get the maximum benefit from available treatments – You can explore treatments that may provide some relief of symptoms and help you maintain a level of independence longer. You may also increase your chances of participating in clinical drug trials that help advance research.
Learn more about treatments.
Learn more about clinical studies.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE —
HELP AND SUPPORT IS AVAILABLE

Care and support services are available, making it easier for you and your family to live the best life possible with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

24/7 Helpline: 800.272.3900

Reprinted from the Alzheimer’s Association.  For more information contact them at ALZ.ORG

Does Medicare Pay for Home Healthcare?

There is an important distinction between medically necessary home health care and personal care services provided by an unskilled caregiver. Understanding the difference between these two levels of care is key to determining who is eligible for Medicare-covered in-home services. For more information on this topic, read The Difference Between Home Health Care and Non-Medical Home Care Services.

Only home health care services prescribed by a doctor and provided by skilled caregivers are covered by Medicare, but patients must meet specific eligibility requirements.

Who Can Receive Home Care Covered by Medicare?

Individuals must have coverage through Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and/or Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) and meet the following four criteria as set forth by Medicare.gov:

  1. Eligible recipients must be under the care of a doctor. The doctor must prescribe a plan of care that involves medically necessary services for the treatment or maintenance of a health condition. This care is intended to be short term, so the doctor is required to re-certify the plan of care every 60 days.
  2. Eligible recipients must be certified by a doctor as homebound. This means it requires a considerable and taxing effort to leave the home because of reliance on a mobility aid (e.g. cane, wheelchair or walker), special transportation, or the assistance of another person to do so. An individual does not have to be bedridden to be considered homebound and can still qualify even if they are able to leave home for medical treatments, adult day care, and short, infrequent nonmedical outings, such as religious services and family gatherings.
  3. Eligible recipients must have a doctor’s certification of need for at least one of the following services:
    • Intermittent skilled nursing care
      Intermittent means part-time services that are needed “less than seven days per week or less than eight hours per day over a period of three weeks or less.” There are some exceptions in special circumstances, but Medicare generally will not cover additional care.
    • Skilled therapy services
      These services can include physical therapy (PT), speech-language pathology (SLP) and occupational therapy (OT) and a qualified therapist must administer them. The services must be necessary to improve the patient’s condition in a reasonable and somewhat predictable period of time, to create an initial maintenance program for the condition, or to safely and effectively engage in a maintenance program with proper supervision and instruction.
  4. Home health care services must be provided by a Medicare-certified home health care agency.

What Home Care Services Does Medicare Cover?

The primary objective of Medicare’s home care program is to provide seniors with short-term skilled services in the comfort of their own homes as an alternative to recovering in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.

Skilled nursing services are those that must be provided by a qualified health professional, such as a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN).

Examples of these services include:

  • Monitoring of a patient’s vital signs and overall health
  • Wound care for a pressure ulcer or surgical incision
  • Administration of intravenous drugs or nutrition therapy
  • Injections
  • Catheter changes
  • Patient and caregiver education

Skilled therapy services are those that must be provided by or under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist, occupational therapist or speech-language therapist.

  • Physical therapy exercises typically focus on improving and restoring strength, balance and range of motion for optimal physical function.
  • Occupational therapy assists in regaining the ability to independently engage in activities of daily living (ADLs) and adapting these tasks or the surrounding environment to improve functionality and accessibility.
  • Speech-language therapy helps patients regain the ability to speak and communicate as well as overcome swallowing difficulties (dysphagia).

It is important to note that the above services will only be covered if they are deemed specific and effective treatments or maintenance methods for a patient’s condition. Additionally, Medicare standards will determine the eligible frequency and duration of the treatments. Once the level of care exceeds part-time or “intermittent” skilled care, Medicare is no longer a payment option. In Medicare’s eyes, home health care services are meant to prevent or delay placement in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, not completely replace them.

Does Medicare Cover Unskilled Home Care Services?

Medicare will not pay for unskilled home care if those are the only services needed. Personal home care services (assistance with activities of daily living) or homemaker services (e.g. light housekeeping and laundry) will only be covered if they are part of the skilled services detailed in the care plan. Medicare does not cover around-the-clock home care of any kind or meals delivered to the home.

