AARP Fraud Watch Network

AARP Fraud Watch Network gives you access to tips that will help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud, and is a resource for helping people who’ve been victimized get their lives back.

Anyone interested in learning how to protect themselves from fraud and identity theft can access the Fraud Watch Network information and resources for free.

You can receive alerts about scams and local events in your area. You’ll also get the inside scoop on the tactics and strategies con artists use to identify and swindle their victims out of their hard-earned money.

By becoming part of the AARP Fraud Watch Network, you can pass this knowledge along to family and friends who might need it. To learn more about the Fraud Watch Network, go to

Getting the most from your doctor.

How to Get the Most from Your Doctor

I get a lot of questions from patients surrounding: “How should I treat my doctor appointments?” “What should I ask?” and, “I feel like it’s a one way street.” So, I am sharing with you some of the advice I have given to my patients.

For anyone 65 years or more, a visit to their doctor can be a real advantage. It can prevent potential problems and treat known conditions. It is perhaps best scheduled as an event much like the seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter.

I use the word “event” deliberately, rather than a chore to be avoided or dreaded. As an event, there are ways to take advantage of the visit – to maximize the benefits. A doctor visit as a planned occurrence can represent a major tool for independence and control, and which of us doesn’t relish these life qualities at any age?

For many, it’s also an issue of you making the difference and becoming part of the solution. How you prepare, manage and organize the visit is key. With this type of thinking you can make the most of the visit, and believe it or not, make the most of and organize your doctor as well.

If you are prepared to relate precisely what you are feeling and how you are doing, it elicits both attention and interest from your physician.

Manage, Organize and Prepare for Visits

You should come to your doctor’s appointment ready to describe and quantify the following:

  • Note any changes in your condition – when, how and how severe, as well as anything you did for it to modify or ameliorate it
  • Note any changes in your response to the medications your doctor has prescribed
  • Note any new signs or symptoms
  • Note any changes in your activities and the results

Remember to Exchange Information

Your appointment must not be a haphazard event. Prepare by writing a list short and to the point for each of these. Leave space beneath each for your doctor’s answers and suggestions.

Additionally, be sure to:

  1. Always bear in mind it takes two to tango, as the saying goes. A white coat doesn’t disable the communication or importance of your full presence and understanding. A simple “could you repeat, or explain” if you don’t get something, is not an imposition – as a matter of fact, it asks for recurrence or mistreatment, neither of which your doctor wants.
  2. Be sure your doctor answers in “patient language.” If he’s using medicalese, and you don’t get it, in effect it hasn’t happened.
  3. Deal with each category, and ask until you fully understand the answer and the solution.
  4. Most importantly, write down the suggestions the doctor is giving you.
  5. Upon your next visit to his office, refer to this list, noting whether his solutions have been helpful, so-so or ineffective.

Preventive Care Tips for Seniors

On concluding your visit, be sure you understand what your doctor has recommended. Understand both the effects desired and any major side effects. Remember:

  1. After the call with your doctor, write down the essentials like change of medication or activities on your visit sheet.
  2. If what he has suggested is not possible or even probable for you to do, let him know so that he can come up with a modification that makes it achievable.
  3. If it’s something that requires a trial and report, be sure you establish when it’s best to talk to him. (For most doctors if it’s an emergency, he will respond even in the middle of seeing patients.) But, be sure that you are calling about something that needs immediate attention. I always told my patients that at the end of my day, I would be available to answer all questions, even the repetitive or slightly inane.
  4. Keep a notebook of all of your visits and the significance of each. One sheet (dated of course), can serve as your working “visit sheet.” The next page is for your reactions to what was proposed.

The bottom line is whenever you visit your doctor, it is important to take responsibility for your health and become part of the solution, and to maximize and organize your visit. With this approach you will find that your old one-way street has turned into a bright open highway for health – yours!

About the Author

M.E. Hecht, M.D., is a published author, freelance writer and Orthopedic Surgeon. Her published books and articles have been written for Vogue Magazine, Sunrise River Press, The Wall Street JournalAmerican Medical NewsMedical TribuneNations Business and others. She is also author of “A Practical Guide to Hip Surgery” and “The Slip and Fall Prevention Handbook, You Make the Difference” – both books are available online at Amazon.

Reprinted from A Place for Mom.

Why Women Need to Plan for Long Term Senior Care

Planning for retirement isn’t an easy task — and it’s even more challenging for women. We have an ever-increasing life expectancy, so we’re more likely to live long enough to need assisted living or other types of senior care. We’re also more likely to be a caregiver for others, or to live solo due to widowhood. Yet, studies show that women are less likely to plan effectively for a long life.

Getting educated about retirement planning and learning how to make the right financial investments is a critical step to maximizing your life for the future. Women in particular need to plan ahead, especially if they want to continue to live comfortably and take care of their own needs in retirement.

  1. Women are more likely to age solo. Women are more likely to live alone in their older age, whether due to divorce, widowhood, or other reasons, and that often means bearing the financial burden of retirement solo, too.
  2. Women are more likely to have higher healthcare costs. The MetLife study mentions a variety of reasons for this, including less accessibility to insurance and more out-of-pocket expenses. Women are also more likely to either need long-term care themselves, or be the providers of long-term care.
  3. Women live longer. If you’re age 60 today in the U.S., and you’re female, says the report, you can expect to live to about 84 — but if you’re male, it’s 81. Having more years to live translates directly into more retirement costs.

