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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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

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.


12 Medications that may increase fall risk in older adults

12 Medications That May Increase Fall Risk in Older Adults

Of the 20 medications that are most frequently prescribed to older adults, over half may increase fall injury risk, say researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

One-third of Americans over 65 take a tumble each year, and falling represents the largest source of fatal and nonfatal injury among older adults. Preventing falls in this population remains a top priority for health care providers and caregivers alike.

Jette Moller, study author and lecturer with the Department of Public Health Sciences at Karolinska, points out that a person’s age, sex and health condition(s) can all compound fall risk, though these factors are largely uncontrollable. On the other hand, proper medication management could be a simple way to improve an older adult’s chances of staying safely on their feet.

Fall-inducing pharmaceuticals

Polypharmacy—taking too many medications—is a common problem for older adults. Over 76 percent of Americans age 60 and older take two or more prescription drugs on a regular basis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and thirty-seven percent take five or more.

“Polypharmacy been suggested to increase the risk for fall in several ways; increased risk for inappropriate medications (i.e. fall risk inducing drugs), increased risk of side-effects and interactions between medications, and also that compliance to prescription might decrease with increased number of prescribed medications,” says Moller.

Drugs that affect the central nervous system—antidepressants, hypnotics and opioids—have long topped the list of pharmaceuticals that may increase fall risk, along with diuretics, constipation medications and NSAIDs. The Karolinska study, which tracked the medical records of more than 64,000 Swedes who’d been hospitalized because of a fall, uncovered surprising new links between fall injuries and vitamin B12, calcium, antithrombotics, and GERD and peptic ulcer drugs.

The list of commonly prescribed drugs that may enhance fall injury risk, according to Moller’s research, is as follows:

  1. Antithrombotic agents
  2. Drugs for peptic ulcer and GERD
  3. High ceiling diuretics
  4. NSAIDs (women only)
  5. Vitamin B12 and folic acid
  6. Constipation drugs
  7. Calcium
  8. Hypnotics and sedatives:
  9. Analgesics and antipyretics
  10. Opioids
  11. Antidepressants
  12. Thyroid hormones (men only)

Of course, any medication that causes drowsiness, dizziness, vision problems, gait disturbance (ataxia), hypotension, or one that increases bleeding risk or exacerbates osteoporosis could potentially up the chances of experiencing a harmful fall.

Which causes the fall, disease or drug?

Eliminating these drugs from the prescription repertoire of an aging adult may not be a realistic option. For instance, warfarin, a popular antithrombotic, is highly-effective in inhibiting the formation of dangerous blood clots in people with heart conditions and those who’ve had a stroke.

Doctors must constantly weigh the benefits and drawbacks of every medication they prescribe, and, in many cases, there are no alternative drugs for them to consider. “Although we can assume that the risk for individual patients to sustain injurious falls would be minimized by not prescribing these medications, they may still remain essential in other critical aspects of health and well-being,” Moller explains.

Then there’s the chicken-and-egg problem of trying to determine what’s to blame for a fall: a particular drug, or the condition that the drug was prescribed to treat. “To develop effective preventive programs it is important to know if it is the medication that increases the risk or the health impairment the medication is prescribed for,” says Moller.

Brown bag it

For people taking multiple medications, the importance of discussing prescriptions with your doctor(s) and doing a periodic “brown bag checkup” with your pharmacist cannot be overstated.

AgingCare.com Expert, Dr. Vik Rajan offers the following list of questions to ask your physician to avoid polypharmacy:

  • Which medications am I taking and why?
  • How necessary is each medication? Can any be removed?
  • Could any of these medications be interacting with each other in a negative way?
  • Could any of my symptoms or conditions potentially be caused by the medications I’m taking?

Making an appointment with your local pharmacist to bring all of your medications (over-the-counter and prescription) for a “brown bag checkup” is another way to identify possible medication problems.

For more information check out agingcare.com.


September is Falls Prevention Month

Preventing Falls in an Elderly Person’s Home

Caregivers can do several things to make the home safer for their senior mom or dad.

  • Install safety bars, grab bars or handrails in the shower or bath.
  • Put no-stick tape on the floor in the tub.
  • Use a stool riser seat to make getting on and off the toilet easier.
  • Install at least one stairway handrail that extends beyond the first and last steps.
  • Make sure stairs are sturdy with strong hand railings.
  • Be sure that stairwells are well-lit. Consider making the lighting in your home brighter to aid vision.
  • Make sure rugs, including those on stairs, are tacked to the floor.
  • Remove loose throw rugs.
  • Avoid clutter. Remove any furniture that is not needed. All remaining furniture should be stable and without sharp corners, to minimize the effects of a fall.
  • Change the location of furniture, so that your elderly parent can hold on to something as they move around the house.
  • Do not have electrical cords trailing across the floor. Have additional base plugs installed so long cords are not necessary.
  • Have your parent wear non-slip shoes or slippers, rather than walking around in stocking feet.
  • Make sure all rooms have adequate lighting. Consider motion-sensitive lights that come on when a person enters a room. Use night lights in every room.
  • Keep frequently used items in easy-to-reach cabinets.
  • Use a grasping tool to get at out-of-reach items, rather than a chair or stepladder.
  • Keep the water heater thermostat set at 120 degrees F, or lower, to avoid scalding and burns.
  • Wipe up spills and remove broken glass immediately.