How Much Will I Have to Pay if I Qualify?

With Original Medicare coverage (Part A and/or Part B), eligible seniors will pay nothing for home health care services that are ordered by a doctor and provided by a certified home health agency. Any additional services provided outside of the approved care plan will not be covered and must be paid for out of pocket.

Be aware that before services begin, the home health agency should provide an itemized receipt or plan of care that identifies what is eligible for Medicare coverage and what is not. A written notice called the “Advance Beneficiary Notice of Noncoverage” (ABN) will detail any services and durable medical equipment that Medicare will not pay for as well as the costs the patient will be responsible for.

Reprinted from AgingCare.com

 

Key Deadlines for Medicare Enrollment

Medicare takes its deadlines seriously: Miss a key date, and you face penalty payments or higher premiums for as long as you are covered. Here are the dates to watch.

Already on Medicare 

Open enrollment is from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. With a few exceptions, such as a move out of state, you can only switch plans during this period. You can also change from an Advantage plan to original Medicare during a “disenrollment” period from Jan. 1-Feb 14



New to Medicare

If you’re turning 65, aren’t getting Social Security benefits and don’t have employer-based insurance: You need to enroll in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period (IEP) to avoid penalties. Your seven-month IEP begins three months before the month you turn 65 and lasts until three months after. You should sign up for Part D drug coverage now, too, or face penalties later.

If you’re turning 65, and already are getting Social Security benefits: You’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare parts A and B; no action by you is needed. But you do need to apply during your IEP for a Part D drug plan, or if you want a Medicare Advantage plan instead of original Medicare.

If you’re over 65, and retiring or losing employer-based coverage: You can sign up for Part B or an Advantage plan without penalty during your special enrollment period (SEP). This usually lasts for eight months after employee coverage ends. But you have only two months after losing drug coverage to sign up for a prescription drug plan before incurring a late penalty.

Last-chance options 

If you missed your IEP or SEP, you can still apply for Medicare coverages during the next general enrollment period, which runs from Jan. 1 to March 31. But coverage won’t begin until July, and you’ll be subject to late penalties.

Assistive Devices for Seniors

For many individuals with senior parents who live in their own homes, mobility and safety is a constant worry. Declining agility and unsteadiness can result in falls with devastating injuries for seniors, as well tasks that were previously simple, such as getting out of bed, dressing or performing personal hygiene, may become increasingly difficult to accomplish.Must-Have Assistive Devices for Seniors

Assistive devices are fantastic resources to help seniors maintain their daily activities and routines, while encouraging personal freedom and prolonging independent living.

Assistive Devices for Seniors

Many devices can restore confidence, increase mobility and provide family members with peace of mind that their loved one is safe. Learn more from our list of must-have assistive devices for seniors:

1. ACTIVATOR Poles

These specialized poles increase balance and mobility, and are a terrific alternative to canes and walkers. The dual poles offer lateral stability and are designed for individuals living with conditions such as chronic pain, Multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease and stroke, or for people who are recovering from hip or knee surgery. Each pole has the capacity to bear up to 200 pounds of weight and offers a bell-shaped tip for stability and an ergonomically correct handle for core strengthening.

The poles are adjustable to accommodate all body shapes and sizes, and can be used both indoors and outdoors. The developer’s website is a wealth of information and includes a variety of user guides and video instructions on how to get the most out of the poles.

2. Buttoning Aid Hook

This device is fantastic for seniors with arthritis, fine motor impairment or reduced dexterity. This tool is simple, with a hook and wire design and comfortable grip that allows the user to button blouses, jackets and pants easily, with only one hand.

3. Freedom Grip Bed Handle

The specialized bed handle makes getting out of bed safe. The handle securely attaches to any average height bed frame with a snap lock mechanism and the assembly is fast and simple with no tools necessary. The handle itself is non-slip and nine inches wide, allowing for a firm, stable grip. This is a must-have item for individuals with arthritis, Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease or vertigo.

