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    Seniors pay high price for gap in benefits coverage

     

    Since the Medicare Part D drug benefit was unveiled, it has proven to be even more confusing and inefficient than its critics predicted. Even seniors who have been able to register for the program must still struggle with a $3,000 gap in benefits coverage and a hefty monthly premium. Already the government has had to change the program: The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services reversed an earlier decision prohibiting new Medicare prescription drug plan recipients from participating in free or subsidized drug programs sponsored by pharmaceutical manufacturers. But we can't stop there. The reversal fails to count the full value of these prescriptions toward seniors' $3,000 obligation, an expense that could put many in the poorhouse. The Bush administration claims that its new benefit is a good deal for people who are not eligible for Medicaid. Yet most individuals will pay not only a $250 deductible, but also 25 percent co-insurance on the next $2,000 in covered drug costs. And add roughly $32 a month per person for a monthly premium. In addition, the new Medicare plan requires each senior to cover 100 percent of the costs over $2,000 until catastrophic coverage kicks in at $5,100. We can and must close the holes that may ruin seniors' fiscal health as they try to preserve their physical health. Private companies are already taking action. A group of pharmaceutical companies announced a plan called "Bridge Rx," which will help seniors trapped in the $3,000 hole afford their medications. Seniors will get drug discounts of at least 50 percent in exchange for a 15 percent co-pay. Washington should also act by letting those who qualify for subsidized pharmaceutical manufacturer programs like Bridge Rx - but who concurrently pay a monthly Part D premium - count the full value of their medications' formulary price toward the $3,000 gap. The purpose of the Medicare prescription drug program was to help seniors, not generate revenue for insurers and pharmacy benefit managers. It's time to deliver on the promises that were made.

         
    Should we fear death

     

    Death is not something that many people want to think about. However, death is a part of living a human life. At least, our current level of science and technology acknowledges that death is inevitable. Is death something to be afraid of or is death something to look forward to? The answer may depend on who you talk to. Aside from the obvious religious answers, what body of information exists that can help us to approach this question with some degree of logical thinking? When exacting scientific evidence is lacking, our only option is to consider the anecdotal or subjective experiences that others have had. Fortunately, there is a body of information that leads to the formation of some interesting thoughts on the subject of death and what it is or what it might lead to. You can find this resource at near-death. Each person is encouraged to draw their own conclusions. Yet, I would like to share some of my thoughts and opinions on the matter. Many people who have a near-death experience have strikingly similar experiences. There are some who report a horrible experience but the majority report more positive experiences. Some may have gone to a terrible place, while others seem to leave the pain of the mortal body behind and experience an interesting journey before they revive. Both kinds of experiences have been recorded. One striking similarity is the 'life review' process. This has been reported as a review of one's entire life where each event is played out before your eyes. People that have experienced this process say that you suddenly become aware of how you affected the people you interacted with during your life. If you did something that caused them pain, you may become cognizant of those feelings as if you were experiencing them yourself. People report that they feel regretful. The experience doesn't just extend to that one person, but the effects are like a ripple in a pond and you see how that ripple affects multiple people. On the other hand, if you did something good you experience that as well. It does appear that the good things involve acting from compassion. For example, one lady said the most significant act of her entire life occurred when she was a little girl. She cupped a flower in her hand and gave it 'unconditional love'. Others don't experience an in depth life review, theirs lasts a few seconds and doesn't seem to have much impact. Experiences vary someowhat. However, the fundamental similarities remain. Can a person change as a result of a near-death experience? I was struck by the example of one person who was a self described atheist and hateful person. After his near-death experience he became a minister and a kinder, gentler soul. The change was not only noted by himself, but also by his family members. Wouldn't it be fascinating to actually talk to a person who has had a near-death experience? I remember listening to a gentleman named Dannion Brinkley talk about his NDEs (near death experiences). He actually had more than one in his life due to an unfortunate propensity to attract lightning. I found his insights to be very interesting. If you want to read more about NDEs, visit near-death Although it is hard to classify the information there as anything more than subjective, there is a large body of recorded experiences there. Perhaps it will provide you with more insight as to whether death should be feared or not.

