Posts Tagged ‘help’

How to Age Well: Planning Your Path, Part 2: Home, Health, and “After I’m Gone…”

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

By Mason Crane-Bolton

Have you planned for future health and home changes? | Photo via pexels.com

 

There is no way to get aging “right”…

 

…But it does help to plan.

Something is happening each and every day across New Jersey. Across the United States. Across the entirety of the planet.

We are all getting older.

Like it or not, each and every one of us is on a journey of aging. From the moment we are born until the moment we die, we are aging.

We tend to think of aging as being something saved for an arbitrary age, like 50, 60, 65,…etc. We could list off the ages at which society (for one reason or another) has decided we’ve hit a certain benchmark in aging. Whether it’s Social Security benefits, Medicare enrollment, retirement, “senior citizen” discounts, or a screening your doctor now wants you to undergo, we tend to have these changes attached to specific ages or with “being of a certain age.” We think of them as being times in our life when a monumental change has occurred, a mark of “aging.”

But the truth is, regardless of what arbitrary number might be assigned to program enrollments or coupons, we don’t age in random, sudden leaps. We age constantly and gradually. While this might make it tempting to wait to plan for your later years, you should plan now. No one wants to be caught unawares by changes as you age or a sudden health crisis, so it makes sense to plan for your later years as early as possible. Think of planning now as training for becoming an older adult.

What if you already consider yourself an older adult? That’s not to say this blog doesn’t apply to you too! It absolutely does—no matter where you are or where you consider yourself to be in your path of aging, it makes sense to plan now for the road ahead, whether that road is two days or twenty years from now!

Having plans in place will mitigate much stress and bad decision-making in emergency situations. Much heartache and avoidable stressed is caused by being forced to make difficult decisions in the heat of the moment; time spent worrying about what the best decision is and then wondering if the right decision is the one you made.

What are some priorities to focus on? We’re so glad you asked. In this three-part series we’ll cover different aspects of how-to age well as we lead up to our 21st Annual Conference. If you’d like to register for the conference but haven’t yet, go to www.njfoundationforaging.org for more information.

This week we’ll cover: home, health, and “after I’m gone.”

 

Home

Wherever you live, there are changes you can make today for a better home tomorrow. A home that’s better suited to your future self.

Area rugs may be soft on your feet, but they can be a major trip hazard. Remove area rugs to prevent falls and cut down on your number of tripping hazards. If you still want something soft for your feet, consider installing carpets—these aren’t as trip-free as hard floors, but better than area rugs. Also, stay in the habit of wearing secure shoes instead of open-toed sandals or loose slippers around your home.

Although we covered many changes that may be needed due to mobility changes in the first part of this blog series (How to Age Well: Planning Your Path, Part 1), it’s also worth considering what changes you may want to make for your own comfort or peace of mind.

If your home is too large for you to comfortably handle, you may want to consider downsizing. Constant upkeep and cleaning of rooms that aren’t being used can take a toll on your energy and your money. If you’re concerned about having rooms available for visiting friends and family, let them stay at nearby hotels, motels, or Airbnb listings while they’re visiting. Not having to pay for extra heat, air conditioning and electricity, or regularly clean an infrequently used room, will make the visits more fun for everyone.

And if you missed it in the first part in our series, we have a link to help you find an aging-in-place specialist in your area: Living in Place.

 

Health

Whether or not you consider yourself to be in good health now, chances are that sooner or later you’ll have to face potential health issues. And even if you’re blessed with good health for the rest of your life, it’s a good idea to plan for a potential emergency. Whether it’s the diagnosis of a long-term illness or a broken ankle after a tumble on a running trail, illnesses and accidents happen—it’s best to be prepared.

First, learn your family medical history as best as you can and share this information with your medical providers. Is there a family history of cancer? Heart disease? Glaucoma or cataracts? Dementia or Alzheimer’s? Have you been previously diagnosed with any conditions or illnesses? Your medical provider should be alerted to any family or personal health history you have—this isn’t a guarantee you’ll have the same conditions, but a way for your physician to know what they should pay special attention to and screenings or treatments that could best benefit you. And remember that routine screenings and hygiene appointments, such as dental exams and cleanings, should be done regardless of age.

