Free Tax Help

Free tax help is available for people of all ages with low to moderate income at the Carrabassett Valley Public Library.  Help is available from February 9-April 13,2018 on Fridays 11:30 am to 3:30 p.m.  Please call this number for an appointment  246-2157

Sweetheart Scam : the wolf in sheep’s clothing

We have all heard different versions of how a well-educated, respectable member of the community was somehow duped into sending large quantities of money to a complete stranger. Sometimes the person in the story has even lost their entire life savings. At first, we are shocked and dismayed, but then we pause and think to ourselves, “That could never happen to me!”

The Sweetheart Scam is one of the most widely utilized modes of preying upon a victim for financial gain. It’s a scheme that can be perpetrated online or in person. The scammer convinces their victim that they are in love and uses these emotions to bilk money from the unsuspecting person—oftentimes a lonely senior. This is all brilliantly orchestrated, like a maestro conducting a symphony.

People often wonder how someone could be so foolish as to get involved with a stranger and send them money. Although almost any age group can be lured into this game of deceit, the number one target of sweetheart scams is usually men and women over age 40; the older the better. Seniors—especially widows, widowers and recent divorcees—are particularly vulnerable to this manipulation of the heart. And it is not gender specific either; both men and women are equally victimized.

John Joyce, former Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service Tampa Field Office is no stranger to investigating internet scams. “With most internet scams, including the sweetheart scam, it is difficult to identify the perpetrators due to the fact that they are usually conducting their business from outside of the United States,” he says. “Cooperation from foreign governments is often spotty or non-existent. These investigations usually do not result in the capture of the scammer or the recovery of monies. In most cases, the victim’s best option is to break off communication with the scammer as soon as possible and cut their losses.”

How The Sweetheart Scam Works

It’s important to understand how the sweetheart scam works so you can defend yourself against it and help others do the same. Love, or more accurately the illusion of love, is the key factor in fulfilling the sweetheart scam.

“We do a lot of work investigating various types of scams from the internet. Unfortunately, it is very common,” Joyce explains. “Essentially the victim meets a scammer on a singles or dating website who poses as a person also looking for a relationship online. They chat over the internet and exchange photos. The scammer typically sends photographs of a very good-looking woman or man, depending who their target is. The victim thinks they have developed a relationship and over time falls in love. Eventually the scammer comes up with a story about how he/she has a major problem in their life which requires an outlay of money. The victim, feeling the need to help their new-found love, ends up wiring money over and over again to this person, in some cases until they are bilked out of all their money. Since the scammers are usually corresponding with the victim outside of the United States, it is close to impossible for U.S. authorities to identify or prosecute them. Once the scammer has achieved their financial goal, they will drop the unsuspecting victim and disappear. Most victims are astonished when they realize that these deceptive individuals are adept at manipulating human emotions to get what they want.”

10 Tips for Spotting and Avoiding Scams

Anyone can be scammed by a supposed sweetheart. But, according to law enforcement authorities, including local police departments, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Secret Service, there are steps one can take to avoid falling victim to a sweetheart scam.