Ways Women Must Approach Finances Differently

Women have historically needed to approach finances differently, and that’s another reason why we can get behind in our retirement planning.

Here are a few specific examples of how women’s financial situation significantly differs from men’s:

  1. Women are less likely to have a retirement plan. Although more women are participating in the workforce than ever before, they are less likely to have a retirement plan — either because they choose not to even if they qualify, or they work part-time and don’t qualify. Women are also likely to work fewer years if they take time off for caregiving or child rearing. What this all adds up to, is lower lifetime savings, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
  2. Women earn less than men: Not only are women more likely to work part-time, they only earn 81% of what men earned. That, of course, has nothing to do with our own financial behavior, but it translates into less contribution to pensions, savings and Social Security.
  3. Women invest more conservatively: Women are more likely to have a penny-pinching attitude when it comes to savings, but although we’re confident about our ability to stretch a dollar, we tend to be less confident when it comes to investing our money for the future. According to a TIME article, this may be because we feel we don’t know enough about it, or feel intimidated by the male-dominated financial world; in some cases, women were raised to consider investment to be the man’s domain.

What Should Women Be Doing to Plan for Senior Care?

In past eras, women tended to leave all the financial planning to men, in fact, many women today grew up surrounded by the attitude —conscious or not — that husbands take charge of the long term finances.

Obviously, this is an attitude we can’t afford. It may seem daunting, but women can start with a few simple strategies for saving:

  1. Come up with a contingency plan. Don’t wait for emergencies to actually happen before you figure out how to deal with them financially. Consider what contingencies are likely for your situation, whether it’s a health emergency or long-term care, and figure out how you plan to round up the necessary resources.
  2. Don’t delay. There’s no better time to start than now !
  3. Get educated and build your financial confidence. Research any financial planning matters you don’t understand, consult a variety of resources, and don’t be afraid to talk to a financial planner or investment expert. “Be careful not to conclude too quickly that you have ‘all the information you need,’” . Learn about insurance, savings plans and senior care costs.
  4. Learn about your retirement benefits. If your employer offers a retirement plan, join it and start saving now, and find out how long you need to contribute before you’re vested. If your spouse has a pension, Social Security or Veteran’s benefits, make sure you know what the rules are when it comes to spousal rights in cases of death or divorce, notes the Department of Labor.
  5. Review your finances regularly, and set a budget. In a Forbes article, CPA Laura McNutt suggests, “Once a year conduct a retirement analysis. Look at what you own, your spending needs and determine if what you have is going to accomplish those needs.” Be detailed about what your goals are and what you need to save to reach them.

Senior Friendly Guide to Downsizing


Most seniors know that there will come a day when they’ll have to downsize, either to simplify their lifestyle, to cut costs, to be closer to grandchildren, or to address medical needs.

It’s often a stressful and tolling process – both emotionally and physically. But it doesn’t have to get overwhelming. Here are some tips from GoodCall to make your downsize easier.

This guide is fully accessible, but if you’d prefer to read it offline, you can download a printable version here.

Tips to make downsizing easier

1. Start early. Give yourself plenty of time for this process, because it will inevitably take longer than you expect. Take your time, and don’t try to sort through your entire house in one day or weekend. A couple of weeks to a month is a more realistic timeline. Take it one room at a time, and take breaks throughout.

“Go through each item one by one,” says Alison Kero, CEO of ACK Organizing in Brooklyn. “It’s important to give everything you own your attention for at least a second or two.  It will also help you develop a great decision making system because you’re learning how to focus and then choose, if even for a second or two.”

If you aren’t rushed, you’ll find downsizing to be much less stressful.

2. Start small. You probably already have a couple of things in mind to toss out in the kitchen or garage, but avoid diving into such a big room at the very beginning. You have years and years of things to sort through. Start in an area with little emotional attachment. The laundry room or linen closet are good options. Understand your needs. If you’re moving into a two-bedroom house, four sets of sheets should be plenty. The rest can go.

“Garages/attics/basements are notorious for being the hardest rooms to tackle,” says Debra Blue, co-founder and CEO of Blue Moon Estate Sales. “These rooms tend to accumulate all the old hobbies, boxes, old holiday decorations, and clutter. They’re also known to be rather uncomfortable spaces. In the summer it’s too hot, winter it’s too cold, and in the springtime it can be too humid.”

3. Eliminate rooms you won’t have in your new home. If you’re moving to an apartment or townhome, you might not have a garage or office space. Nearly everything in those spaces will need to be sold, donated, tossed, or relocated to other rooms. These areas might also be good items for consignment or Craigslist sales; nice office furniture and outdoor tools are more valuable than old sofas or mattresses.

“Organize backwards,” suggests Jamie Novak, author of ‘Keep This Toss That.’ “A common suggestion is to pick out the stuff you don’t want and pack the rest. Try the opposite – pack the keepers. What’s left can be looked at and most can be shared or donated.”

