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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Muscle strength starts to decline 1% per year after 40 years if one is sedentary.  Balance decline begins somewhere between 40 to 50 years of age. The good news is that physical activity at any age not only improves physical strength and balance, but also improves sleep, boosts immune responses, and fosters better mental health and general well-being.

JFS Geriatric Care Manager Laila Vehvilainen did an in-home safety check, a balance assessment and then development a balance training plan. The client completed a 1:1 in-home training for 6 weeks and afterwards felt more stable and steadier on her feet.

“I can’t believe my balance has gotten much better.  I thought it was going to be all downhill” said the 72-year-old JFS’ Allies in Aging Geriatric Care Management client.

Recent research from the National Report on Healthy Aging found that 1 in 4 older adults feel that they are less steady on their feet and unsure of their balance. Many feel older adults feel deconditioned, meaning that they are feeling less energy, reduced strength and balance. Some of reported concerns about balance are remnants of the pandemic with less moving and more sedentary activities.  More than a third of people between the ages of 50 and 80 reported that their physical activity declined during the pandemic, and more than a quarter say they are in worse physical condition now than before the pandemic, many of these adults also reported an increased fear of falling.

Click here if you or your loved-one are interested in in-home safety and/or in-home balance training and would like to contact a Geriatric Care Manager! 

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Grief is the normal and natural response to loss. Each person grieves in their own way and their own time. When someone you love dies your whole world shifts. What was once meaningful might become meaningless; what we thought was important, less so, and as our world view shifts, so does our experience of ourselves, our friends, and our community. There are many models of understanding grief:  William Worden’s 5 tasks of grieving; Therese Rando’s 6 “R”s of grieving and of course, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief.

What they all have in common is that over time, it becomes essential to find a new sense of purpose, to structure our days to do something meaningful and to channel our loneliness away from isolation to connection.

The Healing Power of Volunteering

Volunteering is the act of offering one’s time and skills to benefit others. It is a unique way to channel one’s grief into something powerful and meaningful.   How does volunteering do this?

  1. Sense of Purpose: Grief can sometimes make life feel aimless and without direction. Volunteering can give one a new sense of purpose by making a positive impact on someone else’s life. This helps the person grieving regain a sense of meaning and provide structure.
  2. Connection and Community: People who are widowed often complain that no one calls them to go out anymore. The couples who might have been part of their social circle no longer include the newly single person. The person themselves might feel like a “5th wheel” no longer fitting in. Conversations can be awkward, avoiding talking about their loved one who died because they don’t want to “make it worse”. Volunteering connects individuals to like-minded people who share common goals and values. This sense of belonging, being part of something bigger than oneself is an antidote to loneliness.
  3. Distraction and Productivity: When you are volunteering you are not thinking about yourself or how your life has changed. You are focused on the task at hand, and the person you are helping. Some volunteers take on roles and tasks that were important to their loved one who died- honoring their memory and strengthening their connection to their loved one.
  4. Creating New Memories: When you volunteer, you create new memories connected to positive experiences. You are meeting new people, who accept you as you are. It takes courage to make changes, but volunteering gives one the structure to make these changes in a measured and contained way. It gives you the confidence to learn new things and to experience yourself in a new way in relationship to the world.

Choosing the Right Volunteer Opportunity

When considering volunteering as part of your grief process, it is important to choose a volunteer job that will support you and help you transition to this next phase of your life. JFS has a long history of valuing volunteers and their contributions to strengthening our community and helping the vulnerable among us.  They recognize the value of volunteers’ contributions and show their appreciation by making sure that JFS volunteers are part of a team and get the training and support they need. This is true whether you are helping refugees and asylees take their first steps in their new country, making sure that children in our community have the clothes and supplies they need to attend school and to flourish; or helping vulnerable older adults get to their medical appointments.

There is no one way to grieve. Grief takes time, patience, and self-compassion. When the mourner is ready to begin to move out in the world, volunteering can be a bridge to a new life and sense of purpose. Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, said there is nothing so whole as a broken heart.  Volunteering can help heal a broken heart, bringing hope to themselves and to the people they help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the loss of a loved one, contact JFS to learn about available volunteer opportunities that can provide support and purpose during this transition 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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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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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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You love your house, but does your house love you back? 