  1. Be on your guard. Try to look beyond the superficial. Whether you are interacting with people online or in person at a senior center, restaurant, grocery store or the post office, make a point of keeping your wits about you. Unfortunately, deception comes in all shapes and sizes and takes place in a variety of settings.
  2. Be honest with yourself. Look in the mirror and ask yourself the million-dollar question: “Why would a much younger individual want anything to do with me?” What is this person getting out of a relationship with you? If you discover anything pertaining to money in your answer, you know you are headed for trouble.
  3. Never transfer or wire money to anyone. This is especially important if you’re communicating with a stranger living overseas whom you’ve never met in person.
  4. Keep in touch with family. Share your new social interests and friendships with them. Your loved ones usually have your best interest in mind and can be trusted to provide honest advice and guidance.
  5. Consult a professional if an online relationship seems fishy. Law enforcement agents are experienced with sweetheart scams, especially since the usage of social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, has increased. If you have an inkling that something isn’t quite right with a new acquaintance, contact a professional for a second opinion.
  6. Do your homework. Nowadays, many people have left permanent digital footprints that even minimally tech-savvy individuals can find. Use Google to search for additional information on new individuals you meet and cross check the information they’ve told you about themselves. Even if things appear to match up, don’t assume they’re telling you the truth. Scammers often go to great lengths to pose as another person or create a believable online presence that backs up their phony story.
  7. Limit your use of social media. Scammers steal personal information online and utilize people’s social media profiles to learn more about them, their routines, vulnerabilities, likes and dislikes. They then use this information to tailor their manipulative approach to appeal to a person’s specific interests and weaknesses. Some scammers even monitor potential victims’ news feeds for information on friends and relatives they can pose as.
  8. Pursue relationships face-to-face. Avoid online dating if at all possible.
  9. Don’t feel ashamed. Although getting defrauded is embarrassing, understand that seasoned scammers have learned how to be very convincing so they can make a good living from deceiving people. If you or someone you know falls victim to a scam, report it as soon as possible to local law enforcement or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) website.
  10. Use common sense. This goes for any interactions with strangers, both online and in person. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Reprinted from


Tax I.D. Fraud

As we enter tax-filing season, it pays to be aware of the signs that point to possible tax identity theft.

How It Works:

Tax identity theft occurs when someone steals your Social Security number to file a fraudulent tax refund or to get a job.

What You Should Know:

  • If the IRS receives a duplicate tax return filing using your Social Security number, you will receive a written notice through the mail.
  • Likewise, the IRS will send a notice if you have unreported income or that you and someone else are claiming the same dependents.
  • The IRS will not initiate contact with you by e-mail, text or social media.

To Reduce Your Risk Of Being Victimized By Tax Identity Theft:

  • Submit your tax return as early in the tax season as possible.
  • Be careful what you share – don’t give out your personal information unless you know who is asking and why, and don’t be shy about refusing.
  • Dispose of sensitive information safely – shred it with a micro-cut shredder.
  • Know your tax preparer.

Check the status of your refund after filing at If you think someone filed a fraudulent refund with your information, call the IRS Identity Theft line at 800-908-4490. To learn more, visit

Surviving the Flu: Flu Tips

Everyone needs  help surviving flu season, because this is a year of epidemic-level flu cases and a flu shot that doesn’t provide complete protection. This season, the predominant strain is H3N2, which causes the worst outbreaks of the four influenza viruses that are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year. The flu shot still helps! It might prevent the flu, and it might make any illness you get easier. Vaccines take at least 10 days to build full immunity, so don’t wait until your entire town is sick!

People are contagious for a day before they show symptoms, and for about five days after, while they’re actively sick. Stay away from sick people, and keep yourself at home if you or a family member are ill. Stay out of crowds for the next few weeks, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water when you do go out.

Talk to your doc NOW about if they recommend Tamaflu or some other anti-viral, and when you should call if necessary. That way, you’re prepared if flu strikes the family.

The flu has hit Maine hard, but you don’t have to be a victim! Here are some other tips for surviving flu season.

Tips for Surviving Flu Season

1. Get Your Sleep!
Studies show that sleep deprivation can make you more susceptible to illness by reducing the number of cells in your body dedicated to fighting things like microbes. The average adult needs about 6-8 hours of sleep. Flu season is a great time to reinstitute a rest period for yourself. Nap if you want to! Not a napper?  Declare some time out each day. During these few minutes close your eyes, breathe deeply, and think peaceful, happy thoughts. Meditation reduces stress. Reduced stress means less susceptibility to illness.