4. Get rid of duplicates. You’ll find this is especially true in your kitchen. You have two or three spatulas and ladles; a couple of oversized stock pots; four different sized cookie sheets; a blender, a food processor, a coffee grinder, and a nut chopper. Now’s the time to reduce the clutter. If you’re feeling wary of handing off that second roasting pan because you use it every Christmas (but at no other time during the year), consider giving it to a child or grandchild who can bring it over for the holiday and take it home when they leave.

5. Only make Yes or No piles – no Maybes. When you’re going through years of belongings, some things are going to tug at your heartstrings, and you’ll be tempted to make a third pile of things to keep if you have space. Don’t fall for it. You’ll end up with a Maybe pile that’s bigger than either of the other two, and you haven’t really made any progress in sorting, just moved it across the room. Take a hard look at every item you pick up. If you use it regularly or expect to in your new home, keep it. If it’s been sitting in a closet or on a shelf for a year or more, it’s time to let it go.

“If you already weren’t using it, or didn’t like it, why on earth would you want to pack it up and schlep it to your next house?” says Hazel Thornton, of New Mexico-based Organized for Life. “I know it sounds silly, but people do it all the time. Moving isn’t cheap, either; do you really want to pay extra to move stuff you don’t even want? Don’t delude yourself by telling yourself you’ll deal with it at your next destination. No, you won’t.”

6. Reduce collections creatively. It can be hard to let go of a lifetime collection of porcelain dolls or snow globes from all your vacations, but they will eat up a lot of space or else end up stored in a box where you’ll never see them. Instead, pick a couple to keep and take high-resolution photos of the rest, then have them made into a photo book that can sit on your coffee table or mantle. You and guests will be able to enjoy them without the clutter. There are also tech tools or websites such as that will convert those boxes of photo negatives to digital.

Blue, of Blue Moon Estate Sales, says when you’re trying to reduce a collection, ask yourself, “Which one is your favorite?”

“This is a great way to thin out big collections and focus on the one that really brings joy. When it comes to the rest of your collections or newer ephemera, take pictures with your smartphone! You’ll enjoy it more when it comes up in your digital photos than it being stashed in a drawer or box. The memories will continue to live on through photos and conversations with loved ones.”

7. Don’t be afraid to sell things yourself. With Craigslist, Ebay, numerous smartphone apps, yard sales, and an abundance of consignment shops, selling your belongings has never been easier. You probably won’t make a ton of money on most items, so consider how much time you want to invest. Yard sales are usually faster, but items won’t sell for as much. Craigslist has its drawbacks, but you’ll have a much wider audience and can probably get more for your stuff. Consignment is a good option for high-end furniture, handbags and other accessories; prices are reasonable, and they’ll sometimes pick up heavy furniture for you. If you aren’t handy with a computer, your grandchildren can probably help. But if that all sounds like more than you care to deal with, hiring a firm to run an estate sale might be your best bet.

8. Consider legacy gifts early. Is there an antique clock in your foyer that you plan to one day leave to your son? Maybe a china collection your granddaughter adores? If there are certain heirlooms or pieces you plan to leave to your family in your will, consider instead giving those gifts now. This has two benefits: you’ll get the items out of our way, and you’ll be able to enjoy the feeling of giving those items to your loved ones now. While you’re at it, find out if there are any items your children want that you don’t know about – you might find an easy way to make them happy and lighten your load.

9. Allow some time to reminisce. While you’re cleaning and sorting, there will be some days when you want to stop emptying the kids’ bedrooms and just look through the kindergarten drawings, soccer trophies, and once-prized stuffed animals. It’s OK to pause and let the nostalgia take over for a bit. Cry if you need to, or move on to another room and come back. This is why you started early – just don’t let it prevent you from eventually getting the job done.

“I always ask my clients how the item at hand makes them feel,” says Morgan Ovens, of Haven Home in Los Angeles. “If it brings up any negative feelings, let it go. If it brings happiness of course it stays! The idea here is to only be surrounded by things you absolutely love. Isn’t that a great goal?”

10. Use this as a chance to bond. Invite the kids and grandkids over for the weekend. Talk to the young ones about where you bought your favorite trinkets. Tell them about your family’s heirlooms. Let them help pack, ask questions, and spend time with you. Get help posting items for sale online. It can be one more moment your family shares together in the house you’ve loved – before you start making those memories together in your next home. Remember that it’s your family that’s important for the memories you cherish, not the stuff around you.

Making the move after you pack

Now that you’ve downsized your belongings, how are you going to make your move? You’ll want to have an answer in mind from the beginning of your downsizing process.

Will you be rounding up family members to help pack and drive a moving truck? Or paying for a full-service moving company to pack, ship and unpack your things? Perhaps something in-between, with a mobile storage option in which you pack a container, and then the storage company does the shipping?

For seniors, there’s often another option. More companies, known as senior move managers, are popping up across the country that cater specifically to seniors moving, either to smaller homes or moving into senior living or nursing communities. They’ll usually do as much or as little as you want, from packing and moving to home cleaning and estate sales.

There are hundreds of senior move specialists. The National Association of Senior Move Managers reported nearly 1,000 companies as members in its 2015-16 annual report.

“There are now senior move specialists in most communities,” says Sara Geber, an aging transition coach with LifeEncore. “These are people trained to help at every step of the way, from selecting the new residence to downsizing, to transportation back and forth, etc. They are generally very reasonable in cost and well worth the expenditure. Most real estate brokers know of such professionals, as do estate attorneys and financial advisers.”

