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It’s Time to Enroll in Medicare

If you’re an individual eligible for Medicare, this is a very important time of year. Open enrollment for Medicare starts on October 15 and continues through December 7. Open enrollment is the time when individuals turning 65 can enroll in Medicare coverage for the first time. It’s also the one time each year in which existing beneficiaries can shop for new coverage and change plans.

It’s important that you take advantage of this annual opportunity to look at your coverage and make sure it’s meeting your current needs. Your health, treatments and prescription medications can change a lot in a year, so reviewing your costs and coverage can help you determine if you want to stay with your current plan or choose a new plan from multiple available options.

This year, assessing your plan needs is more important than ever since the average basic premium for Part D prescription drug coverage is expected to decrease for 2018!

We’re committed to ensuring you have the resources you need to make the best choices for you or a family member. Basic information and videos on Medicare and Part D are available on our website. We also have a handy enrollment fact sheet in English and in Spanish. Additionally, you can find out if you are eligible for payment assistance through the Extra Help program and how to enroll (Spanish).

Seniors Speak Out also has additional resources for seniors and will provide information throughout open enrollment on signing up for coverage. Be sure to check back often to stay in the know.

Happy open enrollment!!

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The Different Parts of Medicare

Are you turning 65 this year? If you were born in 1952, this is an important year for you. Why? Because at age 65, you can now enroll in Medicare!

As I’m sure you already know, Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people age 65 and older. Medicare provides plenty of benefits, so you should be sure to enroll as soon as you are eligible. Don’t forget open enrollment is just around the corner and begins on October 15.

Before then, you might want to learn more about Medicare and what it can offer. For starters, there are four different parts of Medicare: Parts A, B, C and D. Check out our new infographic for information on these health care coverage options!

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Seniors and Oral Hygiene: What You Need to Know

peter-kasprzyk-110926We rely on our pearly whites every day, but did you know one of the top health challenges seniors face is maintaining our oral hygiene? As we age, our teeth and gums become more susceptible to problems that might not have previously surfaced. Luckily, there are steps we can take to protect our teeth for years to come.

Some common oral hygiene problems among seniors are darkened teeth, difficulty chewing, root decay, dry mouth, and gum disease. To prevent these issues and keep teeth and gums healthy, experts recommend brushing teeth twice a day, plus flossing once a day.

If holding a toothbrush is difficult or painful, ask your dentist for options that cater to your specific needs. Solutions like extending your toothbrush with a tongue depressor, or using a soft washcloth or gauze in place of a traditional tooth brush can make frequent brushing a more manageable task.

Dry mouth, one common oral hygiene problem, is best managed through preventative measures. Since it is often caused by medications, be sure to drink extra water or use sugar-free mints or gum to increase saliva production and moisten your mouth.

And did you know that one of the most important things you can do to protect your teeth is to avoid tobacco products? These products will only increase the likelihood of developing tooth decay and gum disease.

If you have dentures, oral hygiene is just as important. Be sure to clean them regularly, as these appliances can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

It’s essential to visit your dentist as often as he or she recommends – typically, this will be every six months, unless you have a specific issue that needs to be addressed with more frequent care.

According to the American Dental Association’s Mouth Healthy recommendations, when you visit your dentist, make sure to mention what medications you are on, as well any dental issues you’ve been dealing with lately.

During the exam itself, your dentist will likely perform a physical check of your face, neck, bite and jaw, along with your gums and teeth, to comprehensively check for any issues. If you have any questions about your treatment options or your dental insurance plan, don’t be afraid to ask your dentist. There are many different options for senior dental coverage that may cater to your needs. Often times, Medicare Advantage covers regular dental visits, but be sure to check your coverage for more information about your plan.

 



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It’s National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month!

Guest post by Jane MacNeil, President of Turn The Towns Teal®

What do you think of when you see the color teal? The ocean? Or is it your favorite crayon from childhood? Our national campaign called Turn The Towns Teal® is trying to change that.

Our founder (and my sister-in-law) Gail MacNeil was shopping at the supermarket one day when she noticed a small pink ribbon printed on the package of her English muffins. Gail immediately recognized the ribbon – a popular method of bringing awareness to breast cancer – and realized there was little awareness of another prominent cancer among women: ovarian cancer.

