Every year, during open enrollment, you have the opportunity to review and make changes to your current Medicare coverage.

Even if you have been with the same insurance plan for a long time, what you pay and what coverage you have can change. As you grow older, your medical needs may change, and your current plan may not be right for you.

Here are some reasons to review your coverage:

  • You notice that you are paying more for your prescriptions.
  • You are now wintering in Florida or spending your summers up in Maine.
  • Your income has dropped.
  • You have a new diagnosis of a chronic condition.
  • You are in a Medicare Advantage plan and your doctor is no longer in network.
  • Changes to your former employer’s retiree health benefits
  • You are very healthy, and only see a doctor infrequently
  • Your plan has changed or removed some benefits.

 

Contacting your local senior center and to schedule an appointment with a SHINE (Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone) counselor. These highly trained volunteers can review your current coverage with you and help you evaluate whether it still meets your needs. If not, they will review your options.  SHINE offers free, unbiased health insurance information and counseling to people with Medicare and their caregivers.  Any changes you make will become effective on January1, 2024.

 

Common Medicare mistakes we see:

Thinking that an AARP membership card provides you with prescription coverage under Medicare Part D.

Not signing up for Medicare Part B. You get Part A automatically. By not signing up for Medicare Part B in a timely manner, you may delay coverage and need to pay a late enrollment penalty for the rest of your life.

Thinking that Medicare Advantage plans cove prescriptions in  the “donut hole”

Thinking you earn too much to get help paying for prescriptions. You can earn $70,000 as an individual and $98,000 as a couple and be eligible for the Massachusetts sponsored prescription drug program for older adults and people with disabilities.

The Care Managers of JFS Allies in Aging can answer your questions about Medicare help you understand your health insurance needs so you can make wise decisions during this year’s open enrollment period.

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As summer approaches, it is important to be prepared for the heat, especially older adults. With higher temperatures and longer days, the risk of heat-related illness and dehydration increases.

Here are some tips to stay safe, comfortable and active during the summer months:

 

  1. Drink water! Avoid alcohol and caffeine as these can lead to dehydration. Carry a water bottle with you and take frequent sips throughout the day.
  2. Dress for the weather! Light colors and loose-fitting clothing is the way to go. A hat with a wide brim can protect your face and neck from the sun’s strong rays.
  3. Plan your outside time before 11 and after 3. Avoid the strongest sun in the middle of the day.
  4. Keep your home cool: Air conditioning is no longer a luxury. Use fans to circulate air and keep the temperatures cooler. Close your curtains or blinds during the day to block the sun’s rays.
  5. Careful! Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting. Heat stroke can increase body temperature, cause confusion, seizures or even loss of consciousness. If you or loved one experience these symptoms, Get help immediately.

 

By following these tips, older adults can enjoy the summer months while staying safe and healthy.

If you are concerned about yourself or your loved one, call the experts at Allies in Aging, JFS Elder Care Solutions. We can help you and your loved ones stay safe this summer and throughout the year.

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Dear Ally,

Before COVID, my mother had many friends, sang in the choir and volunteered at the local school. Now she mainly is at home, the school no longer welcomes volunteers, and the choir is not meeting in person. Should I be worried?

Wondering

Dear Wondering,

Older adults are at higher risk for social isolation and loneliness due to a number of factors, including physical and cognitive declines, loss of loved ones, and changes in social roles and support systems, more noticeable since March 2020.

Research has shown that social isolation and loneliness can lead to a range of negative health outcomes in older adults, including:

  • Higher rates of mortality and morbidity
  • Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and hypertension
  • Decreased immune function
  • Increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia
  • Increased risk of depression and anxiety
  • Increased risk of falls and accidents

Someone can be socially isolated without feeling lonely, and vice versa. For example, an older adult who lives alone but has a rich inner life and strong connections with friends and family may not feel lonely, even though they are technically socially isolated. On the other hand, an older adult who lives with others but lacks meaningful social connections and support may feel lonely, even though they are not socially isolated.