It’s important to keep these options in mind as you downsize because it might change your opinion on whether to keep or sell certain items. If you’re moving everything yourself, a 300-pound china cabinet might be better suited for the consignment shop to avoid the hassle and risk of injury. If you’re paying for full-service, you might be more inclined to keep it, but know that such heavy items add onto the price tag.

You’ll also want to be on the lookout for potential scammers. It’s fairly rare, but there are some companies out there that will promise one attractive price for a full-service move, and then once your stuff is all packed up in the truck, they’ll demand more money while holding your items hostage. Do your research and use companies that come with recommendations from family and friends.

If you’re undecided about what type of move is best for you, let GoodCall help you compare moving options.

Dealing with the emotional toll of downsizing

Inevitably, most people will struggle a bit with nostalgia when they’ve reached a point where it’s time to downsize . Geber, with LifeEncore, spoke with GoodCall about how to make the best of this difficult time.

“Change is hard for everyone, but the older we get, the more accustomed we are to our surroundings and our ‘stuff,’ even if all that stuff threatens to strangle us,” she says.

She says a lot of these negative feelings come from both sadness and fear, which is why she recommends making a downsize as early as possible, when it’s easier to adjust to a new environment.

Many senior living communities allow potential residents to spend a few nights on site to get an idea of what it would be like to live there. Take advantage of that if you can. You want to make sure you find the right fit, Geber says.

And don’t let the apprehension get you down.

“Looking forward to a new environment” can help ease the transition, Geber says. Focus on the positives and appreciate how much simpler life will be with fewer surfaces to dust, rooms to vacuum, or towels to wash.

Your downsize doesn’t have to be stressful, sad, or scary. Stay positive and get excited about a simpler life in a new place with less clutter.

About this guide

The Senior-Friendly Guide to Downsizing was created by the moving experts at The purpose of this guide is to provide seniors with a comforting and helpful resource, directed to the homeowners themselves, instead of their family members, as is often the case with guides like these.

Staying Active in your Golden Years

As we age, it is of utmost importance to stay active and healthy. Our bodies change when we get older and it is essential that the elderly and aging are able to move about and get the exercise they need to stay healthy. It is imperative that older adults have a proper diet and exercise as much as they can. Studies have shown that exercising can improve circulation, strengthen the heart and bones and help prevent various forms of cancer.

The Importance of Exercise for Older Adults

Older adults should get proper exercise and stay active in order to maintain their physical health and function. Exercise can help to prevent or delay certain illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Walking, running, swimming and strength training for at least thirty minutes every day can help older adults keep up their muscle strength. It can also help to ensure their physical independence and ability to handle daily tasks on their own. Increased energy levels and elevated moods are some other benefits.

  • Age Page – Why exercise is good for older adults, tips for exercising and much more.
  • Reverse Aging – How proper exercise can help to reverse some of the signs of aging.
  • Older Women and Exercise – This article explains the importance of exercise for older women.
  • Benefits of Exercise – A video guide with added information that can show the many benefits of exercising for older adults.
  • For Heart Health – Information about how exercising can improve and maintain proper heart health.

Eating Healthy

 Aside from exercise, a proper diet is also essential for a healthy life. This applies to children, middle-aged people and older adults as well. As the human body ages, the dietary needs may change. High-fiber diets are important for older adults as well as increasing calcium to achieve sufficient levels particularly for women. Diets low in fat and sugar can help to decrease the risk of diabetes or heart disease and keep cholesterol levels low. See a nutritionist or talk to your doctor for some healthy eating guidelines.

Tips to Make Exercising Fun

Many people often complain that they do not exercise because it is boring. The best way to work around this problem is to try and find a buddy to exercise with you. Organize a neighborhood walking group or just find a friend who might like to take daily walks with you. You may also join your local senior center or YMCA nearby and take lessons in swimming or participate in group exercises such as aerobics. An exercise program on tape or video can also help make your workout session entertaining and efficient in the process. You could also opt to buy in home exercise equipment making things convenient where you can watch television while you work out. Allowing yourself to come up with ways to add variety to your daily exercise routine is definitely encouraged so your workouts remain fresh and exciting.

  • Variety and Fitness – This article discusses how adding variety into your routine can make fitness more fun.
  • Choosing the Right Exercise – Information provided allows you to find out more about different types of exercises to see which ones fit your style.
  • What Older Adults Want – This page explains what most older adults are looking for in an exercise program.
  • Walking Club – Some advice for those who want to walk for exercise and tips for your walking club.
  • Games for Groups – An excellent resource of fun exercise and fitness games that can be played as a group with friends or at your local YMCA or senior center.

At Home Exercises

Exercise does not have to be done only at the confines of the gym or in your neighborhood. There are endless ways you can stay physically fit at the convenience of your home. Exercise videos geared towards older adults can be purchased and viewed on your home media system. Some simple forms of exercise like stretching can be done daily at home, whenever you wish. There are numerous things you can do at home to stay active like gardening or doing other chores to help keep your body moving and worked out.