2. Get  Moving
Exercising increases your sickness-fighting cells. Get  in the habit of exercising with family or friends to improve your health and to enjoy some quality time together. Try walking, hiking, biking, yoga, or just crank up some fun music and dance. Attend available exercise classes, walk around the mall, or take the scenic route when food shopping.

surviving flu season3. Engage in germ warfare

  • One key to surviving flu season is to make sure everyone washes their hands often with soap. Ditch the antibacterials because research shows plain soap is just as effective. Sing the ABC’s while vigorously lathering palms, between fingers, around nail beds, and the backs of hands. Pay particular attention to hand hygiene before and after each meal, after playing outside, using the bathroom, handling pets, blowing noses, and after being anywhere in public. And make sure anyone coming into your home washes up first thing!
  • When you’re out and about, carry wipes or hand sanitizer with you for quick cleanups.
  • If someone in the family gets sick, keep his toothbrush separate from everyone else’s. Give it a good soak in boiling water or run it through the dishwasher after the illness isn’t contagious anymore to get rid of any lingering germs or viruses.
  • Wash your hand towels in hot water every three or four days during cold and flu season.
  • Sneeze and cough into your arm or a tissue. Coughing into your hands puts the germs right where you can spread them to any object (or person) you touch. Get rid of used tissues often!

4. Drink Water
You have probably heard how important it is to drink plenty of fluids when you are ill, but it’s just as important for preventing illness. Adequate hydration keeps the tissues of the respiratory system moist, which prevents microbes from settling in. Hydration also helps the immune system work properly. Opt for fresh, filtered water.

Keeping cool helps in surviving flu season

5. Air Out and Keep it cool
An overheated home promotes dry air, the perfect environment for viruses to thrive. And when your mucous membranes (i.e., nose, mouth, and tonsils) dry out, they can’t trap those germs very well. Lowering the heat in your house 5 degrees and using a room humidifier helps maintain a healthier level of humidity in the winter. Buy a hygrometer to measure humidity and keep your home at around 50 percent. As we age, it becomes more difficult to regulate body temperatue. Don’t just arbitraily lower your heat five degrees.Use your comfort level when wearing a warm sweater to judge how cool your house should be. Keeping plants well watered and a pan of water on the radiator helps with humidity.  Crack the windows a few minutes a day to let in fresh air.

6.  Eat Well
Carrots, kiwis, raisins, green beans, oranges, strawberries: they all contain such immunity-boosting phytonutrients as vitamin C and carotenoids. Cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, are good sources of betacarotene and help protect against free-radical damage. They also contain vitamin C and calcium. Try to eat five servings of fruits and veggies a day. Try to eat at least half of them raw and when you do cook them, be careful not to overcook. Overcooking destroys the immune enhancing properties. Research a little bit to learn more about feeding your immune system.

7. Go easy on the sweets
Sugar makes the body acidic, just the way pathogens like it (they thrive on sugar). So especially during cold and flu season, reduce sugar intake (that includes corn syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup, as well).

8. Consider supplement
Talk to your physician about your specific nutritional needs. Ask if they recommend supplements, increased amounts of vitamin C or D, and what over-the-counter remedies might help.

Based on a WebMD article by  Janelle Sorensen.

Reprinted from Maine Senior Guide


Common Flu Myths Debunked

Myths about the flu are everywhere. Is what you hear true, or is there too much misinformation floating around? Debunk the seven most common myths about influenza.

Myth #1: Getting Vaccinated Can Give You the Flu

According to the National Foundation for Infectious Disease, there is no way that the vaccine can make you sick. Vaccines only contain a weakened or inactivated form of the virus, which cannot infect you. The truth is that people often mistake the side effects of the vaccine for the illness itself. Side effects of inoculation may feel like mild symptoms of the flu, but soreness around the injection site is typically the only symptom people experience. Keep in mind that flu season (which generally lasts from October to March) coincides with a time of year when bugs causing colds and other respiratory illnesses are in the air. It is possible to get the vaccine and then get sick with a completely unrelated cold virus within a few days.

Myth #2: There Is No Treatment for the Flu

There are three FDA-approved antiviral drugs that are highly effective against the flu. Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is available in pill and liquid form, Relenza (zanamivir) comes in powder form, which is inhaled, and Rapivab (peramivir) is administered intravenously. While these antiviral medications do not cure the viral infection, they can minimize symptoms, reduce the amount of time you are sick by one or two days and make you less contagious to others. Furthermore, treatment can prevent complications of the flu, like pneumonia, which can be especially dangerous for older individuals. It’s best to take these drugs within 48 hours of getting sick, so do not hesitate to make a doctor’s appointment if you or a loved one have symptoms of the flu.

