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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.



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The Holidays Are a Great Time to Think About Your Health

Medicare open enrollment is here again until December 7.

It is an important opportunity to make sure that your Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage or Medicare Advantage Plan still meets your needs, as well as a chance to explore other options. But, as you go through this process, be sure to take a few extra minutes to review and update your health information, as well.

Do you have an up-to-date list of all the medicines you take? Are the dosages written down also? What about a list of the vitamins or other supplements you take? Do you regularly use any over-the-counter (OTC) medicines like low dose aspirin? They need to be noted, too. So often, people forget to include supplements or OTCs when asked about medicines. Make sure your list is complete.

Next, you should have the names and contact information for all the doctors or other providers you see. Be sure to include why you see them or what they are treating you for.

Yes, it takes a little bit of time to get all of these facts and numbers up-to-date, but having them ready is a real convenience when you visit a new doctor and have to fill out forms, or if you are faced with an emergency and need information quickly. And you will need that list of medicines and dosages in order to review your prescription plan.

When Medicare Part D was first passed more than a decade ago, beneficiaries were encouraged to use the Thanksgiving holiday period—when families were likely to be together—to review their Medicare options and discuss them with their loved ones. And that idea is still an excellent one. But you don’t have to stop there!

Every person in your family, regardless of their age, should have a list of their doctors, any conditions they have, and any medicines. Everyone! So Thanksgiving is also a perfect time to urge your family to follow your good example!

Finally, don’t forget that the Seniors Speak Out website has many useful tools to help you with open enrollment! Be sure to check them out and share with your friends.



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Open Enrollment Essentials from Medicare Today

As you likely know, Medicare open enrollment is currently underway. Open enrollment is your chance to shop around the Medicare marketplace, comparing the features of different Part D plans and deciding whether to switch policies based on your needs. These plans provide seniors with affordable access to prescription drugs, which help keep them healthy.

Surveys have shown that nine out of ten beneficiaries are consistently happy with their coverage. This is due largely in part to reliably affordable plans. Monthly premiums for Part D have been stable for years—around $34. Seniors with prescription needs may want to take advantage of these plans by participating in open enrollment before the deadline on December 7, 2016.

When participating, seniors should seek out resources to help them navigate the process. In addition to the many helpful pages on this website, Seniors Speak Out’s partner organization, Medicare Today, has useful information for older adults and caregivers. They created the image below to help guide your open enrollment process. The steps provided will help you evaluate your Part D prescription drug plan. You can visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) when you are ready to change your plan. Don’t forget to visit the Seniors Speak Out Fast Facts page for more information.

Look for this image at a local senior center to help you with open enrollment this year and remember: this is the only time of year to make changes to your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. Make sure you’re covered today for the care you may need tomorrow.

 

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Thank you to our Veterans!

Today, we at Seniors Speak Out join with the rest of our country to honor our nation’s veterans. Veterans Day is a special time to recognize the men and women who have served our nation bravely in the armed forces. We would also like to extend a special greeting to those veterans who are also seniors! We hope that you find Seniors Speak Out a useful resource for you and your family and we are honored that you visit our website.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, almost 50 percent of our nation’s 21.8 million veterans are over age 65.  Seniors Speak Out’s website is filled with useful information for our senior veterans.  We hope you will use the information on our site and share your thoughts, questions and concerns with us on a regular basis.

Whether you live in a major city or small town, if you are a veteran, we hope that the observance of this day brings you many expressions of the gratitude and respect that is in the hearts of your family, friends and neighbors. Seniors Speak Out would like to encourage all our readers and followers to celebrate this day. Please make sure to reflect on the service of our brave men and women in uniform and thank a veteran for their service.

If you (or someone you know) are a veteran, share your story of service in the comments section below. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard—we salute you!



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Helping Hand: Tips for Open Enrollment

With Medicare open enrollment upon us, it’s important that those of us 65 and older take the time to look at our current coverage and determine if it still meets our individual needs. Assessing our health plan is especially essential when it comes to our Medicare coverage. Each year, Medicare users are given the opportunity to alter their Medicare Part D plan from October 15th to December 7th. This is the only time we can make changes to our Part D coverage for the upcoming year – given the fact that your medicines may change from year-to-year this is especially important. Use these tips to assess your current prescription drug coverage and determine if it meets your needs!

Know Your Current Medications

Medications change often, and it’s important to have a full list of all of your current medications before you assess your Part D coverage. Making sure your current medications are covered is a great place to start when determining if your plan meets your health care needs.

Review All Costs

Often times when we consider our health care costs, we only consider our monthly premiums. Don’t forget that there are other costs associated with health care coverage, such as out-of-pocket cost sharing like copays or coinsurance. Check these factors to determine if they fit within your budget.

Check Approved Pharmacies

Most of us have a favorite pharmacy—make sure it’s included in your Part D coverage. To do so, check if your pharmacy is preferred under your plan’s network. This can help lower out-of-pocket costs.

Assess Plan Ratings

Did you know Part D plans are assessed by a five-star rating system? You can see how they are performing on specific features, such as customer service and patient safety. Be sure to check how your plan stacks up.

Look for Other Options

After you assess your plan, look into other options to see if there is a better fit for your personal needs. Use this Medicare Plan Finder to explore your options and compare plans here.

If you have questions, visit your local Area Agency on Aging for assistance or visit our resource page. You’re not alone in your quest to get the best health care coverage!