Where to Exercise

There are many different places older adults can do their exercise. Often, changing your environment can help make things much less routine and add a bit of excitement to your daily regimen. Public pools are a great place to do water aerobics or swim some laps. Your local park is a great place to take a nice walk with friends. Many localities have fitness classes designed especially for older adults, so look into these as well. No matter where you choose to exercise, it’s important that you try to do this at least three times per week for about half an hour each time. Writing down a few great and engaging places where you could go exercise is definitely a worthwhile exercise in itself. Going out there to those places and getting your needed body and mental conditioning is all the more beneficial to your personal well-being.

Staying active and eating right can help people live longer and healthier lives. By exercising with a friend or attending a fitness class, many older adults find it’s much easier to stick to a plan. Simple exercises that can be performed at home can also help keep muscles and bones strong. Older adults should remember the importance of exercise in its many forms and make sure to have it as part of their daily routine.

 Written by  and last updated Jan 5, 2017

 Last reviewed by  on Sep 25, 2016

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Early Signs of Cognitive Impairment

A Psychiatric and Neuroscientist’s Perspective on Aging Parents:


Going home for a visit can sometimes bring unexpected surprises, especially if you haven’t seen loved ones in a while. As we all know, time can be tricky and seem to move at warp speed as we age. The problem with this is that sometimes, aging loved ones seem to change rapidly, even though memory loss and physical health decline are relatively gradual.

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Wes Ashford, MD, PhD, provides insight into why awareness and early detection of cognitive impairment can be beneficial to your family. Visits with family are a prime time to evaluate senior loved ones, do screenings and discuss options for the future.

“You need to be aware that there is an issue. How is your loved one acting? Do they seem themselves? People have a way of compensating and covering up for memory loss, so it helps if you know them really well and can discern a change. It’s the subtle changes or problems that might give you a clue, and consulting an expert is always helpful in these instances.”


Dr. Ashford discusses that the Alzheimer’s Association has published their 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment. The problem with this is that once someone reaches these stages, they are often fairly far along. “Ten percent of people over 60 have significant memory problems. Look at the family’s genetics for an indication of when problems may arise. There are screenings that can be done these days, and 65 is a pretty good age to have a loved one screened. Also, having a family member who is very supportive and understanding attend doctor’s visits can be helpful.”

Here are a few signs Dr. Ashford discusses may be indicators that your loved one may be suffering from cognitive impairment:

  • Difficulty doing the more familiar things in their life. Having problems with activities of daily living (ADLs), or any activity that is part of your loved ones’ normal routine, such as cooking, cleaning, or performing regular job skills, could signal an issue.
  • Difficulty remembering things that happened in the last day. Alzheimer’s and dementia affects recent memory, so memory problems within the past 24 hours could be a red flag.
  • Sudden behavioral changes. If your loved one is suddenly depressed, quiet, agitated, or acting out of the norm, this could be a problem.
  • Having trouble keeping a conversation. The following problems in conversation could be an indication of memory impairment:
    • Asking the same questions repeatedly, without remembering the answer
    • Not referring to people by name
    • Vagueness and lack of details in conversation

People have a way of compensating for memory loss. Some people may realize they have a problem and try to cover it up, and others may not even recognize there is a problem. Dr. Ashford provides insight:

“I’ve seen over 1,000 patients, and only one came in by himself because he was worried about his memory. Usually when asked, ‘Have you been having any difficulty with memory lately?’ – Half the people say, ‘no’ and the other half say, ‘no more than anyone else my age.’ This is exactly why early detection is important.”

Sometimes it may be difficult to notice when there is a problem, but spending quality time with your loved one, having conversations and doing screenings can all help determine whether they suffer from memory loss, or may be at risk for Alzheimer’s or dementia.


Ashford has spent his career researching the process of memory loss associated with aging. He and the other members of the group at the Stanford Aging Clinical Research Center are involved in a variety of studies to measure the effectiveness of medications, mood, sleep and other factors on disease progression. He has developed a simple memory test that can help track changes over time, using colorful images to detect early signs of memory loss.

The test, MemTrax, is an online memory test that helps to measure and monitor the memory, and can be very helpful for families to determine whether their loved one is suffering from a cognitive problem. Dr. Ashford discusses:

“The problem is that it is difficult to recognize when people have a problem. People with a memory problem often try to cover it up, and as much as 90% of patients are misdiagnosed early in the disease course. After a certain point they don’t recognize that they have a memory problem and by then they need to be in a nursing home. Screening and tests can provide insight into memory problems.”

MemTrax is meant to be a fun way to test memory, without causing unease. “My family played MemTrax one Thanksgiving, and it was actually fun. We were in rural Kentucky and we decided to test our memory. It was meant to be fun, so it was not anxiety provoking. This simple game is a great way to give families insight into measuring memory and cognitive awareness.”