         
    Should you join aarp

     

    The AARP used to be the American Association of Retired Persons. The AARP is known for representing and speaking on behalf of aging populations based in the United States. It is involved in all kinds of activities such as: negotiating reduced rates for prescriptions, housing, tourist attractions, automobile rentalsm motels and hotels. It is at present involved politically with the Medicare Prescription Drug Program. The AARP was founded in 1958 by Ethel Percy Andrus and hopes to have 70 million members in the next ten years due to the increasing age of the US population. It is interesting that the AARP is fighting the proposed changes to Social Security. The AARP has changed its role over the last few decades so as to reflect current living standards and the way in which we now approach age with dignity and purpose. On its website discounted trips to Hawaii and Alaska are advertised as well as news specifically geared to seniors, such as employment news, legal advice, health and fitness information and other interesting items. At present some of the hot button items the AARP is working with are: Prescription Drugs; Prescription Drugs over the last 5 years have increased much more rapidly in costs than the rate of inflation and as such are a heavy burden on Seniors. The AARP makes available the results of studies of changes in manufacturers' prescription drug list prices for 200 brand name and 75 generic drugs most widely used by Americans age 50 and over. Social Security; President Bush seems to think that there will not be enough money in the future to pay for Social Security benefits for Seniors at today's level. His private accounts plan would allow workers to invest up to one third of their payroll contributions in the Stock Market. Based on Stock Market results for the time President Bush has been in office this would have resulted in a loss for the average Senior taking inflation into account. And the indexing plan that Bush embraced at his April 28 press conference would preserve the present defined-benefit approach only for low-wage workers—those currently earning less than about $20,000. For everyone else, 70 percent of workers, the system would be flipped upside down—so that the more you earn and pay in, the more your benefits are cut. Consumer alerts; Last year Americans spent more than $20 billion on anti-aging products of which a sizeable amount was for so called "snake oil" products such as "human growth hormone " pills which sold for $80 per bottle per month and promised to cure anything that ails you. The US Food and Drug Administration does'nt regulate over-the-counter products so it is buyer beware.

         
    Some crime tips for the elderly

     

    Older people and their families worry about crime. Though older people are less likely to be victims of crime than teenagers and young adults, the number of crimes against older people is hard to ignore. Older people are often targets for robbery, purse snatching, pick-pocketing, car theft, or home repair scams. They are more likely than younger people to face attackers who are strangers. During a crime, an older person is more likely to be seriously hurt than someone who is younger. But, even though there are risks, don’t let the fear of crime stop you from enjoying life. Be careful and be aware of your surroundings. Here are some “do’s and don’ts” that can help you fight crime and stay safe. Be Safe at Home Do try to make sure that your locks, doors, and windows are strong and cannot be broken easily. A good alarm system can help. Do check to be sure your doors and windows are locked – both when you are in the house and when you’re away. Do make a list of your expensive belongings. You might even take pictures of the most valuable items. Store these papers in a safe place. Do ask your local police department about marking your valuable property with an I. D. number. Don’t open your door before you know who’s there. Look through the peephole or a safe window first. Ask any stranger for proof of identity before opening the door. Remember, you don’t have to open the door if you feel uneasy. Don’t keep large amounts of money in the house. Do get to know your neighbors. Join a Neighborhood Watch Program if your community has one. Be Street Smart Do try to stay alert. Walk with a friend. Stay away from unsafe places like dark parking lots or alleys. Do keep your car doors locked at all times. Don’t open your car door or roll-down your window for strangers. Do park in well-lit areas. Do carry your purse close to your body with the strap over your shoulder and across your chest. Don’t resist a robber. Hand over your cash right away if confronted. Be Safe with Your Money Do have your monthly pension or Social Security checks sent right to the bank for direct deposit. Try not to have a regular banking routine. Don’t carry a lot of cash. Put your wallet, money, or credit cards in an inside pocket. Don’t keep your check book and credit cards together. A thief who steals both could use the card to forge your signature on checks.

