|The 2019/2020 Flu season is lining up to be one of the worst yet. Influenza is notorious for being difficult to predict from one year to the next, so there’s no telling yet how this season will compare to previous years’ flu seasons. One big predictor for the United States flu season is the Southern Hemisphere — specifically, what strains are circulating in Australia and New Zealand and how many deaths and cases of severe illness are reported there in the previous season. Australia just wrapped up its largest flu season on record, in terms of the number of influenza cases reported. Thankfully, it wasn’t an especially severe season in terms of deaths or serious illness. |
We’ve seen the bright warning signs posted on Adult Care Home front doors and in all types of retirement communities. Shutting down the spread of the virus is the sole purpose of maintaining the health of the residents and all who visit. While there are always health issues we watch for as we age, the flue and pneumonia combine to rank seventh on the list of leading causes of death amount our elderly (according to the Center for Disease Control).
Did you know there are two types of flu shots available to people ages 65 and older? These FDA-approved vaccines are designed to offer extra protection beyond what a standard flu shot provides, which is important for older adults who have weaker immune defenses and have a great risk of developing dangerous flu complications.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that during the 2018-2019 flu season, up to 647,000 people were hospitalized and 61,200 died because of the flu-most of whom were seniors.
Two important vaccination the CDC recommend to seniors, especially this time of year, are the pneumococcal vaccines for pneumonia. Around 1 million Americans are hospitalized with pneumonia each year, and about 50,000 people die from it. Medicare Part B covers both shots, if they are take at least one year apart. Here’s a link to find a vaccination site near you. vaccinefinder.org
Cherie Henry and Catherine Camp
Autumn of Life Senior Housing and Advisory Services
If your parent or loved one is living at home, it is important to take steps to ensure that their surroundings are safe. In home falls are a leading cause of injuries among seniors living alone. As adults age, we start to see an overall decline in vision, balance, and memory. Fortunately, we can make changes to help prevent accidents within the home by creating a safe environment.
As our vision declines with age the risk of tripping and falling rises. Take note of furniture around the home. Are there smaller pieces that can be removed or placed elsewhere within the home? Are there rugs that can easily be tripped on? Clearing obstacles and potential hazards from around the house can help decrease the chances of an accident.
It is also important to check in with seniors about their medications. What are they taking? Are they taking the right dosage and at the right time? If not, one could experience dizziness and loss of balance among other side effects, leading to a fall or accident.
After experiencing a fall in their home, seniors may feel scared and uneasy to start being active again. This inactivity creates other issues such as lack of muscle strength, balance, and at times depression. It is important to encourage seniors to stay active to help prevent other issues from surfacing.
By taking a few of these steps and asking a few questions we can help to lessen the chances of falls in the home for our older loved ones.
Golden Placement Services
Who doesn’t want to save money on their prescription drugs? Consumers in the US spend more on their
prescriptions than people in other countries. We know this; many of us know it all too well. What can we do about it?
Here are ten simple things we can do when filling our necessary prescriptions:
1. Go over the list of prescriptions with your primary care Dr. For example; my 93-year-old mother has reduced her number of prescription from eight to four per day. She was taking duplicate medicines, or medicines that really did not even work for her, but she kept taking them. Now, her list of prescriptions is more refined thus saving us money.
2. Ask your Dr. for generic versions of drugs instead of name brand. Talk with your Dr. about your finances. Many doctors have no idea what prescriptions cost and want to help you! Formularies are online so you and your Dr. can look at your plan’s formulary (list of prescriptions) to see what is covered or not.
3. Ask if your Dr. can give you samples of a new prescription. I have a client whose Dr. gave him enough samples to last 8 months, and then they decided it was not producing the desired effect so they discontinued it.
4. Enlist your local pharmacist and talk with them. Pharmacists are extremely knowledgeable; please consider them as part of your care team. Ask if you are taking the best version of your prescription; is there a generic available? Also, ask how your various prescriptions are interacting with each other.
5. Get a paper script (vs digital) and shop around. I know this is a hassle but the results can be worthwhile. Every pharmacy charges a different price for the same prescription. Use the website or app called GoodRx to find the best price for your various prescriptions. Sometimes using mail order is the best price, you might learn how to do that with your insurance plan.