Inspired by her own ten-year battle with ovarian cancer, Gail immediately began to lay the foundation of Turn The Towns Teal® and set forth certain guidelines for the campaign, including the requirement that biodegradable teal ribbons be put up in the beginning of September to promote awareness of this particular cancer. She officially started the campaign in 2007, at which time 40 towns in New Jersey participated. By 2015, we had registrants in all 50 states as well as in Canada and Bermuda.

Today, our campaign is being carried out by my family and a group of extremely dedicated volunteers. Volunteers tie our biodegradable teal ribbons (made in the USA!) in their towns, at their businesses, places of worship, and neighborhoods and private residences. They also distribute our symptom cards to increase awareness of the subtle symptoms and risk factors of ovarian cancer.

Because there is NO conclusive early detection test for this cancer and a pap test does not detect ovarian cancer, early detection is critical. Some of the symptoms we recommend watching for are:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Vague but persistent gastrointestinal upsets such as gas, nausea, or indigestion
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
  • Unexplained changes in bowel habits
  • Unexplained weight gain/loss
  • Ongoing unusual fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Menstrual changes
  • Pain during intimacy

If these symptoms persist for 10 days to 2 weeks, consult your gynecologist, physician or gynecological oncologist. As seniors, it is important to be an advocate for your own health. Gail’s gynecologist dismissed her classic symptoms on three separate occasions. When she was eventually diagnosed, she was in the very late stages of the disease and unfortunately passed away in 2008.

While every woman is at risk for ovarian cancer, the good news is, if diagnosed early the success rate is 90-95 percent. Remember: The earlier the diagnosis the better the prognosis.

Want to get involved with Turn The Towns Teal®? Visit our website for more information. We’ll start registration for our 2018 campaign on May 8, World Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day!

Jane MacNeil is President of Turn The Towns Teal®, a national campaign to promote awareness of ovarian cancer, its subtle symptoms and risk factors.



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Happy National Grandparents Day!

 

This Sunday is National Grandparents Day! Contrary to popular belief, this holiday was not invented by the greeting card industry. Grandparents Day was created thanks to the work of one tireless advocate named Marian McQuade. In 1970, Marian launched an effort to recognize grandparents in her home state of West Virginia, and later across the entire United States. Eventually, in 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed an official proclamation declaring the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day. As a mother of 15 children and grandmother to 43 grandchildren, Marian certainly qualifies as an expert in grandparenting.

If you ask any grandparent about their grandchildren, you will see their face light up and their voices fill with excitement. Though many describe the experience as being twice the fun and half the work, it is important to remember that in addition to being fun, being a grandparent is vitally important to all the generations of the family.

In the United States, almost 3 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, and many more contribute significantly with finances and time to raising younger generations. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

A grandparent is a living embodiment of family history – both good and bad, and funny and sad. What was mom like in second grade? Did dad get into trouble when he was a little boy? What were you doing when Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon? Only a grandparent can fully answer those questions, and what a great gift that is.

If you haven’t already done so, this National Grandparents Day, I encourage you to take the time to jot down a few stories you want to pass on to future generations.

To all my fellow grandparents, I hope you take the time today to appreciate and be appreciated for the unique gift of being a grandparent.



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National Immunization Month

Fall is right around the corner, which means many kids are headed back to school. For me, the end of summer invokes memories of fresh school supplies, a new sweater or two, and sometimes a trip to the doctor for dreaded shots. Though I’ve long-since graduated from school, this is a good time of year to remember that getting the appropriate vaccinations is important and not limited to children.

This August, in honor of National Immunization Awareness Month, we’re sharing how important it is for seniors to take control of our own health by staying up to date on our vaccines. For those of us who have grandchildren, it is even more critical, as we don’t want to put our young loved ones at risk for an illness that could’ve been prevented by immunization.

By remaining diligent about necessary vaccinations, we can work together to help prevent infectious diseases. Doing so should be easy since some of the most commonly needed vaccines are covered under Medicare Part B and Part D. As always, remember to consult your doctor if you have any questions about what is included in your coverage or what vaccine is appropriate for your needs. As a starting point, be sure to read on and check out our list of the CDC’s recommended vaccinations for seniors who are 65 years old and up.

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The Results Are In: Seniors Are Satisfied with Medicare Part D Coverage!

If you feel fortunate to have reliable access to medications through Medicare, you’re not alone! Our partners at Medicare Today have released the results of their annual national survey. According to the latest Senior Satisfaction Survey, nearly 9 in 10 seniors are satisfied with their prescription drug coverage. In addition to overall satisfaction, the survey showed that 93 percent of seniors find their plan convenient to use, 84 percent think it’s a good value and 86 percent said their plan works well.

