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National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

SSO Colorectal Cancer ImageMarch is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Here at Seniors Speak Out it’s important to be aware of diseases like colorectal cancer that affect older Americans. Because colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths – and a cancer that can be screened for often – it is so important that we visit the doctor regularly for screenings.

The first step to preventing colorectal cancer is to learn what it is and how it impacts your body. Colon cancer is a malignant growth that begins in the colon or large intestine. It includes both cancers of the colon and those that form in the rectum. Most colon cancers begin with the formation of benign polyps, or non-cancerous growths in the large intestine. Often, these growths produce absolutely no symptoms, which is why it is important to visit your doctor annually for testing.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends adults begin regular screening for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50, though those with a family history of this cancer should begin sooner.

Colonoscopies used to be a dreaded rite of passage for seniors. But there is good news! There are now various options to test for the disease.

Stool tests can be conducted annually, while a colonoscopy is recommended by USPSTF to be done every 10 years in the absence of polyps. According to Medicare.gov, Medicare covers colorectal cancer screening tests to help find pre-cancerous polyps. However, if a polyp or other tissue is found during the colonoscopy, you may have to pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for the doctor’s services and a copayment in a hospital outpatient setting.

Of course, it is important to discuss your testing options with a physician, who can provide you with more detailed information about each screening test, how often they should occur and what is best for you. Be sure to ask questions about how often Medicare covers each screening test so you know your potential out-of-pocket costs up front.

Again, because the symptoms of colon cancer are often unnoticed, us seniors must take charge of our own health and visit the doctor annually for a regular screening. Contact your doctor today to schedule a test for colorectal cancer in honor of National Colorectal Awareness Month.



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New Video from Medicare Today: What is Medicare and How Does it Work?

Our partners at Medicare Today have a great new video about the different health care coverage options that Medicare offers. Here are a few highlights from the short video, but be sure to watch it for yourself!

  • Medicare has four main parts: A, B, C, and D.
  • Part A covers inpatient care, like hospital stays and hospice care.
  • Part B covers outpatient care, such as doctor visits, preventative treatments and some medicines taken during your doctor visit.
  • Part C, otherwise known as Medicare Advantage, is Medicare coverage offered by private health plans.
  • Lastly, Part D covers outpatient prescription medications and is offered by private insurance companies.

Sign up for these plans happens during the open enrollment period each year, which is October 15 – December 7, 2017. Are you 65 or older and looking to enroll in Medicare? Mark your calendar!

For more information on Medicare coverage, check out the video or visit MedicareToday.org.



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Get Up and Get Active This Spring!

Spring is on the way! All of us at Seniors Speak Out are excited to finally store our coats away, grab our sneakers and get out to enjoy the warm weather.

For seniors, a great way to take advantage of the new season is to embrace physical activity outside. After all, exercise can lead to healthier aging and it can allow us to live more independent lifestyles. Whether you’re a sports fan or an avid gardener, hopefully our tips on how to stay active this spring will lead seniors across the country to get up off the couch and enjoy the great outdoors.

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For the sports fan: Some local community centers offer croquet and bocce ball leagues for seniors, which is a relaxing way to combine exercise and socialization. Also be sure to check out the National Senior Games Association for more information on senior sports leagues offered near you.

 

 

 

benjamin-combs-27617For those with a green thumb: Consider starting a gardening club at your local community center. This is a wonderful way to get outside while also giving back to the environment.

 

 

 

 

mpho-mojapelo-173231For the animal lover: If you don’t have your own dog to play fetch with, volunteering at a pet shelter is an easy way to get active. At the shelter, you can offer to take a dog for a walk so you can both enjoy the sunshine.

 

 

 

ashley-baxter-27994For the photography enthusiast: Grab your camera and simply go for a walk. You will be surprised by the amount of beautiful flowers waiting to be photographed.

 

 

 


shutterstock_128091341For the social butterfly:
It’s no surprise that exercise is more fun when others are involved. Before you venture out on a walk around town, gather up a group of friends or family members to join in.