Myth #3: Antibiotics Can Fight the Flu

Antibiotics only fight bacterial infections. Since influenza is a virus, antibiotics have no effect. Furthermore, overuse and misuse of antibiotics can result in reduced effectiveness against the bacteria they are actually intended to kill and even “superbugs” that are entirely resistant to these treatments.

Myth #4: You Can’t Get the Flu More Than Once During Flu Season

You can certainly contract the flu more than once a year, because there are many different strains of the influenza virus. There are two main types of flu, Type A and Type B, and there are also different subtypes of each. It is possible that you could get infected with one strain and then another during a given season, especially if you have a compromised immune system.

Myth #5: If You’re Young and Healthy, You Don’t Need to Get the Vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone over 6 months of age get vaccinated each season. Healthy adults are just as susceptible to the virus as other demographics. If you are caring for an aging loved one, simply getting them vaccinated only provides some protection. You and other family members should also get the vaccine to avoid endangering their health.

Myth #6: Cold Weather Causes the Flu

The influenza virus is spread year-round. Contrary to popular belief, going outside during winter without a hat on does not directly increase your risk of getting sick. Influenza peaks in fall and winter for a few different reasons. Scientists speculate that the flu virus thrives in cooler, low-humidity environments. Of course, during the colder months, people tend to spend more time cooped up indoors, making it easier for the virus to spread from person to person. Furthermore, less time spent outside means that most people experience drops in vitamin D during winter that can weaken the immune system. All of these factors contribute to the timing of flu season, which is the same throughout the whole country, even in warmer states like Florida.

Myth #7: If You Haven’t Gotten a Flu Shot by November, It’s Too Late

Flu season often peaks between December and February, but the timing can vary. Some years heightened flu activity has lasted until May. No matter how late it is, if you have not been vaccinated yet, go get it done. You could spare yourself and your family a great deal of misery.

The Facts: How to Avoid Spreading the Flu

Influenza spreads from person to person, often through the air, and you can pass on the infection even before you begin feeling symptoms. An infected individual is also contagious for several days after the onset of symptoms. Infection can stem from a contagious person near you coughing, sneezing or talking, or even from touching a surface that the virus is on, like a telephone or doorknob.

To avoid contracting and spreading the virus, use the following tips:

  • Clean your hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. This is especially important after you touch a sick person, common surfaces, used tissues or laundry.
  • Individuals with the flu should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing and sneezing to avoid spreading the virus to others.
  • Immediately throw away tissues and other disposable items used by an infected person.
  • Once diagnosed, talk to a healthcare provider about taking antiviral medication to prevent the virus from spreading to other family members, coworkers or friends.
  • Keep surfaces like bedside tables, bathroom surfaces, doorknobs and children’s toys clean by regularly wiping them down with a household disinfectant.
  • Do not share eating utensils, dishes or cups with a sick person. These items do not need to be cleaned separately, but they should not be shared without washing thoroughly first.
  • Wash linens (such as bed sheets and towels) by using household laundry soap and tumble dry on a hot setting. Use a basket to transport laundry prior to washing to prevent contaminating yourself.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to minimize the likelihood of contracting the flu and other viral infections.

Reprinted from

Beware of “free trial” offers

Many promotional offers by companies lure consumers into accepting products or subscriptions, but then it can be difficult to avoid a bill, cautions AARP’s Fraud Watch Network.

Often “free trial” offers require consumers to cancel after the free part ends. And when you don’t cancel, you’ll receive more of the product, along with the bill.

In some cases, the fine print makes it very difficult to cancel in time to avoid any charges. The tactics are generally legal, “unless the seller fails to disclose that you’ll be charged following the free offer,” cautions AARP’s Fraud Watch Network.