It is important for older adults to have social connections and a sense of community in order to maintain good health. There are many ways that older adults can stay connected and engaged.

It is also important for friends and family to check in on older adults who may be at risk of social isolation and loneliness and to offer support and assistance as needed.  Be curious! You can call your mom and ask her how she feels about these changes in her social life. Encourage her to find other volunteer activities that are open like JFS virtual visitors or patient navigator.

Ally

 

If you need help caring for an aging loved one, contact us today to learn how JFS Allies in Aging can help your loved one live better, longer.

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Dear Ally, 

What is the difference between social isolation and loneliness, and why is it important? 

Wondering and Alone 

___________

Dear Wondering and Alone, 

During the COVID lockdown we were physically separate from others We could count on one hand the number of social contacts we had in any given week, often zero and mostly brief and fleeting. Loneliness is a feeling, a perception of being alone. 

What we have learned: 

  • People experiencing loneliness and/or social isolation have a greater risk of developing heart disease or stroke. They have a higher rate of mortality and experience more depression and anxiety. 
  • In 2020 56% of older adults reported feeling isolated from others compared to a poll taken in 2018-more than double! 
  • Research shows remaining socially engaged improves quality of life and may even live longer. They have better emotional well-being and mental health.  Their health and physical fitness improve. They are more likely to have a sense of purpose and live longer. 

What does it mean to be socially engaged? 

  • Volunteering 
  • Creative art activities 
  • Lifelong learning 
  • Health and Wellness activities 
  • Knowing how to use the internet and smart phones 
  • Being involved in the community 

Now that you are vaxed and double boosted, have you begun to venture out again? Many older adults are still nervous about going out and getting COVID. 2022 is not 2020. We now have plenty of PPE, vaccines and treatments.  We are transitioning from a pandemic to learning how to live with a disease that is endemic, part of us, just like the flu or any other infectious disease.  Every person needs to decide for themselves which risks they are willing to take. It is risky to ride in a car, eat in a restaurant, or move furniture-but these are all things that most of us do.  

Things are reopening and more and more opportunities to socialize face-to-face are happening. Wear your mask, (I wear an N-95 whenever I go out) and put yourself out in the world.  If you need help re-entering your life, help with technology; want to make a plan to become stronger and more physically active, contact us-JFS Allies in Aging Care Management team. We can help you make an aging life plan to live longer and happier in this not quite post-COVID world. 

Ally 

 (With input from JFS Elder Care Solutions expert care managers Eileen, Jennifer, Laila and Malka) 

Contact us and get support today! 

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Kindness and Caregiving 

What does kindness have to do with caregiving? Caregiving is a relationship between two people, both with their own feelings, thoughts and needs. Because of the demands of caregiving, a caregiver often loses sight of the relationship, and caregiving becomes a series of tasks to be accomplished, boxes to be checked on a to-do list. Unlike other relationships in our lives, the relationship between a caregiver and their loved one often lacks reciprocity. A caregiver has the experience of giving, giving, giving, doing, doing, doing without acknowledgement or thanks. Where does kindness come in? 

Caregiving demands kindness and radical empathy… Try to imagine that you have dementia, and in your confusion, you don’t know where you are. The familiar house you have lived in for decades appears strange to you, and you want to go home. You are panicked. Only your long-term memory is intact, and you long for your old room in the house you grew up in. As caregivers, our natural impulse is to say, “Honey, we are home. This is our house that we have lived in since 1986! This is not convincing to a person with dementia. If you came upon a stranger who told you they were lost, and wanted to go home, how would you react? Kindly, with reassurance. You might put your arm around them and tell them that you will help them get home or you might say that you will stay with them and not leave them alone. To respond with kindness and patience each time you are asked “When are we going to go home?” as if this is the first time you are hearing this question. 