Medicare Today’s newest video provides an overview of the survey results and explains how Part D’s structure helps preserve the benefits that matter most to beneficiaries like you and me:

For more information on the survey results, read more from Medicare Today below. Also, make sure to visit their website and follow @MedicareToday on Twitter to stay updated.

 

New National Survey: Nearly 9 in 10 Seniors Satisfied with Medicare Part D

 Policymakers Weighing Changes to Prescription Drug Program Must Keep in Mind Seniors’ Approval of Part D’s Choices, Value & Convenience, Medicare Today Chair Said

 WASHINGTON – More than a decade after its initial launch, the Medicare Part D prescription drug program remains overwhelmingly popular with American seniors, according to Medicare Today’s annual Senior Satisfaction Survey.  The nationwide survey of approximately 2,000 seniors conducted by Morning Consult found that 87 percent are satisfied with their Part D coverage and 90 percent believe their prescription drug costs would be much higher if they didn’t have prescription drug coverage through Part D.

“This survey shows the program continues to work extremely well,” said Mary R. Grealy, chair of Medicare Today and president of the Healthcare Leadership Council, a coalition of chief executives from all sectors of American health care. “Part D provides affordable access to prescription medications for seniors and individuals with disabilities, and beneficiaries are satisfied with the choices the program offers. They understand the great value it adds to their lives.”

Additional key findings in the survey include:

  • 84 percent of seniors believe their plan is a good value
  • 93 percent of seniors reported that their plan is convenient to use
  • 86 percent said their plan works well and without hassle
  • 83 percent reported it is important to them to have a variety of plans from which to compare and choose

At a time of uncertainty around healthcare issues, with some politicians proposing significant changes to the Part D structure, Ms. Grealy stressed the importance of not disrupting a program that works well and provides such high value to seniors.

“Now more than ever, it is critical that Part D be protected against needless and potentially damaging changes that would lead to uncertainty and threaten to undermine a program on which seniors depend so strongly” said Ms. Grealy.

For more information and full survey results, please visit Medicare Today’s website: www.medicaretoday.org

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About the Survey

Morning Consult conducted a national survey of 1944 adults who are 65 and older and have prescription drug coverage. The interviews were conducted from June 18 – July 6, 2017. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.

About Medicare Today

Medicare Today is a coalition of national and local organizations representing seniors, health care providers, employers, patients and consumer groups focused on providing beneficiaries with reliable information on the Medicare program and its benefits. Medicare Today was created by the Healthcare Leadership Council, an alliance of chief executives of the nation’s leading healthcare companies and organizations from all health sectors.



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The Perfect Summer Checklist

sea-nature-sunny-summerIf you are like many people, summer is your favorite time of the year. Gardening, golfing, playing outdoor tennis, swimming at the beach, or just enjoying the extra hours of daylight are what we’ve been waiting to do all winter long.

But even though summer is the perfect season for so many wonderful activities, remember to take a few extra minutes to get yourself ready to enjoy them safely and comfortably.

Summer checklist:

Sunscreen: Of course, we need to wear it all year round but the greater intensity of summer sun and heat means we need to reapply sunscreen frequently while we are out. Even “all day” products don’t always protect you the entire time you are outdoors, especially if you are in the water or working up a healthy sweat.

One great tip is to keep sunscreen in a convenient place in your car where it’s handy and visible. Then it’s at-the-ready when the sun is beaming down through the window or in case you’ve forgotten to apply before you left home.

Remember that some medicines can make your skin more sensitive to light. Check with your pharmacy or provider’s office if you have questions about anything you take.

Hydration: I know, I know… we hear this over and over but it bears repeating. Keep water with you every time you exercise or engage in an outdoor activity, even if it’s only a short walk.

And like the sunscreen, keep a few bottles of water in your car—you never know when summer beach traffic, a car problem, or some other event may intervene.

Insect Repellent: You name it, summer has them whether they are flying, crawling, or dropping down from trees.

Outdoor activities in the late afternoon and evening, of course, make you a prime target for mosquitoes.  But they are by no means the only problem. Gardeners and hikers should especially take note that the tick population in several states is at an all-time high this year. Be sure to check yourself when you come in, especially if you live in a high infestation area.

There are good repellent sprays and surprisingly good (though a bit pricey) repellent clothing—though not all of the garments work for every activity or sport.