Always read the fine print before accepting a free trial, or simply decline the offer. Keep an eye out for unauthorized charges on your credit card statement. If one appears, don’t call the toll-free number next to it to dispute the charge. Rather, call your credit card company to report it for a better chance of canceling out the charge. If you do get caught in this trap, file a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and your state attorney general’s office.

Another way to inform yourself about whether a free offer is a good move is before signing up, search online for reviews about the company.

For more information:

When a Con Man Calls

Frauds using false identities are on the rise. Here’s how to foil the fakers

When a con man calls


Can you spot an impostor? Eighty-five percent of adults are confident they can, according to a recent AARP survey. But the majority of the survey participants then flunked an “Impostor IQ” quiz that measures the ability to spot a liar (take the quiz at


Welcome to what experts call the illusion of invulnerability — the belief that frauds happen to others but not you. Overconfidence in your ability to spot bad guys is a dangerous thing. Impostor fraud is among the fastest-growing scam types precisely because so many of us think we are immune to it.

To help, here is a small sampling of actual impostor scams now playing out across America. The takeaway? Never accept a pitch or give any information to a stranger — on the phone, in person or over the internet — without first independently verifying that it’s legitimate.

The jury duty manager: 
“Hi, I’m calling from the courthouse, and you missed jury duty. Pay $400 or go to prison.

The puppy breeder:
 “As a dog lover, you should know we just got a beautiful litter of purebred golden retriever puppies. Just $200 each!”

The utility company:
 “We will be shutting off your electricity in 24 hours if you don’t pay the past-due amount on your bill immediately.”

Learn more about: Utility imposter scams

The government clerk: 
“You have unclaimed property with our state. Simply pay this fee, and we will release it to you.”

The ticket seller: “As an affiliate of a major ticket vendor, we can get you seats for your dream concert for a discount, if you act quickly.”

The bank verifier: “There’s a data problem with your checking account. Please verify this information so we can confirm things and fix the error.”

The big-winner announcer:
 “I’m from the Canadian lottery, and you have won $1 million! Pay the import tax and fee, and we’ll send you your winnings.”

Learn more about: Sweepstakes imposter scams

The doctor representative: “Research shows conclusively that these new capsules will stop your disease in its tracks.”

The police or 
fire department: “We’re raising money for officers (or firefighters) injured in the line of duty. How much will you be donating today?”

Learn more about: Police imposter scams

The Internal Revenue Service: “You owe taxes and are at grave risk of large fines or jail time if you do not settle this situation immediately.”

Learn more about: IRS imposter scams

The long-
distance lover:
 “In these weeks of chatting, I’ve fallen so in love with you. Send money for a plane ticket, and oh, the magic that will happen!”

Learn more about: Online dating scams

The military rep: “I’m from the Veterans Administration, and you are entitled, as an ex-soldier, to benefits from this program. I just need to know ..

Learn more about: Veterans scams

Learn more about: Military-themed imposter scams

Reprinted from AARP Fraud Network.

Charity Scams

December is a critical month for charities to raise money. In fact, nearly one third of annual giving occurs in December. Scammers are well aware of this, and are out in full force looking to line their own pockets as the year draws to an end.

How It Works:

  • Scammers use the same techniques as trusted charities to reach you – in person, by mail, over the phone, online, by text, or by e-mail, so be mindful across all of these methods.
  • The name of the fake charity may closely resemble the name of a real charity.
  • The fake charity might ask you to wire money or give cash – see this as a red flag.

What You Should Know:

  • Real charities need your support, and they, like us, lose out when a scammer intervenes.
  • Scammers will put pressure on you to act quickly, before you have a chance to think through your decision or do any research.

What You Should Do:

  • If you are approached in person, ask for identification and details about the charity, including its full name and address, and how they will use the funds. If the person can’t furnish this information, close your door or walk away.
  • The Federal Trade Commission suggests making an annual donation plan to list out which causes you will support and which reputable charities will receive your money.

When it comes to fraud, vigilance is our number one weapon. You have the power to protect yourself and your loved ones from scams.

Reprinted from AARP Fraud Network.

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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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

  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