6. For expensive, name brand name drugs, consider using online pharmacies. More and more people are doing this and are getting great prices for their prescriptions! I use pharmacychecker.com.
m with my clients. For example, using GoodRx, the expensive asthma inhaler Symbicort costs $376.00 for 2 months. We looked on PharmacyChecker.com and my client bought the exact same name brand prescription for less than $80.00 per month! She gets it from New Zealand and it only takes 2 weeks to arrive. One caveat: do look at dosages and amounts when comparing prescriptions online. Make sure you are getting what your doctor prescribed.
7. Ask your pharmacist if the actual cash price for the prescription is lower than your price with insurance. Pharmacists may be reluctant to tell you straight out if this is the case; always ask. You might be surprised.
8. Think numbers: Many larger big box stores have bigger buying power and pass the savings along to you. Get a 90-day supply of regular medications.
9. Apply for assistance through your state or insurance plan. Often
people with low income can get assistance and a low-income subsidy (LIS). Ask if you qualify. You will have to show evidence and documentation.
10. Finally, speak with your independent agent about your insurance. Are you on the best plan for you? Our needs change, thus our insurance needs change. Insurance plans change every year too. Speak with an independent agent and learn more about a variety of plans so you can make a wise decision.
Shopping around for our prescriptions can take some energy but is well worth the investment in time when we save significant amounts of money. In today’s’ expensive world, especially for those of us on fixed incomes, every little bit of money saved is a good thing.
Hilary Greenebaum, PhD
Howard Insurance for Seniors
Many people are not aware of the various plans available to Medicare beneficiaries. Yes, they all complement Medicare but there are some major differences! Your personal values, finances, and health status determine which plan is the best suited for you, your family, and your lifestyle. It is important to make a wise decision due to the number of rules around changing plans. You could be trapped in a plan you do not like and may be unable to change! Speak to an independent agent for more information.
What is a Medicare Supplement policy?
• A Medicare Supplement policy – or Medigap plan – is a health insurance policy made available through private insurers designed to cover the expenses not covered by Original Medicare. These began in the early 1980s.
• Federal law mandates features and benefits of the various Medicare Supplement (Medigap) policies.
• Benefits are standardized and are the same among private insurers who make this coverage available. Monthly premium price is the only difference between the insurance carriers.
• You can see any health care provider allowed by Medicare.
• You do not need a referral to see a Specialist.
• There is no network; you are free to travel!
• Monthly premiums and plan features for Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans can vary widely, depending on the type of plan you choose. Depending on your circumstances, you may need certain features that not all the plans offer. For example, some plans offer emergency coverage while you are traveling overseas, while other plans do not.
• Easy to budget! Premiums are entirely predictable so you can make wise financial decisions.
• Often NO billing and paperwork for you to complete at health care providers’ visit or procedure.
• A Medicare Supplement (Medigap) policy only works with Original Medicare. These policies do not work in conjunction with Medicare Advantage, group health insurance plans, or VA/TRICARE benefits.
• Prescription drug coverage is not included with these plans. You may want to purchase a stand-alone Part D Prescription Drug Plan.
What is a Medicare Advantage Plan?
• A Medicare Advantage (MA) plan is a managed care plan offered by health insurance companies, and some hospitals. These plans originated in 2006 due to new legislation regarding Part D, prescription drug laws.
• Monthly premiums start at zero dollars ($0) per month and range up to several hundred dollars per month.
• Come with co-pays and deductibles, with out of pocket maximums up to $6,700 or $10,000 per year.
• Each plan has a specific network of providers.
• Sometimes you can pay more and go outside the network.
• Typically you must have a Primary Care Physician refer you to see a Specialist
• Some come with a Part D, Prescription Drug Plan (PDP); often called a MAPD plan, some do not.
• Harder to budget because of the uncertain amount of co-pays and deductibles. You pay for what you use.
• Often there is billing and paperwork for you to complete at each health care providers’ visit or procedure.
• Growing in popularity due to extra benefits Medicare typically does not pay for such as a fitness center, hearing aids, and routine vision care benefits. More extra benefits are coming in the next year or so!
• Choose plans based upon your geographic location. Plans can be severally limited, or non-existent, in low population density or rural areas.
Whatever you do, learn as much as you can so you make a wise decision for you and your family. Talk with an independent agent who works for you not the insurance company!