         
    Something for seniors to smile about

     

    A generation ago, dentures and bridgework were all too common among U. S. seniors. Today, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans are keeping their natural teeth longer. In part, seniors can thank endodontists, the dentists who specialize in performing root canal treatment and saving natural teeth. Endodontists' advanced training and access to cutting-edge technologies allow them to save older teeth that once were considered hopeless. As people age, the canals inside their teeth narrow, making tooth-saving procedures more difficult. Using new technologies, such as ultrasonics and operating microscopes, endodontists can locate even the smallest canals to remove inflamed pulp and nerves, and preserve natural teeth. Digital imaging, which is used in place of traditional X-rays to take pictures of teeth, is another tool that significantly increases endodontists' ability to find the cause of pain in even the narrowest root canal. "Endodontists are accustomed to working within a very small space," says Dr. Marc Balson, D. D.S., president of the American Association of Endodontists. "Our background, which includes four years of dental school followed by two to three years of advanced training, allows us to perform root canal treatment efficiently on any patient." During root canal treatment, the endodontist removes the inflamed or infected pulp (the soft tissue inside teeth), carefully cleans and shapes the inside of the canal (a channel inside the root), then fills and seals the space. A well done root canal is like a solid foundation in a house - it allows for further restorative work to be done on a tooth with a likelihood of long-term health and stability. Endodontists' training also helps them deal with seniors' special medical needs. The same prescription medications that allow older Americans to lead healthier, more active lives can pose problems when it comes time to undergo dental procedures. Endodontists routinely conduct a thorough assessment of elderly patients' medical histories in preparation for root canal treatment, so as to avoid harmful drug interactions and safely treat patients with high blood pressure and other chronic conditions. The most important advantage endodontists offer older patients is experience. On average, endodontists perform 25 root canal treatments each week, while general dentists perform two. This means that seeing an endodontist for root canal treatment is the healthiest way for seniors to avoid dentures, bridgework or artificial implants, and preserve their smiles for a lifetime.

         
    Sometimes caring for a loved one with dementia means seeking outside help

     

    As our society ages, more and more families are struggling to live with a family member who is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer disease. While memory loss can be a frightening experience for our aging parents or grandparents, its’ impact on the family can be equally frightening, particularly when there are young children in the home. I learned that fact first hand when I brought my 93 year-old grandmother home to live with us. There were a host of reasons why I felt she should come to live with us; her home was old and in need of serious repair, there was a steep set of stairs that she had fallen down more than once, and perhaps most important, she had raised me as a child when my own mother was ill. For all of these reasons and my stubborn belief in the extended family, we brought her home to live with us. After a very short time, we realized her dementia had progressed far beyond the simple forgetfulness she occasionally displayed. On most days, she would chuckle at her lapses of memory. On others she would lash out verbally and even physically as she retreated in terror at the unfamiliar. Before coming to live with us, she had spent the past 30 years living alone. In retrospect I realize she was completely unprepared for the realities of living in an active household with children. The simple act of going up and down the stairs would wake her from a sound sleep and send her into a rage. The constant opening and closing of doors would accomplish the same. The house was never clean enough, our children had far too many friends coming to visit, and I never spent enough of my time sitting at the table and visiting with her over coffee. Gradually, the reality became clear. I could not care for my children and my grandmother at the same time. The needs of one were diametrically opposed to the other. The active, laughter-filled household that made all the neighborhood children want to visit our home enraged my grandmother to the point of violence. Friends began to stay away and my children searched for excuses to spend their time elsewhere. Agonized by the decision I had to make, God took pity and intervened. My grandmother suffered a heart attack and spent two weeks in intensive care. While she eventually recovered, she was left in a weakened state and her equilibrium was severely compromised. The result: under medical advice, she would be unable to return to our home and required 24-hour care. Today she lives in a Catholic nursing home and I am truly astounded by the changes she has undergone in just a few short months. Their care has been nothing short of miraculous. With diligent monitoring of her diet she has lost the extra weight she put on, and has been removed from all medication. She is more active, and truly enjoys the companionship of others her age. She occasionally asks about coming back to live with us and I laugh with joy. “Are you nuts?” I ask her. “You look better today than you have in ten years.” The simple reality is that others were far better equipped to provide my grandmother with the care she needed. As our population ages, and people live far beyond the life expectancy of even 20 years ago, more and more families will be forced to acknowledge their limitations, just as I was. Choosing to place a family member in a nursing home is not an admission of failure on your part, but an acceptance of the fact that prolonged life expectancy carries with it a need for more complex care than the vast majority of us can ever hope to provide.