 

 

 

hannah-morgan-39891For the shopaholic: If there is an outdoor shopping mall in your neighborhood, window shopping is a great way to stay physically active while also looking for a bargain.

 

 

 
How do you plan to take advantage of the warmer months upon us? Tell us in the comments section below!



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Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Low Vision Awareness Month

As you’ve most likely experienced firsthand, aging can contribute to the onset of many different health conditions. Here at Seniors Speak Out, we know it is difficult to decipher what is considered a normal sign of aging and what could be something more serious. Learning about lesser-known conditions can mean an important stold couple smilingep toward preventative care.

What better reason to discuss Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Low Vision Awareness Month? It is February, after all! This is a great opportunity to share information about vision changes many seniors experience and remember the importance of regular visits to the eye doctor.

According to the National Eye Institute, vision changes are normal as we age. Here are a few examples of how we can expect our eyes to change as we grow older:

  1. Eyes may take longer to adjust and focus
  2. Adjusting to light and dark transitions may be more challenging
  3. Eyes may have a difficult time distinguishing an image from its background (this is called contrast sensitivity)

Though these examples of changes are good to keep in mind, the best way to prolong your sharp vision is to regularly see your eye doctor for an exam. In some cases, your doctor can help you determine if you have developed Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older.

The early stages of AMD start without symptoms, which is why it is so important to regularly get an eye exam. Remember – early detection can slow the rate of vision loss and allow you to make the most of what vision is remaining.

To learn more about eye care, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology to view their extensive set of resources for seniors.



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National Senior Independence Month Is Here!

independent seniorWe all think of February as the month to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but what you might not know is that February is also National Senior Independence Month. Living an independent lifestyle is important to many of us as we age, no matter your age, or where you live. Here are a few tips to help you stay comfortable, safe, and healthy this month and throughout the year.

Take advantage of technology

Ensure your living space is equipped with an up-to-date security system. Not only will these systems protect against theft or property damage, they can do a lot more. If your living space includes a yard or even an outdoor entrance, security devices can detect any motion nearby. The motion light sensors can help you see, as well as fend off unwanted guests.

Cell phones and tablets can also contribute to safety. Phones, in addition to allowing you to contact anyone immediately, often have flashlights and emergency contact apps that make calling for help easy and quick. They can also serve as location devices and, of course, provide maps and navigation. AgingCare.com has many other suggestions about the types of technology that benefit seniors living independently. Check out their website here.

Declutter

Cleaning and organizing can have great positive impact on your physical and mental health. I try to declutter every January at the start of the year. It’s energizing and feels freeing. Another added benefit of decluttering is the ability to move freely without fear of tripping and falling. Clearing walkways and rearranging furniture are wonderful ways to ensure safety and comfort.

Make a few upgrades

If you don’t already have grab bars in your bathroom, install them! Whether you need them or not right now, they are always handy and can accommodate any layout or design. Also, check the banisters on your stairs. They can come loose from years of use and pose a risk.

Dark hallways or a dark closet? Motion sensor stick-on lights might solve the problem. Making these upgrades will make a world of difference!

Do you have any other tips for seniors living an active, independent lifestyle? Tell us in the comments below.

 



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Tell Congress to Protect Our Medicare Today!

 

Attention seniors! Last week, an amendment was introduced that would dramatically alter our Medicare benefits. Should this amendment pass, costs for our prescriptions might rise and we could even be denied access to certain medicines prescribed by our doctors.

We know that 9 in 10 seniors nationwide are satisfied with their Part D coverage and that millions of seniors like us rely on Medicare for quality, affordable health care, so we must act NOW! Congress will consider this amendment this week. We need to speak out today to make sure our members of Congress know we won’t stand for this harmful proposal—our health is too important.

Make your voice heard and join me in telling the federal government to stop meddling in my Medicare! Sign the letter here: http://www.seniorsspeakout.org/speak-out/protect-seniors-access-to-medicare/
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Goodbye 2016 – Hello 2017

It’s been a great year at Seniors Speak Out. We kicked off 2016 by speaking out to tell members of Congress why Medicare Part B is so important to us. By working together to write letters to Congress, we protected our essential access to health care.