Grandkids: One of life’s greatest joys is doing almost any activity with grands and summer gives us so many more opportunities!  Don’t forget to check that your sunscreen and first aid supplies are kid-friendly and that your car has an extra supply of drinks.



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Men’s Health Month & The End of Prostate Cancer

Guest post by Drew Saelens, Vice President of Government Relations & Patient Advocacy at ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer

Though June represents the beginning of summer, it is equally important to remember June is Men’s Health Month. This month is naturally a great opportunity for Seniors Speak Out to collaborate with ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer to provide some helpful suggestions for how seniors can truly make this summer the healthiest one yet.

Get Educated!

Take the time to learn about how preventable some men’s health problems are and how important early detection can be. While diving into a complicated topic like cancer could be overwhelming, there are a few important facts to know.

ZERO is working to end prostate cancer, a disease that impacts 1 in 8 American men during their lifetime. In fact, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States after skin cancer. For seniors, it is especially important to be aware of this disease, as about 6 in 10 cases diagnosed are for men aged 65 or older.

 

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Source: zerocancer.org

Prostate cancer begins in the prostate, which is a walnut-shaped gland in the male reproductive system. The prostate surrounds the urethra and makes the fluid to nourish and protect sperm cells. Unfortunately, there are no outward signs or symptoms of early prostate cancer, so it is very important to regularly visit your doctor for a screening test. ZERO recommends that men get an initial baseline Prostate Specific Antigen Test (PSA) at age 45. Once this test is completed, it becomes easier for older men to watch for any irregularities by monitoring PSA levels with a doctor. The good news is, if caught early, prostate cancer has a 99 percent survival rate.

Not at risk for prostate cancer? There’s still important steps you can take as a friend, daughter, mother, or partner. Encourage the men in your life to bring up preventive care and the PSA test with their doctor, especially once they turn 45. It can be a lifesaving conversation.

Take Action!

I’ve worked in health care for 15 years. I’ve been a consultant, a fundraiser, and an advocate. Over the years, I’ve learned the true value of speaking out to create meaningful change. Seniors should not underestimate their ability to make an impact! If there is an issue that you’re passionate about, do not hesitate to contact policymakers both in Washington, D.C., and in your local communities. It is important to make your voice heard, especially on issues that directly impact your health. Here are a few easy ways you can take action in ZERO’s fight to end prostate cancer:

Together, we can affect meaningful policy changes that contribute to our goal for Generation ZERO: the first generation of men free from prostate cancer.

 

Drew Saelens is Vice President of Government Relations & Patient Advocacy at ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. ZERO is the leading national nonprofit with the mission to end prostate cancer by advancing research, improving the lives of men and families, and inspiring action.



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Get the Facts About Senior Malnutrition

Good nutrition is essential to maintaining health and well-being, but many seniors in the United States are at risk for malnutrition. In fact, senior malnutrition costs the United States $51.3 billion per year.

Senior malnutrition is caused by a variety of factors, including health, income and socialization levels. For seniors who suffer from depression, dementia, dental issues or various chronic illnesses, appetite loss can contribute to malnutrition. And, living on a limited income might discourage some seniors from buying nutrient-rich groceries. Also, reduced socialization and living alone can make eating wholesome meals harder when you are cooking for only one. To spot senior malnutrition, friends, caregivers and family members should observe eating habits and watch for unusual weight loss.

It is important to remember that we can prevent malnutrition by eating nutrient-rich foods. To help, you can consult your physician on your dietary needs and use senior nutrition programs. Chronic health conditions may be prevented, delayed or managed through these nutrition services and programs. The Administration for Community Living’s Older Americans Act congregate and home-delivered meals programs provide healthy meals in senior centers and deliver meals to homebound older adults. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and the Nutrition Services Incentive Program are also great resources. You can find local nutrition programs via the Eldercare Locator.

One way to eat nutrient-rich foods inexpensively is to check weekly circulators at the front of the grocery store to see what’s on special and plan meals accordingly. Remember that frozen produce has the same nutrient values as fresh produce and can often be found on sale. You can also use coupons on some items. To help encourage healthy eating, you can also make some meals a social event. This makes dinner a bit more enjoyable, and friends can help cook for one another. Some great ways to do this are to throw a potluck dinner party or invite family over for a picnic.

By using these tips, we can work together to help prevent malnutrition. Read on to view our infographic on senior malnutrition and share it with a friend!

Bob Blancato is the National Coordinator for the Defeat Malnutrition Today Coalition

Senior Malnutrition Infographic