Posts Tagged ‘healthcare reform’

WINTER HEALTH 101, BY: HELEN HUNTER, ACSW, LSW

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

soupHelen Hunter is a Social Worker and Geriatric Case Manager who often writes for Renaissance Magazine (NJFA’s online magazine for seniors, boomers and caregivers!) which you can view at http://www.njfoundationforaging.org/renaissance-magazine/

Here is a piece she has agreed to share with us on the blog, which is very appropriate for the season. Be sure to read to the end for a quick recipe.

WINTER HEALTH 101

With all of this bitter cold and bone-chilling wind we have had recently, I thought I’d share some information to help you stay healthy this winter (and for the rest of the year, too!)

Colds and the flu are caused by viruses, NOT from being outside or due to the abrupt change in weather temperature. Rhinovirus (the virus that causes the common cold) actually survives from the late spring through to the early fall months, when the humidity is high. Since we are more apt to be outside during these months, exposure is less likely. Cold and flu viruses spread more in the winter due to close contact with people indoors.

You CANNOT get the flu from a flu shot! Flu is spread through direct transfer of the virus from an infected person when they sneeze, cough, kiss or shake hands with someone else.

You lose heat from any part of your body that is exposed to the cold and not covered with clothing. If you’re wearing warm clothing, but your head is uncovered, then the only place you can lose body heat is your head. So, in addition to wearing warm clothing, you need to also wear warm socks, gloves and earmuffs and/or hats to protect yourself. Protecting your extremities is crucial, since those areas are most vulnerable to frostbite.

The sun’s rays are not as strong in winter as they are in the summer. However, you can STILL get sunburn, even if it’s cold and cloudy, and when the sun’s rays reflect off snow! Protect your skin by using a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and UVA/UVB blocker year round.

Pollen or ragweed allergies improve somewhat in the winter. If you are sensitive, however, to indoor allergens such as pet dander, mold or dust mites, your allergies may actually worsen! Sneezing or stuffy nose symptoms may be more problematic than usual during the winter season, so keep your home as clean and germ free as possible.

Eating chicken soup CAN fight a cold! Chicken soup may have a positive effect on the immune system and can bring white cells together, which help fight off infection in your body and help you recover faster if you become sick. So, ALWAYS have a stockpile of chicken soup (preferably homemade) in your refrigerator or freezer! In addition, hot liquids can also help reduce the symptoms of a cold or flu virus, relieving sinus and throat pain.

Hope this information is helpful to you in making sure that you go through the winter season and throughout the year as healthy as possible! Let’s all strive for a healthy body, mind and spirit EVERY day!

Want to make homemade soup? Here’s a quick recipe:

Chicken soup

Boil down all the bones with onions, garlic, carrots, celery and spices for a couple hours until all the meat that was left on the bones falls off and the bones have released their collagen (the gelatinous protein) and you’ve got homemade chicken stock. Strain it, pick out the chunks of chicken, add more ingredients like noodles or rice and new vegetables and you’ve got a pot of chicken whatever soup.

What do you need to know?

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

What do you need to know?

Are you looking for information on Veteran’s Benefits? Utility Assistance? Do you have questions about transportation? Are you interested in a new form of exercise? These interesting topics and many more are available by watching, Aging Insights on YouTube. Aging Insights is a ½ hour TV program that is produced monthly by NJFA.  Aging Insights provides programs that are relevant to boomers, caregivers and seniors. The goal is to connect them to community programs to address their unique needs and those of their families. 

In addition to being aired on multiple public access stations, you can view the entire library of 26 episodes on NJFA’s YouTube channel by visiting, www.youtube.com/njfoundationforaging The November program discusses the financial and health benefits available to veterans. However, there are many more informative and entertaining episodes to watch online.

After you’ve checked them out, be sure to visit our website at www.njfoundationforaging.org and click “online survey” to take the Aging Insights survey where you can tell us what you thought of the show and suggest future topics.

 

 

 

Medicare Open Enrollment ends December 7th

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Medicare Open Enrollment ends December 7th

Open Enrollment is coming to a close soon. Every year Medicare gives you the opportunity to review your coverage and make changes. This year the Open Enrollment period is October 15 to December 7.