4. Jobar Long Reach Comfort Wipe

Maintaining personal hygiene is deeply important for your senior loved one’s dignity and independence. This assistive device is ergonomically designed for people with limited dexterity or who have difficulty reaching. The Long Reach Comfort Wipe is over 15 inches long and equipped with a soft flexible head that securely grips moistened wipes or toilet paper. There is also a quick release function for fast, sanitary disposal.

5. Lively Wearable by GreatCall

This medical alert device is a wearable product with an urgent response button that can call for help whenever it is pushed. It is fashion forward and can be clipped onto clothing or worn around the neck or wrist, and can also be worn in the shower – where a significant number of falls occur. Lively Wearable has built in fall detection technology that will alert a Certified Response Agent if a fall is detected and family members can also be registered for notification if the button is pressed.

6. Reminder Rosie Recordable Alarm Clock

This unique alarm clock is voice controlled and a great device for seniors struggling with brain injury, dementia or memory loss. It is incredibly user friendly, without fussy buttons or difficult programming features and can be personalized with the voice of the user or their loved ones. It can be customized to set daily time-specific reminders for appointments or every-day tasks.

7. TV Ears

This audible device can be connected to a television and worn like a headset to hear dialog clearly, while reducing the volume for others in the room. The television can even be muted and listened to through the headset only. This will improve the experience for everyone in the room, while ensuring your senior loved one is still able to hear and enjoy their program.

8. Uplift Seat Assist

This assistive seating device can be used in conjunction with an armchair, love seat or sofa to manually lift the user into a standing position without overexertion or strain. This is an amazing device for people living with arthritis, coccyx pain or other joint ailments who struggle to rise from a seated position to standing without pain. The memory foam cushion is extremely comfortable and features a waterproof cover; it also folds flat for easy mobility and storage.

Assistive devices can greatly improve the independence and livelihood of your senior parent. By investing in items to help your loved one perform their daily activities, not only will you help to restore their freedom and mobility, you will also have peace of mind that they are comfortable and safe in their own home.

Reprinted from A Place for Mom.

6 steps to prepare for Medicare Open Enrollment

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period (MOE) runs from October 15 through December 7 each year, and when it comes to researching and comparing all available options, sooner is always better than later.

Caregivers have a lot on their plates. When we’re overwhelmed, the natural human response is to deal with the “have-to” tasks first and put off the “need-to” tasks until they become more urgent. However, procrastinating on MOE could have medical and financial implications that last throughout 2018.

Now is the perfect time to do some research and make a few preliminary calls to get an idea of what changes need to be made to your loved one’s Medicare coverage, if any. Preparing before the enrollment period begins can prevent you from scrambling to get the information you need and making knee-jerk decisions. Try to complete at least one of these six steps each week, and you’ll be ready to tackle MOE in no time.

  1. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the different parts of Medicare and how they work together. If you come across any terminology you don’t understand, brush up at the My Medicare Matters website.
  2. Is your loved one on a Medicare Advantage Plan? Is that still working well? Make a point of opening all mail from the private insurance provider that arrives in September and October so you can be on top of any changes to premiums, deductibles, copays and provider groups.
  3. If your care recipient has a Medicare Supplemental Insurance policy (also known as Medigap), make sure you pay attention to any premium increases. At some point, you may need to consider switching to a different policy, dropping this policy or switching to an Advantage Plan.
  4. If you have been spending a lot of money out of pocket on hospital visits and doctor’s appointments (because your loved one doesn’t have Medigap or a Medicare Advantage Plan), now is the time to add up those costs and decide whether a different mix of coverage is a more affordable solution. It’s also worth looking into public programs that can assist with covering costs, such as Medicaid, a state Medicare Savings Program, or the “Extra Help” program.
  5. Go to Medicare.gov and look up the location of your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). There are SHIP offices in every county, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories, but they may go by different names. For example, Florida calls it the Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders (SHINE) Program. They often put on public presentations in the fall that cover changes in Medicare for the coming year. They offer one-on-one counseling as well, but appointments tend to fill up quickly. All of their services are offered free of charge. Now is the time to become best friends with your local SHIP counselors so that they will remember you if you have a last-minute question.
  6. The other part of the equation is making sure that you have up-to-date information about your loved one’s health status. Are they due for an appointment with their primary care physician? Will they need a referral to see a specialist in the near future? Make sure you have a current list of all their medications and know exactly why they are taking each one. If any of their prescriptions are brand name, are there generic equivalents available? If not, be prepared to ask the drug program for an exception if the expensive brand-name medication isn’t part of their formulary.