Interview your medical providers. If they don’t have a good understanding of aging in medicine or make you uncomfortable, look for a provider better suited to your needs. Many in the community of aging professionals now recognize the benefit of annual screenings for changes in cognitive abilities for early detection of possible dementia and Alzheimer’s—ask your provider if they do such screenings and any other screenings you have concerns about. Stay on top of changes in your health and don’t delay bringing them up with your provider; bring any questions you may have to your provider and make sure you get answers for each question. Bring your list with you and something to write on and with (don’t trust you remember everything when you get home) or ask your provider to send you home with additional information materials or resources. If your provider is unwilling to answer your questions, they are probably not the right provider for you.

Plan too for future caregiving needs and needed adaptations to changes. If you need caregiving, who will provide it and how? Will it be a nurse or a friend or family member? Will you need to pay this person? How often will you need help? You can ask your provider what insight they might have into your future needs, but also plan to have these discussions with spouses/partners, family, and yourself.

In addition to these concerns, you may think about bringing someone with you to your medical appointments—especially if you find yourself getting overwhelmed during exams or need some assistance in understanding procedures or doctor recommendations. If you have a caregiver or think it would be beneficial to have someone in the exam room with you, bring this up with your provider. Ask them if you could have a trusted person or caregiver with you.

As long as you’re planning, you should also plan what you would like in your medical care and end-of-life care. Seriously consider creating an Advance Directive and POLST form (Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment). You can learn more about these and fill the forms here NJ Advance Directive and POLST. Having an Advance Directive or POLST form often makes people uncomfortable because they believe the form is only for declining further medical care. This is not true. These forms allow individuals to express, in writing, when they are mentally and physically capable of making decisions, what they would like their medical care to be. Individuals can choose to have as many OR as few life-saving measures they would like to be taken in the event they are not conscious to tell doctors or loved ones their wishes. The POLST form also travels from doctor to doctor, allowing individuals to make their wishes known without having to fill out the form over and over again.

 

“After I’m Gone”

A former co-worker of mine, a planned giving attorney, used to use the phrase “If I get hit by an asteroid crossing the street tomorrow…” when talking about all the things we’d need to know if he died suddenly (he liked it as opposed to, “If I get hit by a bus,” because it seemed so much less likely!). In his line of work he was constantly discussing wills and estates with the organization’s supporters. This wasn’t as morbid as it may sound—the conservations were much less about death than a way for these supporters to tell my co-worker how they wanted to be remembered.

We don’t need to necessarily dwell on death with morbidity, but it’s healthy to recognize it will, inevitably, happen to us all. Whether or not we’re planning to give away money or large assets when we die, it’s not only wise, but necessary to plan what will happen with ourselves, our loved ones, and our things before and after we’re gone.

If you’re an adult, you should have a will. Regardless of how many assets you have or don’t have, whether you own a car or a house, a pet, or you have only the clothes on your back, it makes sense to dictate who will get what in a will. You can make this will as secret or as public as you’d like, give it all away to a favorite school or organization, or pass it along to family and friends, but you should make a will. Make sure you also have your will and wishes reviewed by an attorney to ensure your wishes can be carried out.

Even though most of us may be reluctant to discuss our own deaths, it’s worth remembering that our loved ones will have to process taking on additional household and/or financial responsibilities in addition to processing the emotional toll of our deaths. To make things easier for loved ones, it’s wise to write a list of passwords for bank accounts, utility accounts, etc., and to create other lists, such as where household objects are stored, how to maintain appliances or accounts, and other useful information your spouse/partner or loved ones might want to have access to.

Also consider having conversations with your loved ones about how you would like to have your death recognized. Let your loved ones know if you have religious/spiritual or personal practices that you would like incorporated into any kind of memorial service, song or story requests you may have, and any other details about your preferred type of service. If you face reluctance from loved ones in discussing matters of death, try to gently and compassionately remind them that these conversations are going to make things easier and are, ultimately, about love.

 

As we said in the first in our series, there is no one solution to deciding how you will cope with your home, health, or end-of-life decisions. Just as your life changes, so may the appropriate solution—having a plan, or even considering your current or future needs, is the first step to aging well.

 

Stay tuned for our next blog post, the third and last part in our “Planning to Age Well,” series: money and retirement.


Mason Crane-Bolton is Communications Manager for the New Jersey Foundation for Aging. His writing has appeared in EpiphanyUU WorldTo Wake/To Rise, and others. 

