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National Blood Donor Month

Was one of your resolutions for the New Year to volunteer or help others more? Well, one way to get a head start on this resolution is by becoming a blood donor. January is National Blood Donor Month, and donating blood is an easy way to make an impact and help save lives. It is actually a common misconception that seniors shouldn’t or can’t donate blood. According to the American Red Cross, the general requirements for blood and platelet donors are as follows:

  • The donor must be in good general health and feeling well
  • The donor must be at least 17 years old in most states, or 16 years old with parental consent if allowed by state law
  • The donor must weigh at least 110 pounds

Other aspects of a donor’s health history are evaluated before a donation can occur, and each donor receives a “mini physical” measuring temperature, pulse, blood pressure and hemoglobin. As seniors, we shouldn’t be discouraged from donating blood if we fit the above criteria. In fact, if you’re able, I would encourage you all to donate in order to help save a life (or two)! After all, the American Red Cross estimates that one donation can potentially help more than one patient, and every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood.

If you’re looking to make an impact, check out the American Red Cross’ website, which has helpful information on the blood donation process and where to find local blood drives. Also, be sure to remember to bring a copy of your medication list with you when you go, which is something you should always have in your wallet anyway!

Lastly, don’t forget that blood platelets are also needed. If you would like to consider this type of donation or learn more about it, most blood centers (and the Red Cross) can answer your questions. Be sure to share this information with other seniors. Maybe you can even go donate blood or platelets together!



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My New Year’s Resolution List for Congress

Bob Blancato is the Executive Director of  National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP)

I believe New Year’s resolution lists can be extremely helpful. Making a list of resolutions allows you to set goals for the upcoming year to better yourself and those around you. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment when we’re able to check something off the list!

Likewise, it is important that Congress make a resolution list for 2018 to improve our nation and the lives of others. For those in government, we’ve already got a few ideas about what their goals should be in 2018. Check it out below!

  1. Repeal IPAB – IPAB was established by the Affordable Care Act to decrease Medicare spending if growth exceeds a certain target. If this happens, a board of 15 unelected officials are given a broad-range of authority to make decisions about cuts to Medicare spending. Such arbitrary cuts to Medicare are unacceptable, especially considering that these bureaucrats are unelected and in no way accountable to voters.

Medicare is extremely valuable to seniors like us who depend on the program for access to the medicine and health care services we need. But IPAB threatens to come between us and our doctors by making potentially drastic cuts to our Medicare. In fact, IPAB isn’t even required to maintain quality health care when making these cuts! In 2018, Congress should quickly repeal IPAB and ensure that seniors continue to have access to our doctors and coverage.

  1. Celebrate 15 years of Part D – This year marks the 15th anniversary of passage of this federal program which enjoys satisfaction ratings of nearly 90 percent by older adults, has come in under expected costs, maintained steady premiums, and improved the quality of life for seniors. Competition in the Part D marketplace has been one of the keys to its success, and this has allowed the program to provide access to affordable drug coverage while keeping costs low for older adults. The Part D program, which became law in 2003, needs to continue as it was adopted and Congress must protect it from changes that could undermine its structure and success.
  1. Protect U.S. consumers against counterfeit, substandard or unsafe medicines – Did you know in low- and middle-income countries 1 in 10 medical products is counterfeit? While it is important to ensure Americans have unfettered access to medications, it is equally as important to regulate the safety of them. Proposals to allow the importation of medicines, circumventing the robust safety standards we have in place here in the United States, could expose seniors to counterfeit or unsafe products. Though many argue importation of medicines could substantially reduce costs, the life-threatening consequences outweigh the benefits. In fact, the four former Food and Drug Administration commissioners sent a letter to members of Congress in opposition to drug importation proposals. Congress should oppose any proposals to allow drug importation.

What do you want to see on the government’s to-do list this year? Tell us in the comment section below.