If you are a Medicare beneficiary, do not forget to factor in your own open enrollment needs. Caregivers are notorious for looking out for everyone BUT themselves. Have you taken care of your preventive visits this year? Is your current coverage both sufficient and affordable? Use the above tips to create a MOE game plan for yourself as well. Perhaps you are turning 65 in the next 12 to 18 months. Your new contact at the SHIP office can assist you with weighing your own coverage options and ensure you do not miss any important deadlines.

Help yourself by making sure you are ahead of the curve. The holiday season ramps up quickly, and even twenty minutes of preparation here and there can save you hours of frantic work in December!

reprinted from AgingCare.com

 

5 Lifestyle tweaks to help ward off dementia

New research shows a dramatic increase in deaths from Alzheimer’s disease, with the number climbing from 16.5 per 100,000 Americans to 25.4 per 100,000 between 1999 and 2014. Specifically, some 5.2 million Americans suffer from the disease, with nearly 94,000 dying of it in 2014. That number is only expected to rise as the elderly population grows. That’s why it’s more important than ever to do what you can to keep Alzheimer’s at bay. Here are five lifestyle tweaks that could help you ward off dement



1. Walk more

Simply adding a one-hour walk to your schedule, three times a week, can reap big rewards when it comes to dementia. A new study out of the University of British Columbia in Canada found that walking could boost brain function in those with vascular dementia. Specifically, researchers found that those with mild vascular dementia impairment who began walking frequently enjoyed lower blood pressure and showed improvement on cognitive tests. They also demonstrated more efficient thinking skills than those who didn’t walk frequently. Vascular cognitive impairment — which is most likely caused by damaged blood vessels in the brain — is widely viewed as the second leading cause of dementia, after Alzheimer’s.

2. Socialize more

The connection between loneliness and Alzheimer’s isn’t clear-cut, but some studies do show a link between a solid social network and a low risk of dementia. In one four-year study of 800 people 75 and older, lonely individuals were more than twice as likely to develop dementia symptoms than those who enjoyed a close circle of friends and family members. The biggest benefits were seen among those who were not only more socially engaged, but who were also more physically and mentally active at the same time.

In an even larger study involving 2,249 women 78 and older, researchers found that those with larger social networks were 26 percent less likely to develop dementia than those with smaller social networks. And women who connected daily with friends and family slashed their risk of dementia by nearly half.

3. Protect your head

The Alzheimer’s Association doesn’t mince words: “There appears to be a strong link between future risk of Alzheimer’s and serious head trauma, especially when injury involves loss of consciousness.” Therefore, it’s imperative that you protect your head by wearing a seat belt, using a helmet when participating in sports and making sure your home is fall-proof. While you no longer may be playing football, you might be cycling. If so, wear a helmet. To help make sure your home is fall-proof, take the following steps, all from A Place for Mom, a free senior-care referral service:

  • Make sure floors are uncluttered.
  • Remove or tack down all scatter rugs.
  • Avoid using slippery wax on floors.
  • Slip-proof the tub, and make sure the bath mat has a nonslip bottom.
  • Remove electrical or telephone cords from traffic areas.

4. Be more mindful of your diet

First, make sure your diet is rich in vitamin D, which is critical for robust cognitive function. (Besides the sun, good sources include tuna, salmon, and milk and orange juice fortified with vitamin D.) A six-year study involving 1,600 people linked Alzheimer’s disease with vitamin D deficiency. “Those who were severely deficient in vitamin D were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s and dementia than those who had adequate levels,” according to an Alzheimer’s.net article on the study.