For more information check out agingcare.com.

IRS Identifies Five Easy Ways to Spot Suspicious Calls


Scam Phone Calls Continue; IRS Identifies Five Easy Ways to Spot Suspicious Calls

IR-2014-84, Aug. 28, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service issued a consumer alert today providing taxpayers with additional tips to protect themselves from telephone scam artists calling and pretending to be with the IRS.

These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.

“These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are not how we do business.”

The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:

  1. Call you about taxes you owe without first mailing you an official notice.
  2. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  3. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  5. Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Remember, too, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

Additional information about tax scams are available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube and Tumblr where people can search “scam” to find all the scam-related posts.


IRS warns about scams

WASHINGTON, DC — Taxpayers are being warned about a new widespread phone scam.  The Internal Revenue Service says people are calling claiming to be IRS agents and demanding payment for fake tax liens.

The callers are using a number with a Washington DC area code.   The number 202-609-7070 has been frequent in complaints in the month of August. The phony agent usually has a heavy accent and tells the victim they owe money to the IRS.   They say that if they don’t pay immediately then they will be arrested.

There have been 90,000 complaints to date about this scam.  So far 1,000 people have lost an estimated $5 million dollars.

If you get a call that you believe to be a part of this scam, the IRS urges you call 1-800-366-4484 to report the incident.  Visit the IRS’ website for much more information on this scam.

The IRS says that there a some typical signs of this scam.  They include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.


How to prevent dehydration

What Steps Can Be Taken To Prevent Dehydration?

Fluid intake is key. Families and caregivers need to be cognizant about risks and plan ahead to make sure aging loved ones are properly hydrated. Here are some tips to help encourage fluid consumption and reduce the risk of elderly dehydration:

  1. Offer fluids on a regular basis throughout the day.
  2. Encourage 8 oz. of fluid intake every time the senior takes medication.
  3. Keep water bottles and/or a water cooler available throughout the day wherever the senior is (for example, in bed, on the patio, throughout the house or at the senior living community).
  4. Provide favorite “mocktail” concoctions (see below for some great recipes) or your senior’s favorite beverages (make sure they’re not caffeinated or alcoholic).

Tasty Recipes To Keep Your Elderly Loved Ones Hydrated

Strawberries and Coconut Water

Elderly Hydration: Strawberries and Coconut Water


To make 2 Strawberry Mocktails combine:

  • 1 cup (250ml) of fresh coconut water
  • 1 cup (250 ml) strawberries hulled and sliced
  • 3 T of sugar syrup or agave nectar


  1. To make the sugar syrup, boil sugar and water together in a ratio of 1:3 sugar to water until it thickens to a runny syrup consistency. Store in a jar for all future cocktail making.
  2. Measure 1 cup of coconut water, either directly from a cut-open coconut or from a store-bought container (if you are lucky enough to live in an area that sells fresh coconut water in a bottle).
  3. Combine the strawberries and sugar syrup  and blend with a blender to desired consistency.
  4. Serve with ice.
Get more information on making this delicious strawberries and coconut drink.

Cucumber Lemonade with Basil

Combating Elderly Dehydration: Cucumber Lemonade With BasilIngredients

To make 3 to 4 Cucumber Lemonade treats combine:

  • 1 English cucumber
  • 3 C water
  • 3 lemons
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 small bunch basil
  • 1 C soda water


  1. Start by cutting your cucumber in half. Peel one half and cut it lengthwise (you can cut it in half again first if need be).
  2. Scoop the seeds out and chop it into pieces.
  3. Put the cucumber pieces in a food processor and puree until smooth.
  4. Put puree in a fine mesh sieve over a container and push with a wooden spoon or spatula, extracting as much liquid as you can from the cucumber puree.
  5. Fill a separate bowl or container with 3 cups water. Squeeze 2 lemons into the water and mix in the sugar.
  6. Pour lemonade and cucumber juice into a pitcher or serving container.  Slice remaining cucumber half (unpeeled) and remaining lemon and add to pitcher. Add basil, too. Refrigerate until chilled.
  7. Serve with ice.

For more great tips, check out A Place for Mom.