There is nothing worse than feeling alone in a marriage. Because of this lack of reciprocity, a caregiver often feels alone, abandoned by their spouse, even though they know if is the illness that is the cause. As friends, neighbors, and family we are called upon to be kind. Anything we can do alleviate the social isolation of a caregiver is welcome. A card, sending flowers on a birthday or holiday, dropping off a meal, shoveling a walk, picking up some groceries, a gift card for house cleaning, taking the dog for a walk, giving a gift of respite, whether it is you offering to spend time with their loved one with dementia or providing an aid for a few hours these random acts of kindness and 10’s of others, can make a huge difference in the life of a caregiver. 

Kindness begets kindness. The kinder you can be to a caregiver, the kinder they will be to their loved one. Caregiving doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Let us create a community of kindness, one act of kindness at a time. If you want more information on how to support the caregivers in your life, contact Allies in Aging 508-808-3263.

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AARP.org 

It can be challenging to follow the CDC’s recommendations that encourage older adults to limit their travel and close interactions with other people as much as possible. To many, this translates into staying at home for the duration. For those who were starting to feel as if it was safe to venture out again, the surging infection rates have forced many back into isolation, deepening feelings of loneliness and depression. 

Maintaining social connections is key to maintaining health and well-being. Elder care expert and Director of Allies in Aging JFS Elder Care Solutions Malka Young suggests, instead of social distancing, think physical distancing + social connection. She was recently quoted in the aforementioned AARP blog, a national organization that advocates for older adults. 

During World War II the planting of victory gardens, and the rationing of gas, food, and clothing connected Americans of all ages, classes, and cultures in a shared effort to save these precious resources for soldiers. Now, mask wearing, sheltering in place, washing our hands frequently, and limiting the spread of the virus allows us to connect to neighbors, friends and family no matter where they are. 

Here are 10 actions that you can do every day to keep your spirits up: Call someone* (keep a list of family, friends, neighbors by your phone) 

    1. Call someone** (keep a list of family, friends, neighbors by your phone) 
    2. Move your body (CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly) 
    3. Straighten up one area in your home 
    4. Eat something healthy and stay hydrated 
    5. Get outside 
    6. Get a good night’s sleep 
    7. Limit how much news you listen to (15 minutes 2x/day is more than enough!) 
    8. Name one thing you are grateful for 
    9. Learn something new 
    10. Do something creative (listen to music, bake, make something, etc.) 

**At Call2Talk 508-532-2255 someone is available to listen 24 hours/day/7 days/week. 

For more ideas, read AARP’s article 6 Ways to Overcome Social Isolation During Another COVID Winter. 

Are you or a loved one struggling with social isolation due to the pandemic? Are you worried about managing the coming months amidst the ongoing COVID-19 crisis? Contact Malka Young to learn how a Geriatric Care Manager can assess your concerns, arrange services and provide critical support to ensure that you or your loved ones are safe and cared for during the coming months. 

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November is National Family Caregivers Month.  Why do we need a special month to recognize and appreciate family caregivers?

Family Caregivers are the invisible link in our health care system.

Christine is an 80-year-old retired lawyer. She had a stroke last year and is struggling to regain her independence. She lives alone in a beautiful apartment that she and her husband decorated with mementoes from their years of travelling together. He died while she was in the hospital and their daughter lives on the other side of the country caring for a grandchild with special needs. She is now home with 24-hour care.  There is no one person who cares about her, who can be available 24 hours a day who can intervene and be her advocate. She can outsource some of the discrete tasks a family caregiver does, but it is difficult if not impossible to replace a family caregiver who loves and cares about the person needing care and has a holistic understanding of who they are and what they need. 

It is not easy being a family caregiver.  It usually happens gradually. If one partner no longer is comfortable, driving at night it is natural for the other to start to take on the night driving.  The transition between picking up medication at the pharmacy and setting up the pillbox may be next. When someone falls, of course, a person in the same household will try to help them up, and if that is not possible call a neighbor or even 911 to get help. Task after task, incident after incident, occasional caregiving changes into a constant that is part of the fabric of their shared life together. 