In general, because obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol are all risk factors for dementia, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your diet and daily calorie intake. Eating more leafy greens and cutting back on red meat have also been shown to reduce your dementia risk. And in bad news for diet soda lovers, new research finds that the artificial sweeteners used in diet drinks have been linked to a greater risk of dementia and stroke.

5. Get more quality sleep

You may be getting sleep, but are you getting enough sleep? If you aren’t sleeping at least seven to eight hours a night, you could be setting yourself up for an array of health problems, including dementia, says a report from the Global Council on Brain Health, a collaborative from AARP.

Indeed, one recent study indicates that a lack of sleep may actually lead to Alzheimer’s. Why? Because a lack of sleep means less time for your nocturnal cleaning system to work. This system — also known as the glymphatic system — removes proteins called amyloid beta that can turn into the plaques that contribute to Alzheimer’s and dementia — all while you sleep.

“It’s a myth that adults need less sleep as they age. The evidence is clear that better brain and physical health in older people is related to getting an average of seven to eight hours of sleep every 24 hours,” said Sarah Lock, the council’s executive director and an AARP senior vice president.

Reprinted from AARP.

 

New Social Security Scam

Financial scams involving people pretending to be government employees aren’t restricted only to those Internal Revenue Service phone schemes so prevalent in recent years. Now there’s a new scam making the rounds, one in which criminals try to defraud people out of their Social Security checks.

Gale Stallworth Stone, the acting inspector general of Social Security, is warning citizens about a scheme that goes like this: Someone posing as a Social Security Administration (SSA) employee calls from a phone number with a 323 area code. In some cases, the swindler tells victims they are due a 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment increase in their Social Security benefits.

The impersonator then asks the victim to verify all of his or her personal information, including name, date of birth and Social Security number, in order to receive the increase. If the impostor is able to acquire this data, the person can use it to contact the SSA and request changes to the victim’s direct deposit, address and phone information.

According to the warning, the SSA will sometimes reach out to citizens by phone for customer service purposes, but the agency’s reps will not ask for personal information this way. Anyone who receives a suspicious call is encouraged to report it to the Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or online via https://oig.ssa.gov/report.

The SSA also operates a toll-free customer service number for anyone with questions or concerns (1-800-772-1213), which can be contacted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. (Those who are deaf or hard of hearing can call Social Security at 1-800-325-0778.)

You can also stay on top of con artists’ latest tricks by signing up for AARP’s free Watchdog Alerts.

Stone continues to warn citizens to be cautious and to avoid providing information such as SSN and bank account numbers to unknown individuals over the phone or the internet unless they are absolutely certain of who is receiving these personal details.

“You must be very confident that the source is the correct business party and your information will be secure after you release it,” Stone said.

Reprinted from AARP Fraud Network.

 

Make -A-Wish Foundation Fraud

A new scam is popping up across the country using the name of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

How It Works:

  • The scammer calls from the “Consumer Protection Agency” or the “Federal Trade Commission” to tell you that you have won 2ndplace in a Make-A-Wish Foundation sweepstakes – a $450,000 prize! You just have to pay $4,500 in processing fees to claim your award.
  • Don’t have the cash? No worries! The caller will offer to lend you the money. He just needs your bank account information to wire it to you.
  • There is typically a follow-up call explaining that the grand prizewinner is ineligible because he was an illegal immigrant, so guess what? You win your $450,000 prize PLUS the $1 million prize! You just need to pay extra for the processing.
  • The scammer will even give you a phone number you can call to verify the “Make-A-Wish Foundation Sweepstakes” is legit, but you are just calling a scammer who is part of the criminal enterprise.

What You Should Know

  • The Make-A-Wish Foundation never engages in sweepstakes.
  • There is no such agency as the “Consumer Protection Agency” and the Federal Trade Commission does not handle sweepstakes (though they do go after fraudulent ones).
  • A similar scam occurred seven years ago, and the criminals were able to steal more than $20 million before being shut down.

What You Should Do:

  • If you get a call like this, hang up.
  • If you or someone you know receives a call regarding this bogus Make-A-Wish Foundation Sweepstakes, please notify the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP or ftc.gov/complaint.