While mild forgetfulness affects most people as they age, serious memory problems affect peoples’ ability to participate in everyday activities. This is another reason it’s so important to be in tune to and observe your loved in their activities of daily living (ADLs), in addition to memory screening and/or attending a doctor’s visit. When you’re home, observe how your elderly loved one is doing the following:

  • Walking and getting around
  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Using the toilet
  • Grooming
  • Feeding

Dr. Ashford stresses that the cognitive decline associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is an issue not only for affected individuals, but also for society. New understanding, improved treatments, and viable preventive strategies are becoming more crucial since more than 5 million Americans are already living with Alzheimer’s disease, and its prevalence is expected to double by 2020. Ashford notes the two most important things to pay attention to as people get older are:

  • Exercise
  • Cognitive Engagement

In other words, how is your loved one ‘walking and talking’ and are they doing well enough to live in their home without help? Ashford comments, “There is genetic testing available and families need to be proactive about getting tested and understanding their genotype. For one common genotype, which equates to about 20% of the population, there is a 40% chance of developing Alzheimer’s by age 76. Another genotype – one that affects only 2% of the population – has 10 times greater chance of having the disease by age 67; and another group appears to develop Alzheimer’s only after age 95. Looking at your family genetics and getting yourself and loved ones tested can help you determine what you’re up against.”


Whether you notice that your aging family member is in great shape or that he or she may need additional care, it’s never too soon to have a conversation. If your elderly loved one can participate in the discussion and provide you with all the necessary information to execute their retirement and end-of-life wishes when the times comes, your family will be in better shape, both emotionally and financially. Dr. Ashford comments,

“Help your loved one prepare for their future, proactively. Be helpful and supportive, and let them participate in the decision-making, if possible. If needed, get educated. I highly recommend “The 36-Hour Day, by Nancy L. Mace.” The Alzheimer’s Association also has great information, and provides local support groups. It’s also never a bad idea to seek an expert’s help; whether that’s a family doctor, geriatrician, psychologist or eldercare attorney.”

About Wes Ashford, MD, PhD

Dr. J. Wesson Ashford, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, has dedicated his career to understanding the way Alzheimer’s disease affects memory. Dr. Ashford is Chair of the Memory Screening Advisory Board of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America as well as a Senior Editor of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. He also holds the positions of Clinical Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; Senior Research Scientist, Stanford; and Director of the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center in the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.

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A Place for Mom Assessing Cognitive Ability Guide
Reprinted from A Place for Mom

New Medicare and Social Security Scams

How the Scam Works

Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries across the country report receiving calls from scam operators (frequently with foreign accents), who claim to represent Medicare, Social Security, or an insurance company. These callers claim that new Medicare, Social Security, supplemental insurance benefits cards are being issued or that the beneficiary’s file must be updated. The scam artist asks the citizen to verify or provide their personal banking information, which is then used to commit theft.

Callers involved in this crime ring may be extremely aggressive, calling over and over, and at all times of the day, in an attempt to wear down the potential victim. These criminals will say anything to try to gain a person’s trust. In some cases, the criminals may have already obtained some limited personal information about the citizen, such as his or her name, address, or even Social Security number, which the criminal then uses to try to make the call seem legitimate. In other cases, the callers may claim that they can improve the benefits. Do not believe these claims, and do not carry on a conversation with the caller. Instead, if you receive a call asking you to disclose your bank account or other financial information, hang up immediately. These are criminals, and by speaking with the callers, even to ask them to stop calling, they may be encouraged to continue calling your telephone number.

If you are a Medicare or Social Security beneficiary, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Social Security Administration do not call you to ask you to disclose financial information in order to get a new card. If you receive such a call, you should report it to these two agencies as follows:

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
7500 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21244

Social Security Administration
Office of Public Inquiries
1100 West High Rise
6401 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21235
(800) 772-1213



These three tips should help you avoid falling victim to this scam:

  1. Remember, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Social Security Administration will not call you to update your information or give you a new card.
  2. If someone who calls you asks for your personal information, do not provide it.
  3. If calls persist, you may wish to speak to your phone company about calling features that would enable you to be selective in the calls that you accept or receive.

If you have already disclosed personal financial information to an unknown party, you may be at risk of identity theft. There are certain steps that you can take to further protect yourself including:

  1. Call the three major credit bureaus and place a one-call fraud alert on your credit report:
    • Equifax: Call 800-525-6285, and write P.O. Box 105069, Atlanta, GA 30348-5069.
    • Experian: Call 888-397-3742, and write P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013.
    • TransUnion: Call 800-680-7289, and write Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790 Fullerton, CA 92834-6790.
  2. Consider placing a security freeze on your credit reports. In most instances, the freeze prohibits a credit reporting agency from releasing any information from your credit report without your written authorization. To place a security freeze on your credit report, you should send a written request to each of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies by regular, certified or overnight mail at the addresses below:

    Experian Security Freeze
    P.O. Box 9554
    Allen, TX 75013
    (888) 397-3742

    Equifax Security Freeze
    P.O. Box 105788
    Atlanta, GA 30348
    (800) 685-1111

    TransUnion Security Freeze
    P.O. Box 2000
    Chester, PA 19016
    (888) 909-8872

  3. Order a free copy of your credit report and look for unauthorized activity. Many consumers first find out that they are victims of identity theft by discovering inaccuracies on their credit report. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) allows consumers to obtain a free copy of their credit report each year from the three major credit bureaus as follows:
    • Logging on to;
    • Calling: 877-322-8228; or
    • Writing: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta GA 30348-5281
  4. Monitor your financial accounts for suspicious activity. Look carefully for unexplained activity on your bank and other financial statements. If you detect unexplained activity, you may want to contact the fraud department of your financial institution.