When I ask older adults what their goals are, I often get this response: “I want to spend the rest of my life here; I never want to go to a nursing home!”

Sally just came home after spending a week in the hospital. She fell one night on her way to the bathroom. She thought she was alright but could not get up. Her phone was in her robe pocket, draped over the chair. It wasn’t until the next morning when her daughter didn’t get an answer, that Sally got help. The police had to break down the door to get in and they sent her to the ER.

Sally and Ben loved their home and spent a lot of time planting flowers and shrubs over the years. Every season there was a new display of colorful flowers. Since Ben died, Sally does not garden anymore. She eats her meals alone looking out the window at overgrown plantings.  She pays someone to mow the lawn, but the house is looking a little tired. The brick walk that was so welcoming when they planned it so many years ago is now a trip hazard.  There are four steps to the front door and they never got around to installing railings. She now avoids this entrance and goes in and out through the garage, where there are only two steps to get into the house.

She remembers their trip to Turkey where they bought the little rug at the bazaar that now greets her at the door. Another trip hazard. Sally’s once sparkling house is a little dingy. She cannot see the dust bunnies hanging out in the corner or the splashed water stains on the mirror. She sighs as she looks up the stairs (14, she counted) and the pictures of her children when they were growing up. The only bathroom is upstairs with the bedrooms, and the laundry is down in the basement. What worked so well when the kids were little now works against her. The house is quiet, and she is lonely.

Sally does not need a nursing home, but is there a third way? Aging in the Community is rapidly replacing aging in place. Senior housing with supports, independent living, retirement community and congregate housing are all names places older adults live that also provides meals, maintenance, and services. Sally has privacy within her own apartment, but she has neighbors, shares meals in the dining room downstairs, has access to transportation and there is always someone around if she needs help or doesn’t want to be alone. 

If you love your house, but your house doesn’t love you back, call the experts at Allies in Aging JFS Elder Care Solutions–they will help you make the housing choice that is right for you! 

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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“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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First things first, are you eligible?

Massachusetts has just begun Phase II, beginning on February 1st. Adults aged 75 and over are now eligible to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine. We have all been waiting for this moment, so it is hard to find an open appointment.

Be prepared that you may not find a slot right away, so keep trying. It can take several tries before something opens up. Some sites are limited to a specific geographic area.

Keep trying! It is a great feeling when a slot opens.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has set up a centralized website to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine. This is where you can sign up for one of the larger vaccination sites at Gillette Stadium or Fenway Park. Framingham, Wellesley and Weston also have signs-up for their residents through this site as well. Here is a list of all current vaccination sites.

Information needed when signing up: Your name, address, email, phone number, health insurance information, and birthday

You need to fill out all the boxes that are marked with a red asterisk. The site will ask you to upload your health insurance card, but if you do not have a picture of your card, or you don’t know how to upload it, you can skip this step.

They will then ask you questions about your health including recent exposures to COVID-19, allergic reactions to previous vaccine and more.

Due to high demand and constrained vaccine supply, COVID-19 Vaccination appointments are limited. More appointments will be available based on the supply of vaccines from the federal government. Appointments will be added on a rolling basis. Thursday is the best day to make an appointment as that is the day the sites know how much vaccine they will receive in the coming week.

You may also try this new website recently launched by a local Massachusetts software developerhttps://www.macovidvaccines.com/ which may make it easier to find available appointments, however this too may present technology-related challenges for some and limitations in supplies may make it hard to find an appointment nearby.

Another resource Massachusetts recently launched is a vaccination hotline for older adults who are having trouble making an appointment through the website. By calling 2-1-1 Monday-Friday between 8:30a – 5:00p they can make an appointment. If there are not any appointments near them, older adults can choose to be placed on a call-back list to be notified of appointments closer to their homes. Again, patience is advised, as there is still limited availability.

Allies in Aging JFS Elder Care Solutions private pay geriatric care management practice has been helping its clients sign up for the vaccine.

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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