Howard Insurance Agency for Seniors
As you approach age 65, it is time to determine whether you will want additional health insurance to complement original Medicare. For most seniors who enroll in Medicare Parts A and B, buying an additional policy is a good idea. Original Medicare covers approximately 80% of the cost of many health care services and supplies. In that remaining 20%, there are substantial costs, deductibles, and co-pays that can easily cost you thousands of dollars each year in of out-of- pocket medical expenses.
A Medicare Supplement policy or a Medicare Advantage Plan provides coverage for those gaps in your Medicare coverage and can save you money and concern about finances.
You are eligible to purchase a policy at various times of the year, depending on your personal situation. It can be very complicated and there are many rules set by the Center for Medicare Services (CMS).
When you are first eligible for Medicare, selecting which plan to augment your Original Medicare is an important decision. Did you know it is also an important decision for any age Medicare beneficiary because you might be able to switch plans at a variety of times during the year?
There is a variety of enrollment periods:
Initial Enrollment Period – When you activate Part B, often at age 65, but not always.
Annual Enrollment Period – Oct. 15 – Dec. 7
Open Enrollment Period (*new in 2019) – Jan. 1 – March 31 for Medicare Advantage only.
Special Enrollment Period – Anytime an individual qualifies for special enrollment accommodations.
However, most people choose a policy around the time they turn age 65 and hope to stick with it. During this time, you have Guarantee Issue, which means insurance companies cannot deny you coverage based on your health status or claim experience. It is very important to make wise decisions when you have that Guarantee Issue opportunity! Learn more from an independent agent who works for you, not the insurance company!
Howard Insurance Agency for Seniors
As we grow older our expectations of what it means to live in a retirement community are evolving, dramatically. Not since the debut of “Golden Girls” 33 years ago has there been an entertaining peek into the world of community living on television. This fall audiences will see a much needed modern perspective on a new show called “Cool Kids” (on FOX). It revolves around three guy friends in a retirement community who are the top dogs until they’re blown out of the water by the newest member of the community, a female rebel who’s ready to challenge their place – it’s high school with 70somethings.
Though taking this new show’s portrayal of retirement living with a humorous grain of salt it highlights the numerous benefits many seniors may not take into consideration other than looking for care services and support. Many of our clients have been very pleased to discover new friendships, entertaining events, good food, new interests, a wide range of outing destinations, and in most cases an improved quality of life.
Retirement communities can be a little or a lot different from one another. Finding the right match for care and lifestyle by using a senior placement agency can be of invaluable assistance. A senior housing advisor will vet out the communities that best fit the needs and wants of the senior. They check for any substantiated complaints, pre-visit the community, are aware of the levels resident care capabilities and will discuss the expectations of the senior with the community representative. They are experienced professionals who will be there every step of the way providing information, education and compassion through the locations process. As of July 1, 2018 any senior placement agency doing business in Oregon must be registered with the State of Oregon through the Department of Human Resources.
Catherine Camp, Senior Placement Specialist
“My Mom is no longer able to live in her home by herself. My siblings and I have decided it is time to sell her home to free up the equity that will provide for her care as she lives in her new retirement community. It was our family home for over 50 years, and it is overwhelming knowing how to start the process.”
I hear this scenario a lot as I work with my senior clients. It is an overwhelming task, and you would be wise to seek out the assistance of a Seniors Real Estate Specialist, (SRES). A Realtor with this special designation has been trained to work to ensure that your Mother’s best interest is always in first position.
Because everyone’s financial situation is different, the first step is to contact an attorney who specializes in eldercare law and a tax professional who will analyze how the taxes will affect the sale.
When the time comes to put the house on the market, your SRES will help you through all of the necessary tasks to get it ready for the market. The first step is to meet with you at the home. He or she will be gathering data in order to prepare a Comparable Market Analysis. This is commonly known as a CMA. Factors such as number of bedrooms, lot size and the condition of the property will be considered when suggesting a competitive listing price. You will be presented with an extensive study on what surrounding homes have sold for, how they look and how long they were on the market.
Homes that look fresh and clean and are clutter free usually sell for top dollar. For this reason, your SRES will talk to you about what needs to be done before it ever goes on the market. Does is need paint? Does it need some siding repair or a new roof? Does it need some surface updates? A pre-inspection might be advised to let you know what items must be addressed first. The new buyer’s lender will have a say in what repairs are necessary for the sale to go through. Sometimes repairs can be negotiated between the buyer and seller.