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The Do Not Call Registry and Unwanted Calls

Many people are bombarded by unwanted telephone calls – even though they are on the Do Not Call Registry. The problem is difficult to stop because the scam artists increasingly use modern technology – including caller ID spoofing and throw-away cell phones – to conceal their identity and location and evade law enforcement.

When in Doubt, Don’t Give it Out

Scams and crooked deals are everywhere today, often where we least expect it. At every turn you can protect yourself by following one easy principle. If someone contacts you and claims to need your private information, think twice and remember: when in doubt, don’t give it out.


Gifts for Seniors

Still looking for gifts for seniors? Stretch your imagination! Sometimes gifts for seniors are waiting at the grocery store, in the sewing aisle at your local home goods store, or even on-line.

gifts for seniors can include flowering bulbsFirst, check out your local garden center, grocery store or a place like Reny’s for bulbs. Amaryllis bulbs make great gift gifts for seniors when you plant them in a nice pot. Put three of a kind in a small window box for a fabulous display. They don’t take up much room, can survive a wide temperature variation (but not freezing), don’t need much watering, and grow slowly and reliably, giving weeks of pleasure. And the blooms last for several weeks. Or make a calendar garden. Start with narcissus in a clear pot with gravel for January. Get a hyacinth or two in little water jars for February. The amaryllis will bloom by March. Add a pot of daffodils kept in a cool location and your senior will have early spring flowers.

While pets can sometimes make great gifts for seniors, they require a financial commitment and care. If a cat, dog or bird is too much for your senior, consider Beta (Siamese fighting fish). They don’t require much care, live in a regular sized fish bowl (rather than an aquarium) and come in a striking array of colors. They do best in a fairly warm house. Make sure you include fish food.

Gifts for Seniors Can Include Services

Give a service. Gifts for seniors could include time with a loved one doing something special. Make up a little manicure kit with clear nail polish and other necessities, and supply a gift card for monthly manicures and a nice visit. Mark it on the calendar so you’ll both remember. Home made gift cards for snow shoveling, foot massages or specific household tasks are appreciated. Or supply an event: movie tickets, theater tickets, a trip to the Gray animal farm, or a lighthouse tour with lunch might be a great gift for someone who wants companionship and time with you. Or offer garden tilling with some seeds, or car washes with a new sponge.

Check out senior gifts for more ideas.

Reprinted with permission from Maine Senior Guide.

18 Signs your aging parent needs help

Whether mail is stacking up, food is spoiled or something just seems out of the ordinary, it’s important to be aware of the signs that your aging parents may need help.18 Signs Your Elderly Parent Needs Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted from A Place for Mom

An Elder Law Attorney Perspective on Aging Parents


Sometimes joyful occasions visiting family can illuminate health or cognitive issues in our older loved ones.

Mom and Dad may have aged more than expected, or suddenly seem to need more assistance with daily tasks. Or maybe your elderly loved ones are doing fine, but you recognize that they are getting older, and the reality is that you need to discuss important topics and decisions for their retirement, their advanced years and end-of-life wishes.

These tough conversations can be uncomfortable, but they are necessary. A Place for Mom expert and elder law attorney, Stuart Furman, Esq., shares his opinion on how families can position themselves to help their aging loved ones prepare for the future.

“You need to shift perspective and think of these talks as a gift, both from the parent to the children as well as from the child to the parent. There has to be a trust relationship where the parent understands that you will not be taking control, but rather you are going to be carrying out the aging parent [or loved one’s] objectives. Help them understand why these conversations are crucial to help them prepare for the future.”


It’s no secret that the need to care for an aging family member tends to sneak up on everyone involved. Both adult children and their parents tend to avoid thinking about getting sick or old.

Furman, an estate planning eldercare attorney, got thrown into becoming a caregiver and the eldercare journey himself when his own parents began to need help. He realized how important it was to collect information and to have it available to make important life decisions. Through his own personal experience as well as professional experience helping other families, Furman has observed that it is more difficult to cope with the uncertainty, stress, and confusion of eldercare due to a lack of clear understanding and preparation.

“There used to be only two absolute truths. Death and taxes. But there is a third, and that’s eldercare. The only questions are: how long is it going to last, and how intense is it going to be? You need to be prepared while Mom and Dad are still competent. By anticipating what will be needed for your eldercare journey, you can make the trip much less stressful for everyone involved.”

Furman outlines three approaches to delicately handle the ‘tough conversation’ of senior care with your aging loved ones.


This is difficult on many levels, notes Furman. Most parents still feel they should be the ones in control. After all, they are the parent. However, as the parent’s mental competency wanes, the access to their information and desires is also lost. If you let them be in control while still allowing you to do what needs to be done, that will help ease their distress. Begin the conversation and preparation where they can control what their desires and wishes are for the future, so that you can work together with them to put the right plans in place. Let them know that their wishes are the only things that are important. You are there to assist them. You are“Partners-in-Care.”


There has to be a new trust relationship if you’re going to be carrying out your loved one’s objectives. The role reversal that most people have heard about is real. The parent now has become the cared-for person. But stating it that way tends to upset the parent and create many roadblocks. Look at this in a different way. You are not becoming the authority figure, but rather you are merely becoming the agent for the parents. “Just like with a power-of-attorney, look at it not as control, but that you are the troops helping deliver your parents’ wishes. This helps to soften the conversation,” notes Furman.