This is when people with Medicare can change their Medicare health plan and prescription drug coverage for 2014. Information on 2014 plans has been available since the beginning of October. People with Medicare can call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit www.medicare.gov for plan information. If a person is satisfied that their current plan will meet their needs for next year, they don’t need to do anything.

What can you do during Open Enrollment?

From October 15 to December 7 you can

  • Join or switch a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan
  • Join or switch a Medicare Advantage Plan

During this period you should take time to review health and drug plan choices and choose the plan that fits your needs. Coverage begins on January 1, 2014.

Each year, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Drug Plans can change costs and coverage. Plans will mail an Evidence of Coverage/Annual Notice of Change to you. This notice gives details about plan coverage, costs, etc for the next year. Some plans may choose to leave Medicare and no longer offer the plan you have, meaning you’ll have to find a new plan during Open Enrollment. If this is the case your plan would have mailed you a notice of non-renewal.

To learn more about available plans visit- Medicare Plan Finder on Medicare.gov

You can also:

  • Visit your plan’s website
  • Refer to the Medicare & You handbook
  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)
  • Or contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)  at 1-800-792-8820 or http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/home/sashipsite.html

 

Money saving tips

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Money saving tips

Here are some great tips for saving money. We gathered these from various sources, to learn more about each follow the links provided or contact a trusted financial advisor. 

Find your pension

To see if you or someone you know has an unclaimed pension-Search.pbgc.gov

Free credit monitoring

Creditsesame.com

Catch-up

If you are 50 or over you can contribute an extra $5,500 to your 401K plan as a catch up contribution in 2013

 Family ties

If adult children or grandchildren live with you it may mean special tax breaks. Ask your tax preparer about claiming dependents for family members you support.

Save on stamps

Paying bills online means not buying stamps

Free credit report

Don’t pay for credit reports. Get a free copy once a year from three companies- Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Visit annualcreditreport.com

Selling your home?

The best day of the week to list your home for sale is Friday and the worst is Sunday. according to an analysis by a major real-estate brokerage firm. Listings on Fridays sell faster and for more money.

Save money on medications

Ask your doctor for free samples. Drug company reps drop them off all the time.

Skip the ER

If you have a non-life-threatening medical issue, like fevers, cuts, minor burns or headaches. Urgent care centers with walk-in features are more affordable and usually are open 7 days a week.

Grow it

If you put the stub of romaine lettuce in a glass of water and place it in a sunny spot it will grow back, the same is true of celery, spring onions and cabbage.

Weigh your options

If you need only a few vegetables or fruits for a recipe or meal, buying a small amount from the salad bar at your supermarket may be cheaper than buying a bag of precut vegetables.

Check it out

Instead of buying a book, why not visit your local library and borrow it.

Service advisory

If you get your car serviced at the dealer, ask to check for any service advisories. You might save on a repair that is covered.

Compare 401 (k) fees

Financial information company, BrightScope features free 401 (K) ratings directory that compares fees among plans. Check it out at brightscope.com/ratings

Falls Prevention Awareness Week, September 22-29, 2013

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Falls Prevention Awareness Week, September 22-29, 2013

The Falls Prevention Workgroup and Division of Aging Services are promoting the 5th Annual Falls Prevention Awareness Week, September 22-29, 2013. Governor Christie declared September 23-29, 2013 Falls Prevention Awareness week with events happening throughout the state. The fall prevention workgroup is comprised of PTs, EMS personnel, health educators, etc. 

It is reported that more than one third of adults age 65 and older fall each year in the US. In New Jersey, an average of 194 people age 60 and over are treated in the ER or as inpatients due to a fall. Falls are the number one cause of brain injury in adults. as you can tell, falls are a serious problem.

The upside to this is that falls are preventable. And that is what Fall Prevention Week is all about, bringing awareness to the issue and helping people to prevent falls.

First things first, exercise is a good idea. It will increase your strength, flexibility and balance.

Make sure to get important exams, like an eye exam, yearly. Make sure your doctor and pharmacist review your medicines- both prescription and over the counter to make sure there are no side effects or interactions that could put you at risk. Also, there are some medications that can cause dizziness or weakness, so make sure you are aware if you are taking any with those side effects.