         
    Stair chair lift a modern day wonder

     

    : Have you even been to one of those historical shrines or perhaps ancient wonders where in you need to walk up more than 200 steps on the stairs, just to catch a glimpse of history? Whew! I’ve been to one. But going back is the farthest thing on my mind. In fact, had I known it was too be that exhausting, I would not have given it a time of the day. But what if you had no choice but to climb that flight of stairs…and everyday nonetheless! Alright, so maybe not the 200 steps, at least a dozen or less. Easy, right? To you and me, it could be. But not to some who suffer from injuries due to old age or perhaps permanent disability. However, there are a number of options to make life easier for them. Perhaps, they can find a place with no stairs. That would be an easy solution. But how about if they are unable to do some drastic changes such as packing their bags? Well, the best solution they can probably come up with is to install modern innovations in their homes to make life a breeze for the elderly or the handicapped. A stair chair lift is the most practical and economical answer to their woes. Acquiring one for the home is easy and convenient. Why move truckloads of belongings to a new home, when you can simply install one movable chair in your old home to aid you in mounting up the stairs. Having a stair chair lift does not only make them enjoy life more by giving painless access to all floors of the home building but also it can add up to the beauty of the home. Designs to suit any lifestyle can be easily found. And installing one in the home does not even distract or disrupt household activities. Most stair chair lift manufacturers even install the equipment for you. You can have custom made or readily available lifts mounted up on the staircase so you don’t have to wobble all the way or down your stairs while holding on to the railings for dear life. A stair chair lift can take you to there in less time and more comfort. So why sweat over the thought of going down to grab something to eat in the kitchen, or perhaps going to the living room to lounge the afternoon away? Give yourself a treat that would last a lifetime… the joy and wonder of mobility despite age or physical incapacity with the help of a stair chair lift!

         
    Ten convenience built ins that ll help seniors and the disabled live independently

     

    Planning to remodel, repair or build a new home? Looking for some innovative, unusual — but powerful — universal design features? We can help! We started collecting over 1,000 uncommon, affordable convenience built-ins in 1998, when we first began writing books and consulting to help people have truly extraordinary — but affordable — homes. Here are some of our favorite ideas that’ll change your life via how they enable independent living. Add any of these to your next project, and you’ll be on your way toward creating a home that’s truly beyond the ordinary! • Motion-sensor faucets. These are especially handy where hands will often be dirty or full. They also deliver water at a preset temperature that kids or slow-to-react family members may appreciate. No more risk of getting scalded! • A single-lever faucet control, for ease in adjusting water flow and temperature with one hand. (It’s especially inconvenient to have two-fisted, separate hot and cold controls at the kitchen sink.) This can help you reduce wasted hot water, can be visually marked so family members know where to position it for safe hot water temperatures, and is easy to use after arthritis has started to affect your fingers and hands. • A central vacuum system. Its parts are not as heavy to push as most freestanding vacuum cleaners. • A garbage disposal activated by a pressure-button switch that’s inches away from the faucet, so it’s accessible without your bending to open a cabinet or walking several steps to flip a switch. • Well-planned task and reading lighting that doesn’t create shadows. Don’t forget lights that illuminate countertops or are mounted under upper cabinets. • Lots of electrical outlets for your holiday decorations, both indoors and outside, so everything plugs in nearby. No point in having the confusion or hazards of extension cords, powerstrips or overloaded circuits. • Magnetic drawer and cabinet locks that release and latch via a single remote-control button that controls an entire room or outdoor area. This is the least awkward and most secure type of childproof lock we’ve seen, especially if you mount the control unit high on a wall where adults can easily see and reach it while kids cannot. Grandparents with arthritis will especially applaud this system, compared to the common plastic door locks that require considerable dexterity to release. (These magnetic locks also secure drawers or cabinets in overnight guestrooms that you use when your guests are gone, or in any rental properties you own and store some possessions in.) • Wall-mounted intercoms in every room and outdoor living area (don’t forget the garage), for talking to anyone on your property without having to physically walk over to them. This also eliminates using what might be dirty or full hands to dial and hold a cell phone you might use to call people elsewhere in the house. • A light switch or knee-level motion sensor at the top and bottom of every stairway that controls adequate lighting from above. Motion sensors are especially handy wherever your hands are often too full to easily reach for a switch. That light from above is more important for people with vision problems than light from fixtures that are down at the stair level. • A bathroom near the family entrance for quick cleanups for limiting the mess that gets tracked inside when someone’s coming home dirty. It’ll also prevent rushing through the house — and risking a fall — when nature calls while you’re working outside or just arriving home. Like this article? Then you’ll love our books chock-full of uncommon, affordable convenience built-ins that increase your quality of life and your home’s resale value! We also offer a free e-book at extraordinaryhomes: The 34 ExtraOrdinary Home Principles: Over 70 Fabulous, Affordable, Innovative Ideas That’ll Improve Your Life and WOW You! © Copyright 2005 by Carol Abrahamson/ExtraOrdinary Homes. All rights reserved.