Scams and Tech, Part 3: Kicking Scammers to the Curb

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

By Mason Crane-Bolton

Make yourself a to-do list for completing these tips | photo via stock photos

We’ve already given you some tips to protect yourself against the scammers we’ve listed in this series, but what else can you do? How can you best ensure you’re safe from scams and scammers?

Sadly, there is no silver bullet, no perfect solution that will guarantee you’ll never be in contact with scammers or never fall victim to a scam. But there are many steps you can take to help protect yourself. These steps can be easily divided into two categories: proactive and reactive. Proactive steps are ones you can take to help ward off scammers—these are the best steps to take because they help prevent financial and/or identity loss. Although reactive steps aren’t as ideal, they’re a good way to handle scams after you believe you’ve been contacted by a scammer or have been scammed.

Proactive

  • Consider opening an account for your Social Security number (SSN) at https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/ to monitor your Social Security account.
  • Consider freezing your credit—this option may help prevent identity theft, but don’t freeze your credit if you plan on making a major purchase in the near future, such as a car, boat or home. Credit checks run while your credit score is frozen will hurt your credit score.
  • Monitor your credit throughout the year. You’re entitled to free credit reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax once per company per year. Rather than get all three at once, spread these reports out every four months to stay vigilant. You can learn more at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action.
  • Never email or text your Social Security number or banking information, such as credit card, account, or routing numbers.
  • Never give your SSN or credit/banking information to someone who reaches out to you.
  • Educate yourself on the latest scams—scams tend to come in droves, so it’s helpful to learn what scammers might approach you with.
  • Install virus and malware protection on any device connected to the internet, including (but not limited to) computers, tablets, and smart phones.
  • Consider adding a trusted contact to your bank accounts—if unusual spending is noticed, your bank can alert you and your trusted contact (this may be particularly useful if you’re the victim of a romance scam).
  • Read reviews for organizations and businesses that send solicitations before engaging with them.
  • Look for the fine print on solicitations you receive. If a solicitation references a relationship with another business you know (say, your mortgage company or landlord/apartment management), contact that business directly to investigate the mail/email/text/phone call you’ve received.
  • Double-check any potential romantic/friend dates before pursuing a meeting or relationship. Let people you’re close to know about anyone involved in your life (even if the relationship is online-only).
  • Don’t open any emails or click on links or attachments you’re not expecting. This goes not just for emails from strangers but emails from loved ones—Scammers can hack into accounts or disguise their email address as coming from someone in your list of contacts.
  • Use your caller ID on your phone and let calls from unknown numbers go to your answering machine or voicemail. If you’re worried about missing an important call, you can always use the general principle, “If it’s important, they’ll leave a message.”

 

But maybe you’ve already gotten a suspect phone call, or a strange voicemail. Maybe you’ve realized, too late, that the person you gave your credit card number or sent money to wasn’t who they said they were. If these things have already happened, then it’s time to take reactive steps.

Reactive

  • If you receive a call you believe is a scam, hang up the phone immediately. If caller claims to be a from a legitimate business or organization, hang up the phone—reverse search and contact the actual organization. Ask if the organization has contacted you.
  • If you’ve opened an email that seems fishy, delete it immediately. DO NOT click on any links in the email!
  • If you’ve given your credit or banking information to someone you later suspect is a scammer, report this to your financial institutions and request new card and account numbers.
  • Report any attempted scams.
  • If you’ve been a victim of a scam, report it—your report will help you AND might prevent someone from being scammed in the future.
  • You can report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.
  • To report Social Security scams, call the Office of the Inspector General at ?1-800-269-0271 or report online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report.
  • If you or someone you know has been the victim of an online scam, register a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx or with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs at http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/ or by calling 800-242-5846 (toll-free in NJ) or 973-504-6200.
  • Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to report it if you’ve been the victim of a scam—scams can happen to anyone.

 

While this is not a comprehensive list, these suggestions can help guard you against tech-based scams or help you even after you’ve found yourself to be victim of a scam. Remember, scams can pop up anytime, from anywhere, and are especially prevalent through all of our tech-devices. Remaining vigilant and working to minimize your exposures to scams is the best way to prevent being scammed. But if you are the victim of a scam, report your scam to the proper authorities—your report could help you and could prevent someone else from being scammed!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this series on tech-based scams! Come back in April for our newest blog!