Wear the right footwear. You’d be surprised how many falls are due to this. Make sure your shoes fit properly and have non-slip soles.

You can do things around the house to make it safer as well. Remove clutter in your hallways and rooms. Make sure any wires or cords are out of the way. Make lights brighter, especially in stairways. Install bath grips or grab bars in your tub or shower. Limiting the use of area rugs is a good idea, but if you use them, make sure they are the kind with non-skid liners.

The best way to make Fall Prevention Awareness Week in NJ a success is by spreading the word.

Learn more at http://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/services/fallprev/index.html

And be sure to check out the 24th Episode of NJFA’s TV Program, Aging Insights, which features exercises that help to promote strength and balance!

www.youtube.com/njfoundationforaging

Affordable housing is more important than ever for low income seniors and low income families.

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Affordable housing is more important than ever for low income seniors and low income families.

A recent Appellate Division’s decision provides an important opportunity for municipalities to utilize much-needed housing trust funds to address the chronic shortage of affordable housing for low-income seniors across the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Many of these funds were specifically designated for the development of senior housing in the nine counties hardest hit by the storm. This includes 131 senior units in Monmouth County, 6 special needs unit for the elderly by Cerebral Palsy of North Jersey in Livingston, Essex County; and 5 senior rental by Catholic Charities in Harrison, Hudson County.

The court’s decision comes at a critical time in this state’s history with the high demand for affordable senior housing and the rising cost of living. In just three short years, the cost of living for seniors living in a one bedroom apartment on a fixed income in New Jersey has increased 8 percent, according to data released in 2012 by the New Jersey Foundation for Aging (NJFA).

The cost of living for a single renter over the age of 65 was $25,941 in 2009. That same renter, living in the same one-bedroom apartment, saw her cost of living quickly climb more than $2,000 to $27,960, by 2012. However, there was not a comparable rise in income or Social Security.  Seniors on fixed incomes have been plagued in recent years with rising expenses for housing, transportation and health care. In many cases this has resulted in a rise in senior hunger and even homelessness. Their highest cost is their housing expenses.

Twenty five percent of all seniors in our state rely on Social Security as their only income. So NJ seniors can least afford the trend in rising expenses. The result is a widening of the gap between basic living expenses and their income. The NJ Elder Economic Index details these costs for seniors in each of the 21 NJ counties. These details indicate how seniors are faring in the slow economy. The latest data shows that 250,000 seniors over the age of 65 in New Jersey – representing 42 percent of single and elderly couples living in the community – do not have the money to cover their basic costs. Sixty-four percent of people in this group are women.

The report, known as the NJ Elder Economic Index, indicates that the average Social Security for a woman being $14,848. But average living expenses for a one-bedroom apartment in New Jersey has reached the $27,960 mark. So how can we expect to call these the golden years if elders must choose between food, heat, shelter or prescriptions? Even if a person worked and saved for retirement this rise in costs are unprecedented and these elders are one step from their own ‘fiscal cliff’. The New Jersey Foundation for Aging wants to alert and connect elders to resources in their community that might ease the financial strain they may be feeling each day. 

A woman receiving $14,848 from Social Security as her sole income with the average costs of a one bedroom apartment at $27,960 is only 53% economically secure.  At this income level she would be eligible for several food and nutrition programs, as well utility assistance programs. These programs would improve her quality of life and enable her to use her income to cover more of her basic living costs, but she would still fall short of meeting her costs by 21%. The only public benefit program that would help her to close the gap is affordable housing. 

The most costly portion of an elder’s monthly expenses is their housing. More than 46 percent of their income must go towards their housing, taxes and utilities.  This highlights the need for more affordable housing. The state’s housing shortage has been documented for several decades. And the need for affordable housing in the community for people of all ages has only been further stressed by the recent storms and floods across the state. Public awareness is a key component to help local advocates, state policy makers, municipal leaders and planners address current and future needs. Where you live at age 65 or 70?  Persons over age 75 and older have even fewer income assets. Where will your parents live at age 85?