         
    The benefits of continuing care retirement community

     

    People nowadays have already realized the importance of saving for the future, especially for their retirement. This is because when they reach their retirement age, all they have to do is to relax and enjoy life together with the financial benefits that they themselves have tried to save little by little. That is why, when it comes to retirement and the benefits that can be derived from it, people should take the matter seriously. Because of the growing trend in retirement issues and programs, one area of retirement is gradually taking the limelight. This is known as the continuing care retirement community or the CCRCs. Continuing Care Retirement Communities are consistently gaining some recognition because of the features and benefits that retirees get from them. To know more of the CCRC, here is a list of the benefits that a retiree can derive from them: 1. Continuing Care Retirement Community provides various housing projects and selection for their members. With a wide variety of choices, people are opting to choose a house that will correspond to their lifestyle and personality. These housing privileges are not just mere housing projects, in which likes of them are usually made from low-quality materials. However, those that were provided by CCRC, the houses are surely apt for the family. In addition, these are, indeed, low cost houses. 2. The CCRC also offers optimum security, specialized services, and support to their residents. In this way, people who live in the area have peace of mind because they are surrounded by tranquil setting. Moreover, in CCRC, people are entitled to enjoy three stages of care made available within the context of the Continuing Care Retirement Community. 3. The CCRC have programs that are always available (round-the-clock) to their customers. This means that the residents or their customers can readily avail the services that they need, in which all of the services are all focused on the well-being and health of the people. No wonder why more and more retirees are aiming to obtain their new homes from the CCRC. Surveys show that approximately 625,000 elderly people are planning to have their own houses through this program. 4. The agreements stipulated therein are all stated in the contract. That is why retirees are more than secure because they will know that the things that they have worked for will not just go to waste. CCRC is another way of enjoying life’s simple pleasures after working so hard all their lives.

         
    The differences in elder care services

     