We celebrated National Immunization Awareness Month, National Sarcoma Awareness Month, and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and even wished a Happy Birthday to 1951! As always, we also provided many tips for living a healthy and active senior lifestyle.

In the last few weeks we also shared resources to help with open enrollment and to assess your coverage.

As we say goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017, we want to hear from you! Tell us what you would like to see on the Seniors Speak Out blog in 2017 in the comment section below. As always, thanks for reading!



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Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

The holidays are a wonderful time of year to visit with family and celebrate our many blessings, but with traveling, parties, and cold weather, it can also be a time when many let their healthy lifestyles fall by the wayside. This holiday season, commit to your healthy lifestyle by remembering the following tips:

Stay Healthysnow
Make sure to make healthy choices, such as eating smaller meals throughout the day to prepare for an evening of fun or eating a meal before an event so you are full and not tempted by unhealthy snacks.

Stay Active
With holiday travels or holiday guests, taking time to exercise can become your last priority—but, it is more important now than ever. Consider taking a family walk around the neighborhood or a walking tour of your local holiday lights. If it’s too cold, consider walking a few extra laps at the mall when shopping for those last minute gifts! A little bit of exercise can go a long way.

Stay Hydrated
Drinking water is always important. Eight glasses a day is recommended so think about taking a water bottle with you while you shop for gifts or visit friends.

Stay Rested
The holidays can be a stressful time with guests, shopping, events, and much more. Make sure to rest and relax when you get a chance. Don’t wear yourself out before you get a chance to enjoy time with your family. Remember you can always ask for help!

Stay Well
Unfortunately, the holiday season coincides with cold and flu season. Keep yourself well by getting the necessary vaccines and visiting your doctor at the first sign of illness. During the holidays, it’s easy to ignore symptoms and put off going to the doctor, but remember, early detection is key!

Stay Involved
Spending time with family and friends is the most important part of the holiday season. By staying healthy, active, hydrated, rested, and well this holiday season, you will be able to stay involved in all of the festivities.

Seniors Speak Out wishes you and yours a happy holiday filled with health and happiness!

 

 



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One Day Left of Open Enrollment

One day left! As you probably know, Medicare open enrollment ends December 7 so today and tomorrow are your last chances to change your plan for the upcoming year. Seniors Speak Out has some great resources to help you with the open enrollment process, such as the Fast Facts page, or 5 Tips for Open Enrollment, and of course the More Medicare Resources page.

A few more resources were added to the blog throughout open enrollment this year:

  • If you are changing your plan at the last minute this year or helping someone with their coverage, visit the 2017 Guide to Medicare Open Enrollment for questions to consider when assessing plans, such as preferred pharmacies, medication needs, co-payments and co-insurance fees.
  • A special guest post from longtime senior advocate, Bob Blancato, has open enrollment resources from our partner organization Medicare Today, including a helpful image that is being distributed to senior centers across America.

It’s not too late to assess your health care needs and change your plan for next year! There is one day left of open enrollment, so please look over the resources and posts mentioned above to make sure your health care coverage is meeting your needs!



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National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month. To discuss some of the issues facing family caregivers, Seniors Speak Out’s Nona Bear recently spoke with Gail Gibson Hunt, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving. Below is an abridged version of the interview.

1) Would you tell us a bit about the National Alliance for Caregiving and the way in which the Alliance supports family caregivers?

The National Alliance for Caregiving is a non-profit coalition of nearly 60 organizations who care about caregiving. We work together to create new research, develop innovations, and advocate on behalf of family caregivers here in the United States and internationally. This month, we’re honored to host two programs for family caregivers. The first is the #TalkBrainHealth Conversation Kit, which is a toolkit that families can use to talk with someone who may be having memory problems. The current kit is in English, and we expect a Spanish-language kit to be released in early December.