If these funds are not protected and utilized, Otherwise low-income seniors and low-income families will continue to be displaced by Sandy and homeless for many years to come. Each municipality’s affordable housing trust funds are needed now more than ever for the development of new housing because of the impact of hurricane Sandy. We cannot afford to be silent on this issue. Elders who have been active in their community who want to downsize need affordable housing options; working families who want good schools and safe streets need affordable housing; health care workers who want to be close to their work and patients need affordable housing. A healthy blend of housing types is crucial to nurture a community’s cultural and social vitality as well as its economic base. “NJ Strong” must include affordable housing options to serve it residents and to build back the local economy.

*this was submitted and printed as an op-ed in the Asbury Park Press on 6/19/13 by Grace Egan, Executive Director, NJFA

Building on Wisdom: NJFA’s 15th Annual Conference

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Press Release

For Immediate Release                                                                      Contact:  Grace Egan

April 11, 2013                                                                                                  Melissa Chalker

                                                                                                                         609-421-0206

Building on Wisdom: NJFA’s 15th Annual Conference!

NJFA will hold its 15th Annual Conference on Wednesday, June 12th at the Crowne Plaza Monroe. This year’s conference, titled, Building on Wisdom will feature two nationally recognized keynote speakers.

The morning keynote presentation will be given by Dr. Mike Magee, President of Positive Medicine, Inc. Dr. Magee is committed to transforming powerful health visions into action. Recognized as a visionary leader of the home-centered health care movement and lifespan planning records, he has advised the Institute of Medicine on these topics. Dr. Magee is the author of 10 books including, Home Centered Health Care, Positive Leadership and Healthy Waters.

The luncheon keynote address will be given by reporter and editor, Patricia Cohen, who has worked for the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsday and Rolling Stone Magazine. Ms. Cohen published, In Our Prime: The Fascinating History and Surprising Future of Middle Age, a New York Times notable book.

The day will also include breakout sessions with great topics like, Financial Literacy, Sex and Aging, POSLT and End of Life decisions, as well as an update on the Comprehensive Medicaid Waiver. We hope you can join us for this informative, day-long conference!

Participants may register by email, by mail or by fax.  For more information about the conference visit: www.njfoundationforaging.org/events.html or call us at 609-421-0206.

  To learn more about the work of the Foundation visit www.njfoundationforaging.org or call 609-421-0206. The New Jersey Foundation for Aging was established in 1998, its mission is promote approaches in the delivery of services that enable older adults to live in the community with independence and dignity.

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Flu Season 2012

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Seasonal (or common) influenza is a respiratory illness that can be spread from person to person and is caused by human influenza viruses. 

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF THE FLU?

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Body Aches
  • Headache

Flu season usually runs from October until May. The CDC recommends that you get a flu shot before the virus starts circulating. That’s why you see all the drugstores have already had signs up to get your flu shot there.

HOW CAN THE FLU BE PREVENTED?

  •  Get the flu vaccine
  •  Cover coughs and sneezes
  •  Wash hands frequently
  •  Avoid sick people
  •  Clean commonly shared or frequently touched items

 

WHEN SHOULD I GET THE FLU VACCINE?

You should get vaccinated as soon as vaccine is available (ideally by October-November) and as long as flu is present in the community.

 An annual flu shot is suggested for anyone age 6 months and over. Seniors are encouraged to get a shot as soon as they can, as each year people age 65 and over have the highest rates of influenza-related deaths and hospitalizations.

The influenza virus changes every year, so the vaccine changes too in order to combat the virus.

If you need assistance finding a place to get the flu shot visit:

http://www.state.nj.us/health/flu/findflushot.shtml

Medicare Advantage- Beware of scare tactics

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Medicare Advantage- Beware of scare tactics

What is Medicare Advantage? Medicare Advantage plans are private plans offered by insurance companies to replace your traditional Medicare benefits.

An advantage plan provides all the same benefits as traditional Medicare, such as doctor visits and hospital stays. Some plans may offer extra benefits that are not usually covered by Medicare, such as eyeglasses and hearing aids. Medicare Advantage plans come with a monthly premium that differs depending on the company and type of plan. The Federal Government pays the insurance companies to manage your care under a Medicare Advantage plan, instead of them managing it under traditional Medicare.