    Time marches on and so do we. Before we know it, we are older and so are our parents or loved ones. Caring for them and being sure their needs are met become a prime concern especially when they begin to not be able to care for themselves as they used to. This dilemma touches most every family. The thing to avoid is to remain under a veil of ignorance by not understanding your options and waiting until the last minute to make an abrupt and often uniformed decision. Care for the elderly is of utmost importance. This will be addressed in a comparison between adult day care, assisted living, and nursing home care. Adult day care has the shortest care periods and usually lasts up to 8 hours a day and 5 days a week. People with Alzheimer’s, the feeble, the physically handicapped, those infected with HIV/AIDS, people with declining brain function and the hearing and visually impaired are included in this type of care. It serves as respite for busy caregivers and offers social and recreational activities, meals, therapy, health and social services. Usually there is an assessment made of the needs of each person before they enter the program. It is also important to find out how physically able they are because adult day care does provide rehabilitative services and personal care. One of its greatest advantages is that it helps people remain independent and be able to live with loved ones as long as they can plus it gives caregivers the break they often need. Funding can come through Medicaid if the person qualifies, need-based scholarships, some medical insurance, long-term care insurance or tax credits for dependent care. Medicare doesn’t cover adult day care. Usually centers are non-profit (80% of them) and charge anywhere from $25-$75 a day. This will vary according to location. Transportation is also provided. There are full-time nursing services and these places are licensed by the state. The next step up in care, if the elderly are not living with friends or family, is assisted living. It is for seniors who are somewhat independent and who need more care than a retirement community has available. The focus is on allowing for individual residents’ independence, need for privacy, choice, and safety. The services offered are personal (bathing, dressing, transferring, toileting, and eating), health care (which also involves management of medications), social and physical activities, 24-hour supervision, education, laundry, linen, housekeeping, unit maintenance, shopping, meal preparation, money management and transportation. A person can occupy a furnished or unfurnished studio or 1-bedroom unit with a bathroom. Some places have a shared bathroom. Also some units may have kitchenettes or even a full kitchen. A potential resident is assessed according to physical and cognitive abilities, mental awareness, medical history (including medications being taken) and some personal history to find out if assisted living is a good option. Family members are encouraged to continue being a part of the resident’s life and are welcome to attend social activities throughout the year and on holidays. Usually assisted living places have a full-time nurse and trained staff. Meals are eaten in a dining room and assistance is given when needed. Activities are planned throughout the day and residents have the choice to attend or not. Church services are held, some being a specific denomination and there is usually a non-denominational gathering. Assisted care is regulated by the state. Sources of funding can include personal funds, assistance for families, Social Security, Medicaid, and long-term care insurance. The cost varies, depending on the size of the unit, the services needed and location. It’s between $1,000 and $2,000 per month, the average being $1,873. The nursing home is the most intensive in care (along with adult family care homes). The residents have definite physical needs. They usually have physical or mental disorders or happen to be too feeble and/or unable to move around, bathe or prepare their own meals. Their ADL’s (Activities of Daily living) are minimal and low functioning. As a general rule, there will be no recovery or ability to take care of themselves, so assistance is a necessity for most or all ADL’s. There are definite medical needs too. Nurses and nursing aids are available round the clock. Because of the residents’ needs, nursing homes are staffed with that in mind. There is full management of medication and it is administered according to a physician’s orders. A person can obtain a private room if he/she is paying with private funds. Normally, there are 2 people to a room. Meals are brought to them or residents are taken to the dining area. Besides full assistance, nursing homes offer rehabilitative services, exercise, social activities, laundry, housekeeping, and prepared meals. Families and friends are encouraged to visit. The cost depends on where the home is and what the surcharge is that is attached for private payers versus Medicare and Medicaid. Approximately 70% of nursing home costs are paid by the state and federal governments. The government pays part or all of the fees for about 85% of the residents. Another funding option is long-term care insurance. The actual cost is somewhere around $114 a day or more and can go well above $2,000 a month. This varies depending on the location and the services required. In summary, adult day care involves hours of care, while assisted living and nursing homes offer more care progressively. It helps to research all the residential and financial options. AARP is a valuable source, as well as Medicare. There are a wealth of other websites that will help relatives and friends find the right place for their loved ones and the phone book lists companies and people that have a network to draw from. Quality care of our elderly is essential. Knowing what can be done is being done, brings a sense of peace of mind.

         
    The social security cost of living increase is not keeping up

     

    Is the COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment) losing its fizz? Many seniors now feel that the annual Social Security cost of living increase is failing to keep up with the soaring prices of everything from gas and heating bills to groceries and prescription drugs. As a result, seniors are suffering, and they're suffering badly. In 2005, for example, the Social Security cost of living increase was just 2.7 percent. But if you filled up your car at the gas pump, you probably noticed the 28 percent jump in gas prices. And when you paid your heating bill, you probably noticed that the price of home energy soared by double digits as well. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve kept raising its rate last year as well, meaning that seniors watched helplessly as their already diminished spending power was cut even further as they paid higher rates on credit card bills, car loans and adjustable rate mortgages. The absence of a fair Social Security cost of living increase affects seniors in a very real way. Fran, a TREA Senior Citizens League (TSCL) member from New Hampshire, is typical of our members. She follows the news, knows what's happening with her friends and detects even subtle changes in prices. She recently told us that even her beloved oranges are getting too expensive to buy at her local grocery store. "I don't think the politicians care about seniors at all," she told us. "I have friends whose sole source of income is Social Security, and they struggle each month to make ends meet. Each year, it gets worse. The politicians don't care about people like them!" How The COLA Hurts You The COLA is tied to changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). While the public commonly thinks of the CPI as one index, this is not the case. There are several CPIs--each of which measures inflation rising in different rates, depending on which "market basket" the government is looking at. However, the government calculates COLAs using one of the most slowly growing indexes-the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. It surveys the goods and services that younger workers use. But younger workers have far different spending habits than seniors, who must spend a much greater percentage of their income on health care. When the government calculates the COLA for an 80-year-old war veteran using the spending patterns of a 28-year-old young mother, something has gone terribly awry. How Underpayments Affect You The government does track senior costs, however, and has done so since 1983-maintaining the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E). If the government had used the CPI-E, seniors would have received a COLA increase of 3.1 percent last year instead of 2.7 percent. Does such a small percentage increase matter? In a single year, not much. Over time, it certainly does. For example, if Fran retired with an average benefit of $360 in 1984, she would have received about $8,629 more over the past 21 years had the government used the CPI-E to calculate her COLA. With compound interest, that means that she would have had tens of thousands of dollars more to help with medical expenses, home energy costs, and mortgage payments--and she could have purchased as many oranges as she would have liked. What We Can Do Over the past three months, we've been hearing from hundreds of seniors across the country. And what they've told us has come as a surprise. Even though Medicare is dominating the headlines, the Cost Of Living Allowance is dominating their thoughts. They want action, and their message is clear. They're tired of partisan squabbling in Washington. Although we seniors turn out in high numbers during each election cycle, our representatives too often take our votes for granted. Only by presenting a unified message in large numbers will we influence legislators to take us with the seriousness we deserve.