Staging means preparing the home for showings. This means getting the home in tip top shape before anyone sees it. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Homes that are staged usually sell quicker and for top dollar. A coat of paint in neutral tones, new kitchen countertops and stainless appliances along with a professional cleaning job will make the house shine. The yard will need a clean-up too. If the yard has been let go and the shrubs are all over grown, the prospective buyer might not even care to look at your home.
When the home is ready to be listed in the multiple listing service, your SRES Realtor will review all of the documents necessary for the sale. This will include a seller’s disclosure. You will be asked to answer a series of questions about the home. The buyer will review these as a condition of the sale.
Once an offer comes in, your SRES will meet with you and the family to discuss the factors of the offer. At that time your Realtor will help you decide if you should counter any offers. You might want your attorney to review any offers before accepting any offers.
Once an offer is accepted, the sale will be handled through escrow or an attorney. Documents will be prepared to transfer the ownership to the new buyer. After you and the buyer have signed the documents, it will be recorded. This is what is known as closing. Once this happens, you will receive the proceeds of the sale of the home.
Principal Broker in the State of Oregon
During a discussion with business associates the other day, the subject of Hospice came up.
It appears that in some cases, families are lead to think that they need to choose a hospice provider that works within their healthcare network, or one that a provider, such as an Adult Care Home or an Assisted living, prefers to work with.
It is necessary to clear up any misconceptions – Hospice is paid for by Medicare and patients have the option to choose any hospice provider they prefer.
It is ok to engage a hospice provider based on a trusted friend or associate’s recommendation. It is, however, a better idea to interview at least 2 providers. I have found the difference in services, comes down to the specific individuals that will be in direct contact with the individual on hospice, such as the RN, social worker, bath assistants, not necessarily the company – though different companies, as with any industry, have different philosophies.
The bottom line is – ask around, do your research, if possible, and know that you have the choice in providers.
Cherie Henry, Senior Placement Specialist
My perspective is two sided. Both from the point of view of an Assisted Living Director and that of a consultant who takes clients to look at Communities to find a great fit for their loved one.
As a Director, I would complete a self-audited tour to try to see what the prospect’s experience was from the moment of driving up to the building to the end of the tour. As a consultant, I let the person at the community give the tour and information, interjecting questions and comments as I feel necessary to ensure my client gets all the pertinent information.
So, when you are out looking at communities for placement for a loved one what should you be aware of. What questions should you ask when interviewing and making that final decision?
Here is a checklist of key points to consider:
- What is your immediate reaction?
- Are the grounds and building well kept?
Entering the building
- Were you greeted upon entering?
- Was there someone manning the front desk?
- Was there someone available to assist you?
- Is the interior of the building well maintained and has a pleasant smell?
- Are there residents out and about? Being actively involved?
- Does the staff appear warm, friendly and happy?
- Did they address you as you toured with a “Hi” and a smile?
- Did they offer you a meal to enjoy?
- Does the food look and smell good?
- Is the dining experience well organized, efficient and is the food presented well?
- Does it appear that there is pride in preparing and serving meals?
Cherie Henry, Senior Placement Specialist
As we age, our experiences change. Some we prepare for while others are completely unexpected. Moments of forgetfulness, muscle weakness or unsteadiness on our feet may begin to appear. Though these slight changes creep up on us there’s one experience many seniors don’t realize has entered their once busy and active life: loneliness.
One slight, but possibly harmful change for our connectedness is the reduction in mobility which can lead to less social interaction. Add to that financial limitations or the inaccessibility of transportation and there is a great risk of isolation. Isolation can lead to mental health problems like depression, anxiety and addictions. Physical ailments have been linked to loneliness too: high blood pressure, sleep disturbances, lack of mental focus and a weakened immune system.
What are some steps we can take to defend against the feelings of loneliness and be healthy well into our senior years?
Build connections by meeting new people: join clubs, go to church, attend a group exercise, take noncredit classes at the local community college to learn about new topics, or volunteer in your community. If you are interested in volunteering, check out VolunteerMatch.org where you can view and sign up for opportunities by age, ability and type of work.
We’re never too old to learn a new trick. Start learning a few now!
Catherine Camp, Senior Placement Specialist