Medical care focuses on the needs of the patient.  The working assumption, no questions asked, is that a family member exists and will be available to help and support the patient. 17-35% of all caregivers report their health as fair to poor. The longer someone is a caregiver, the more likely they are to say their health has been impacted. Caregivers caring for someone with dementia also report worst health outcomes. 40-70% of spousal caregivers suffer from depression.  Family caregivers need help and support. We need to appreciate the amount of care they provide and make sure their needs are being met and they are not taken for granted. JFS Allies in Aging can work with caregivers and their family to put a support plan in place.  

Let us take the time to appreciate and acknowledge the importance of family caregivers in our lives. 

 Click here to learn about JFS’s Elder Care services!

 

 

 

 

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“When talking with my friend Linda the other day, she commented that she feels more alone when she and I talk over Zoom than she does when we just speak on the phone. “Somehow, talking on the phone just seems more normal…”, she said.  

My friend Linda has never married. She hadn’t planned to be alone at age 75, but here she is. These past 10 months alone in her condo have really shown Linda that she is on her own. Linda is part of the more than 20% of older adults in the U.S. who do not have a family caregiver available in case they become ill or incapacitated.

The changes Linda has had to make because of the pandemic will help her as she grows older. She now has her medications and groceries delivered. She’s set up automatic online bill payments for all her regular bills so she can skip the trip to the post office. With no other distractions, she has started to declutter her apartment; getting rid of clothes she doesn’t wear anymore, giving away books she’s already read, and in many ways simplifying her life. 

Before the pandemic, Linda went to the gym most days, was part of a book group and had weekly Friday morning coffees with a past colleague. She feels she has had a preview of what her life might be like if she were to become sick or incapacitated and unable to leave her house.

Things she has not figured out yet:

  • Who should be her emergency contact?
  • Who will be her health care proxy? Durable Power of Attorney?
  • Who would care for her if she needed help?
  • How can she build her social network, so she does not feel so isolated?

 

But, Linda is not alone. The experienced care managers at Allies in Aging JFS Elder Care Solutions can help her plan for her future. A year ago, staying at home for 10 months would have been unimaginable. Now Linda thinks about her future and wants to be ready for anything. I am confident she will!

Contact us and get support today! 

 

Ask Ally is written by Malka Young, LICSW, Director of Allies in Aging JFS Elder Care Solutions

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Are your parents okay? How are they doing? If I were writing this blog last year, I would have given you this checklist to use when checking in with your parents:

  1. Check the car for dents and scratches
  2. Open the refrigerator and check if food is fresh and in-date
  3. The sniff test–are there any bathroom or mildew odors?
  4. Has the mail piled up?
  5. Are there any signs of poor hygiene?

But how can you know that Mom and Dad are okay when you can’t visit? What can you tell over the phone or a Zoom call?

Technology can be useful to check on parents and gives you alternate ways to communicate

Do your parents answer the phone? Do they call back when you leave a voicemail? Establish a calling routine (weekly, daily, every other day, etc.).These do not have to be long calls, but it is important to check in and establish a pattern of regular communication with your elderly parents.

If your parent uses Zoom–pay attention to their background, appearance and hygiene, and how they are dressed–do you notice anything unusual? Are your parents wearing hats and gloves while inside or are they wrapped in blankets? Is there clutter everywhere? If you notice these things, you may need to call a neighbor or even the local police to arrange a wellbeing visit if you are concerned.

Pay attention to inclement weather conditions. You may need to arrange to have your parents’ driveway shoveled, to hire a dog-walker, or to have groceries delivered. An electrician can check their generator before the next snowstorm.

***

Are you worried for your older parents this winter? Are you unsure how to manage the coming months amidst the ongoing COVID-19 crisis? Contact Malka Young to learn how a JFS Geriatric Care Manager can help you ensure your parents are safe this season.
For more information, please visit: https://jfsmweldercare.org/contact/ 
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