         
    Tips for seniors

     

    Since January, millions of seniors have enrolled in the new Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit plan. However, the task of choosing a plan may seem daunting and can often be confusing for seniors even after they have enrolled. The decision to participate is important, and careful consideration is vital to ensure a plan is chosen that best meets a customer's needs. To get help in finding the right plan, seniors and caregivers may want to consult their local pharmacists, who are the most accessible members of the health care delivery system. Many pharmacists are specifically trained on how to explain the Medicare Part D drug benefit to their customers and can help guide seniors through the process. "Over the last several months, we have assisted many customers to help them better understand their choices under the Medicare Part D drug benefit. We will continue our efforts to help customers work their way through the large number of choices available to them," said Matt Leonard, Senior Vice President of Pharmacy at CVS/pharmacy. "One of the most important steps when choosing a plan is to ensure current prescription drugs are covered, and your local pharmacist is a great resource for that." Because health needs can change quickly, a Medicare Part D plan may be appropriate even if a customer's costs and number of prescriptions are currently low. Once a decision has been made to enroll in a particular plan, the following facts should be taken into consideration to ensure a smooth process: • Customers who enroll in a plan after the May 15, 2006, deadline will pay higher premiums, and their next opportunity to enroll will not be until November 15, 2006. • Submit your enrollment application to the insurance plan of your choice as early in the month as possible. That way, there is enough time to mail out your new Medicare Prescription Drug Card and enter you into the system before your coverage begins on the first day of the following month. • When first utilizing your new Medicare Prescription Drug Card, order your prescription refill while you still have a few days' supply remaining. This will ensure that you do not run out of your medication if your pharmacist needs time to research and resolve any issues pertaining to your new Medicare coverage. Medicare Part D can greatly benefit seniors who take the time to make an informed decision. In addition to personalized assistance from a pharmacist, Medicare Information Centers are available in all CVS/pharmacy stores. The Centers explain how Medicare drug plans will work and assist customers in selecting a plan that best meets their needs.

         
    Understanding home care agency options

     

    As people age, the desire to remain in their homes, close to family, friends and familiar surroundings, deepens. However, the ability to remain totally independent within one's own environment often diminishes. Millions of Americans spend part or all of their day assisting and caring for family members or friends who need help to stay in their homes. Often, however, paid outside help is needed to supplement this care because of the caregiver's responsibilities for children or work outside the home. Americans presently spend over $40 billion annually on home care, allowing loved ones to remain at home and "age in place." If you or someone you know is looking into home care for a relative, or may soon be in that position, here is some information that may help make the process more manageable: • Determining the individual's care requirements. Will there be a need for hands-on care such as bathing, dressing and toileting? Are there cognitive issues that will require a different type of care? Are there financial restrictions? Is the individual willing to receive help? Write down the answers to these questions, along with the estimated amount of time and number of days that a caregiver will be needed. When you call a home care agency, you will want to have this information at hand. If you require help making these assessments, check with a nearby senior center. They often have social workers who can perform assessments or direct you to someone who can, such as a geriatric care manager. This is a professional who specializes in assisting older people and their families in making long-term care arrangements. They can do in-home assessments, develop care plans and monitor services. • Identifying the type of care that is required. Custodial or supportive care is usually provided by paraprofessionals--home health aides, home care aides and nursing assistants who provide hands-on care to people in their homes, nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Custodial care includes assistance with bathing, dressing and mobility, as well as transportation, light housekeeping and similar tasks. Skilled care is usually provided by health care professionals, such as registered nurses, licensed practical nurses or therapists, under the direction of a physician. Most often, skilled care is needed after a person has been hospitalized due to a fall or other medical condition. Discharge planners and social workers assist in the coordination and arrangement of these services, which may include some care from certified nursing assistants if they are included as part of a skilled plan of care. • Contacting an agency. Every state has the authority to license and regulate its home care agency system. As a result, there are often variations in licensure requirements and regulations from state to state. The exception is Medicare-certified agencies, which must also comply with federal regulations. If care is to be covered under Medicare, it must come from a Medicare-certified agency. • Paying for care. While many older adults count on Medicare to cover their home care needs, the reality is that Medicare will only cover home care costs if an individual has a skilled need and meets specific Medicare criteria. It will not cover ongoing long-term care services. It is important to know that custodial care is not typically covered by Medicare or most private health insurance. Funding for custodial care must often come from personal resources. The local Area Agency on Aging is a good place to check for programs or services for which an individual might qualify. One good source of information is a free booklet from the MetLife Mature Market Institute called "Understanding Home Care Agency Options." It's part of the "Since You Care" series of guides, created in cooperation with the National Alliance for Caregiving. It includes advice, resources and checklists.