The second program is about caregiver health and features four caregiving coalitions in San Diego, New York City, Wisconsin, and Arkansas. Each coalition is hosting an educational program on adult immunizations called “Healthy Families #StickTogether.” Caregivers and their loved ones are invited to share their stories online. The events are underway this month and in December.

2) I know the Alliance has done significant research into the impact caregivers have on patients’ health and even the economy as a whole. Could you share some of the findings?

Our best-known work, the Caregiving in the U.S. series created in partnership with AARP, provides many of the baseline statistics available on family caregiving. Many people don’t realize that older caregivers are a significant portion of the 44 million people in America who provide care to another person.

In fact, nearly 1 in 10 family caregivers is 75 years old or older, typically caring for a spouse or for an adult child who has long-term care needs. These older caregivers have typically been providing care for five and a half years, often without paid or unpaid help. This caregiver spends roughly 34 hours each week providing care, and you can imagine how that might impact the caregiver’s own health and wellness needs.

While caregivers can improve lives for patients, there is a cost to the health care system and to our economy. The average caregiver is just under 50 years old and usually still in the workforce. In many cases, caregiving may have an impact on caregivers’ jobs which results in reduced income, and they are managing the financial challenges of caregiving as well as the emotional and physical stressors. It’s important for the government to acknowledge these challenges and to find ways to help, so that as a caregiver ages, they are able to stay in good financial and physical health.

3) November and National Family Caregivers Month is also right in the middle of the Medicare open enrollment season. Could you speak for a bit about how important the Medicare Part D benefit is to beneficiaries who are receiving care and to the well-being of older caregivers, as well? 

Many caregivers struggle to get access to the right medications that can help their loved one manage their health conditions. This is something we saw in the report On Pins & Needles: Caregivers of Adults with Mental Illness. Many families reported that it took more than 10 years to get the right medications to treat the underlying mental health condition. Benefits of Medicare Part D are critical because they serve families such as those in the Pins & Needles report—families who need access to very specific medications that can make a huge difference in creating a better quality of life.

4) Where can caregivers get information and tools to help their family members review and evaluate their Part D coverage?

The Medicare.gov website provides a number of helpful tools for patients and their families, such as the Medicare Plan Finder and a personalized search for Medicare beneficiaries. The National Council on Aging also has a great website called “Medicare Matters,” which includes resources to understand how Medicare and the Part D program, in particular, works for individuals and families. And, of course, your own Seniors Speak Out site has so many materials that are helpful for caregivers.

5) Caregivers are often responsible for helping their families or patients with their medications. Can you recommend resources or tips for caregivers to help with medication management?

Family caregivers should think of the health care team as a partner in the work they are doing to support their loved one. The family physician or primary care doctor who is managing the health of the care recipient can be an excellent person to talk to about how to manage medications. In many instances, a nurse or nurse practitioner can show family caregivers how to manage medications and provide information on special concerns. In addition, pharmacists have special training on medications and can help families. Some pharmacies even have 1-800 numbers that a patient or a family member can call to ask questions. Caregivers should know—it’s always okay to ask for help if you need it.

6) How can communities, neighbors, friends and other family members best thank and support family caregivers? 

Acknowledging the work that a family caregiver does is always a great first step. This means recognizing that the caregiver is a trusted member of the health care team and that they are going above and beyond in caring for their loved one. Respite care, or providing the caregiver with a break, is often a very appreciated gift. This may mean sitting with the patient while the caregiver gets a chance to run errands or take a break. It may also mean arranging for home care services or other community-respite programs. Finally, there’s an advocacy component to this—as a community, even as a nation, we should be thinking about ways to formally acknowledge the ways that families support patients. Great health is a team sport, and we need to find ways to keep the caregiver involved.

7) What else would you like to add about caregiving?

I just want to thank the family caregivers who make our work possible. For more information on family caregiving and the research we’ve done, we encourage people to check out www.caregiving.org and to sign-up for our weekly email blasts on the latest caregiving news.