There have been some efforts to scare seniors into thinking that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will change or effect their Medicare Advantage coverage. But you need to know the facts. The Affordable Care Act does not change any benefits guaranteed to Medicare recipients. This includes Medicare Advantage plans. What the ACA does change is the way the Medicare Advantage plans are paid. Starting in 2012, Medicare began reducing the extra government payments to insurance companies for Medicare Advantage plans. The reason for these plans have been made to reduce payments is because there is little evidence that better care was given to anyone on a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans are eligible to receive bonuses if they provide quality care.

Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans is low, even here in NJ, leaving some to question, what is the real advantage? Some may think having a commercial insurance company’s name on your card carries more weight than a Medicare card, but just like any commercial insurance plan, there are sometimes more hoops (referrals, prior authorizations) to jump through than there are with traditional Medicare.

What the Affordable Care Act does do for consumers who use Medicare Advantage plans is provide some protections. For example, Medicare Advantage plans are not allowed to charge more for services than traditional Medicare does. The ACA also has provisions to reduce out of pocket costs for patients using high-cost services like cancer treatment or dialysis. Under the ACA, Medicare Advantage plans have also been mandated to limit their administrative costs, as well as their profits. This measure is to ensure that the plans spend 85 % of their money on member benefits (that will start in 2014).

Rumors of Medicare Advantage consumers facing cuts to their benefits due to the ACA are rampant and intended to scare seniors. The truth is, every year the insurance companies are offered the choice to continue operating a Medicare Advantage Plan and to change the services offered under that plan (they are only required to cover what traditional Medicare covers). So, any year, not just this year, Medicare Advantage plans could chose to stop providing optional benefits such as eyeglasses.

So what does this all mean to you, the Medicare recipient? Well, if you are currently in a Medicare Advantage plan, your plan must send you a notice of any changes for 2013 by October 1, 2012. Make sure to read it carefully. Even if you are not currently in a Medicare Advantage plan, all Medicare recipients should go to www.medicare.gov to review both traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans to compare and decide what is best for them. Open Enrollment is October 15 to December 7thand during that period you can decide to stay in the same Medicare Advantage plan you have now, change to a different Medicare Advantage Plan or switch to traditional Medicare. If you chose to switch to traditional Medicare, remember that if you had a Medicare Advantage plan that offered prescription drug coverage you will need to also enroll in a Medicare drug coverage plan and/or buy a Medigap supplemental policy.

 Detailed information about Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Drug coverage, Medigap plans and Open Enrollment can be found at http://www.medicare.gov/.

 For detailed information about the Affordable Care Act and seniors, visit www.ncoa.org/StraightTalk

For more information about the Affordable Care Act in general, you can visit, http://www.healthcare.gov/law/index.html

NJFA 14th Annual Conference- Hot Topics- June 14, 2012

Monday, April 16th, 2012

NJFA is proud to be hosting our annual conference for the 14th year. We work hard every year to bring new and pertinent topics to the professionals who attend. And this year is no different.

We will feature a session about hoarding that is going to look at the ethical and clinical aspects of the condition. Our panel includes Steven Majewski and Mary Anne Ross of COPSA, Barbara Goodman a moving specialist and Kelli Dixon at the Ocean County Board of Social Services. Together they’ll inform the audience as to what hoarding is, what is looks like, how it affects different aspects of a client’s life and they’ll also share real life stories and possible solutions.

We’ll also be exploring some legal issues that are currently affecting seniors. Gwen Orlowski of Legal Services of NJ, Elizabeth Speidel of the Office of the Institutionalized Elderly and Judy Millner of Jewish Family and Children Services will take the audience through some examples of legal issues that seniors are facing in the area of health care. We know Medicare can be a complex web to untangle, these presenters will give the attendees new information to help guide their clients through the system.

These are just two sessions that will be offered at our day-long conference on Thursday June 14, 2012. The day will also feature two keynote speakers, one discussing affordable housing over breakfast and they second discussing “second adulthood” over lunch. Stay tuned to this blog for more details.

Visit our website at www.njfoundationforaging.org/events.html to view the online brochure and register. Questions? Call us at 609-421-0206 or email questions to mchalker@njfoundationforaging.org