 

 



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Tell Your Senators: Repeal IPAB to Protect Access to Medicare

There are only a few weeks left in December, which means Congress is working quickly to pass a number of resolutions before year’s end. But before they can return home for the holidays, they must protect seniors and vote to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

If you’re a new reader, you might not know that your access to quality health care is currently under threat by IPAB. IPAB was established by the Affordable Care Act to decrease Medicare spending if growth exceeds a certain target. If this happens, a board of 15 unelected officials are given a broad-range of authority to make decisions about mandatory cuts to Medicare spending. Such arbitrary cuts to Medicare are unacceptable, especially considering that these bureaucrats are unelected and in no way accountable to voters.

Medicare is extremely important to seniors like us who depend on the program for access to the medicine and health care services we need. But IPAB threatens to come between us and our doctors by making potentially drastic cuts to our Medicare. In fact, IPAB isn’t even required to maintain quality health care when making these cuts! Now is the time to repeal IPAB and ensure that seniors have unfettered access to our doctors and coverage.

Time is running out! The House of Representatives has already acted to protect our Medicare and we urge those in the Senate to follow suit. Seniors must join together to stand up for Medicare. Let’s speak out and tell our Senators to repeal IPAB immediately before it harms seniors like us. To write your Senators, click here.



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Assess Your Health This Holiday Season

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Medicare open enrollment has arrived and so has the holiday season! For those of us who are 65 and older, this means it’s time to examine our current coverage and determine if it still meets our individual needs.

Each year, Medicare users are given the opportunity to review and alter their Medicare Part D plan from October 15th to December 7th. Today, we’re sharing a few tips to make the process of assessing your coverage much easier. Feel free to use these tips over the Thanksgiving holiday period to discuss Medicare options with your family and loved ones. After all, Thanksgiving is National Family History Day.

Check Your Mail

You should have received an “annual notice of change” or “evidence of benefits” letter from your insurer. This letter is important to review, because it highlights the cost and benefit changes in store for 2018.

Know Your Medications

The medications you need may vary each year, so it’s essential to have a detailed list of all your current medications before you assess your Part D coverage. Be sure to check to make sure your current medications are covered, as well as any new medications you might now be prescribed.

Review All Costs

Be sure to calculate other costs associated with health care coverage besides monthly premiums, like out-of-pocket cost sharing such as copays or coinsurance. Study these factors to determine if they fit within your budget.

Check Approved Pharmacies

Make sure your preferred pharmacy is included in your Part D coverage by checking 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? This system shows how they are performing on specific features, such as customer service and patient safety. Don’t forget to check how your plan compares to others.

Look for Other Options

After you assess your plan, examine other options to see if there is a better fit for your individual needs. Use this Medicare Plan Finder to explore your options and compare plans here. Additionally, you can always call 1-800-Medicare 24/7, visit www.medicare.gov or call your Area Agency on Aging, which offers appointments with a Medicare information expert (SHIIP). If you need help finding contact information on your Area Agency, or if you need information on any service programs or resources, feel free to call the national Eldercare Information number at 800-677-1116.



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Honoring Those Who Served

November 11th is a historic day throughout the world because it marks the official end of World War I, but in the United States, it takes on even more significance because it is the day we officially honor those who have served our country.

How did Veterans Day come about?

On November 11, 1918, an armistice was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in WWI. Twenty years later, Armistice Day was declared a Federal holiday. After the end of WWII, various communities began celebrating Veterans Day on November 11 and, in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, signed legislation officially changing the name to Veterans Day and designating it as a time to honor those who have served in our nation’s armed forces.

To those of you who are veterans, we say a heartfelt thanks for the sacrifices you and your family have made and for all that you have done to protect our freedom and safety.

To everyone else, we hope you remember to reach out to mark this holiday by extending thanks to the more than 20 million living veterans in the United States.

It is only when we carry on the traditions in history of our country that we preserve them. This is one that we all have a duty to maintain. I hope you will have a chance to see a parade, hear a concert, watch a patriotic movie, or say thanks to the men and women who have given so much.

We would love to hear about who you are honoring today, so feel free to comment on our most recent Facebook post. As always, we thank you for being a part of our community, and we encourage you take a few moments to celebrate those who have demonstrated immense sacrifice and a love of our country.



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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!

new-piktochart_22778752



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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.

 

900x400-EDU-2017-BirthToDeath

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