Making guesses about your parents’ wishes and their vital information during a crisis most often results in a bad situation, and potentially bad decisions, for everyone involved. Gathering the information ahead of time is the best way to prevent this problem. Furman says, “I can’t emphasize more how much information needs to be readily at hand and packed in your eldercare suitcase.”

Remember also that just because you are not yet a senior citizen does not make you exempt from dying or becoming mentally incapacitated earlier than expected. So this early preparation and packing your suitcase is for everyone.


Our life is bookended by essential documents, many of which are necessary for family members to successfully carry out end of life care and wishes. But which documents are the most important? Here is a quick rundown of the ones you will need and that should be discussed with your aging loved one.

Financial Information You Need

Financial information can be crucial in many instances for timely, efficient and more affordable care. Here is a list of some vital financial information:

  • List of all bank accounts
  • Pension documents, 401(k) information, and annuity contracts
  • Tax returns
  • Savings bonds, stock certificates or brokerage accounts
  • Partnership and corporate operating agreements
  • Deeds to all properties
  • Vehicle title
  • Documentation of loans and debts, including all credit accounts
  • Trust documents and durable financial power-of-attorney (financial proxy)

Also critical is access to the information. Just because you may know what the parents own, does not mean you can get access to information regarding the assets, or be able to transact on behalf of the parent. This is where having proper releases (or a power of attorney or trust) on file with the asset holders and having them accepted as being sufficient for the particular purpose is necessary.

Healthcare Documents You Need

If a senior becomes incapacitated or can’t communicate, it’s important that the senior’s wishes be stated in a living will or health care advance directive, and also that someone with the authority to represent the senior has been designated. Furman advises,

“Since you never know what healthcare problems will arise or when you’ll have to visit a hospital, being able to quickly grab official paperwork such as a healthcare power-of-attorney or an advanced healthcare directive can eliminate a lot of stress at the hospital. Doctors want proof that you are the decision-maker, and all of the decisions should already be made.”

Important healthcare documents include:

  • Healthcare proxy (durable health power-of-attorney)
  • Authorization to release healthcare information
  • Living will (healthcare directive)
  • Personal medical history
  • Insurance card (Medicare, Medicaid, Independent)
  • Long-term care insurance policy
  • Lists of current medication and health conditions

When it comes to healthcare decisions, remember that the agent is the proxy for the parent in carrying out these decisions in the same manner that they would have had they been able to. Parents or family members need to provide a lot of detail. A broad statement is not enough.“Many of my clients say they ‘don’t want to be hooked up on tubes,’ or they ‘don’t want life support,’ which really does not give much guidance when a specific healthcare decision needs to be made.

“If specific wishes are not clearly communicated, the family and kids have to step up and decide what to do based on their own idea, or best guess, of what Mom or Dad may have wanted in a specific healthcare situation. This fuels the flames of family battles as these decisions, albeit in good faith, are made subject to each child’s biases and life experiences. It is up to the parents to clearly state what they want, so that everyone can just focus on delivering those wishes.”

End-of-Life and Estate Planning Documents You Need

It’s emotionally challenging when a loved one dies. Family members don’t need to also feel overwhelmed trying to sort out end-of-life affairs. “We can save ourselves and our loved ones the burden of disorganization at this crucial time by making sure that documents related to estate planning and end-of-life have been drawn up, are up-to-date, and easily available,”Furman reminds us. Essential end-of-life documents include the following:

  • Will and trust
  • Life-insurance policies
  • End of life instructions letter (regarding wishes not covered in will, for example regarding memorial, or items not covered in the will)
  • Organ donor card or information

Appropriate estate planning documentation is also necessary if you’re in any situation where the ability to do estate planning is at risk. Get more detailed estate planning preparation information in Furman’s “Why Estate Planning Procrastination Kills Your Options” article.


When you are ready to begin the eldercare journey, Furman recommends that you evaluate your family’s legal capacity, or consult with an elder law attorney first, to ensure that there are not any misconceptions about your loved one’s care.

“Many prospective clients see me when something has happened to one of them, or something has progressed and they need to have control of assets,” he says. “The wife may have Alzheimer’s or dementia and the husband waited until he must act due to an external event forcing them to see me (such as a financial institution refusing to let the husband have information about an account in the wife’s name, for instance). At that point, the individual may have already lost capacity to execute documents which creates a much more challenging estate planning project.

“I have also had countless families tell me that they have had Mom or Dad declared incompetent so that they can sign the power of attorney or trust and another person can then take over. Although their intentions were in the right place, you must have mental capacity to sign, not lack mental capacity. So families are often mixed up on this issue.”


This type of planning must also take place well in advance to protect assets, Furman says. “One must be very proactive, not reactive. If families are reacting to events that occur without the planning in place, it is often too late, or it becomes much more challenging and consequently much more expensive.”

Furman concludes, “So, if you are headed home to visit, plan ahead. Even if your senior loved ones are in good health, start the conversation about end-of-life wishes early. It’s better to be prepared and to let your parents know you are their advocate, or their ‘troops.'”

Reprinted from A Place for Mom