         
    Understanding medicare prescription coverage

     

    The prognosis for Medicare Part D seems to be good. Nearly half of physicians recently surveyed said they think the program will result in improved quality of care. Yet many of those same professionals said the program can be hard to understand and particularly confusing for patients. In fact, according to the survey, doctors and pharmacists report that 95 percent of their senior patients have difficulty understanding the Medicare Part D program and more than 50 percent of patients have trouble understanding how much their drugs will cost. If you're confused about your coverage-or simply want to understand it better-the following tips may help. Talk To Your Doctor More than 41 million seniors eligible for Medicare Part D may turn to their physicians for answers-and one of the most frequently asked questions has to do with what medications are covered under each option. Physicians can now answer questions on the spot, using mobile devices or by logging on to the Internet. Most doctors are using free software applications, such as Epocrates Rx drug and formulary reference, to quickly determine which drugs are covered by a specific health plan, whether there's a generic or cheaper drug alternative and which plans best meet their patients' clinical and financial needs. The software can also help doctors identify any potential drug interactions. That's important, considering that the average 75-year-old regularly takes five prescription drugs and uses several over-the-counter medications, according to a 2004 Alliance for Aging Research report. Check The Web A number of government Web sites are available to help people sort through the more than 400 Medicare Part D prescription plans. Try checking a site such as medicare. gov or epocrates for some information about your program. Before logging on, make a list of the medications you are taking and any conditions you may have. That can make it easier to see which plan best fits your needs. Talk To Friends And Family In addition to checking Web sites, it's important to talk to others about their experiences with a Medicare Part D plan. Ask your friends and family about what plan they selected, how they feel about it and what they learned. In addition, don't hesitate to check with your pharmacist or doctor's office staff. Your physicians may be able to help you better understand your Medicare Part D program.

         
    Used wheelchair van buying tips

     

    Instead of buying a brand new wheelchair van, you can opt to get a used wheelchair van. Ideally, you want to contact a qualified evaluator about your particular needs, including limitations of the wheelchair user, seating requirements and additional equipment that’s to be installed in the van. From there, you’ll want to contact companies that are capable of reconditioning old used wheelchair vans with modern equipment necessary for the wheelchair user. Ideally, making sure you get warranties on parts provided to your used van along with a good service plan because sooner or later you’ll need it. To make your used van more affordable, it would prove wise to talk with your insurance company about getting a good rate for your van. You can also talk with organizations that offer nonprofit grant programs, veterans associations and state departments. Simply use google to find their contact info. You can also purchase a well-conditioned van at low cost and then take it to customization shop to “mold” the van to fit your particular needs. To find a suitable wheelchair van dealer, you can go to google and type in “used wheelchair van + your city”. (Of course, in place of “your city” you would insert your actual city or one a big one near you.) A decent list of websites belonging to dealers should pull up. From there, you want to contact these dealers with a plan in mind of exactly what your needs are for purchasing a used wheelchair van. Take into consideration that if you’re buying a used wheelchair van for business purposes, then you have to make sure you’ll comply with consumer safety laws and regulations. So be sure to tell your sales person the exact purposes of your van.

         
     
         
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