Mason Crane-Bolton is Communications Manager for the New Jersey Foundation for Aging. His writing has appeared in EpiphanyUU WorldTo Wake/To Rise, and others. 

The New Medicare Cards

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

The New Medicare Cards

By Charles Clarkson, Project Director, Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey

In 2015, Congress passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act. This law requires the removal of the social security numbers from all Medicare cards by April 2019. This new initiative is referred to as the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI.) A new randomly generated Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the social security number. When the initiative gets underway all Medicare beneficiaries will be assigned a new MBI and be sent a new Medicare card.

The primary goal of the initiative is to decrease Medicare beneficiaries’ vulnerability to identity theft by removing the social security number from their Medicare cards and replacing it with a new Medicare MBI which does not contain any other personal information.

The new MBI will have the following characteristics:

i. The same number of characters as the current Medicare number, but will be visibly distinguishable from the Medicare number

ii. Contain uppercase alphabetic and numeric characters throughout the new MBI

iii. For providers, the new MBI will occupy the same field as the Medicare number on transactions

iv. Be unique to each beneficiary (e.g. husband and wife will have their own MBI)

v. Be easy to read and limit the possibility of letters being interpreted as numbers (e.g. alphabetic characters are upper case only and will exclude S, L, O, I, B, Z)

vi. Not contain any embedded intelligence or special characters

vii. Not contain inappropriate combinations of numbers or strings that may be offensive

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that oversees Medicare, has established a transition period during which the Medicare number or MBI will be accepted from providers, beneficiaries, plans, and others. CMS expects the transition period to run from April 2018 through December 31, 2019. After the transition period only the MBI will be used.

Starting around April 2018, CMS will start mailing new Medicare cards. There are approximately 60 million beneficiaries in Medicare. So, CMS will probably mail the cards in phases over a period of time. Remember, as a beneficiary you can still use your current Medicare number during the transition period if it takes awhile to receive your new Medicare card. If a beneficiary is new to Medicare after April 2018 and Medicare has started issuing the new cards, the beneficiary will receive the new MBI. Therefore, healthcare providers must be able accept the new MBIs by April 2018.

Fraud and the new Medicare cards.

The Senior Medicare Patrol of New Jersey (SMP) wants all Medicare beneficiaries to be aware of possible fraud and scams relating to the new Medicare cards. Remember, CMS and Medicare will never contact you by phone or email to ask for personal information relating to the issuance of the new Medicare cards. Any such contact is a scam. Don’t be taken in. Also, there will be no charge for the issuance of the new Medicare cards. Anyone seeking to have a beneficiary pay money for the new card is a scammer. Be especially careful of anyone seeking to have access to your checking account to pay any fee for the new card. Beneficiaries are especially vulnerable if they are isolated, frail or may have cognitive loss. Caregivers should be on the alert for these kinds of scams. The SMP is currently educating beneficiaries at its outreach events of the issuance of the new Medicare cards. CMS will also be conducting intensive education and outreach to beneficiaries to help them prepare for this change.

The issuance of the new Medicare card is a significant change. If a beneficiary or caregiver has any questions about the SSNRI, please don‚Äôt hesitate to call the SMP at 1-877-SMP-4359 (1-877-767-4359) or 732-777-1940. A beneficiary or caregiver can also email me at [email protected].

In the aftermath of Sandy

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

In the aftermath of Sandy

Many New Jerseyans were affected by Hurricane Sandy, a number of them seniors. In the past two weeks since then we’ve seen many images of destruction and heard many stories of days without power.

If you are still in need of assistance as you recover from the damage Sandy left behind, here are some important numbers and websites to know:

Dial 2-1-1 or visit www.nj211.org to find out about local resources for food, shelter, transportation, etc.

If you need disaster assistance, apply for FEMA by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362) or visit www.disasterassistance.gov Please know that there are deadlines to requesting help and that you need to reach out to FEMA directly, they will not contact you.

Your local chapter of the Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/find-help) and the Salvation Army (http://www.use.salvationarmy.org) can also be of assistance.

If you or someone you know needs help coping with the trauma from the Hurricane you can contact the NJ Disaster Mental Health Hotline 1-877-294-4357.

There have been many reports about the help being offered to Hurricane Sandy victims. Countless organizations and individuals have provided, shelter, food, heat, clothing and comfort to those affected. Unfortunately, during times of disaster, we see some people who would rather take advantage of the situation rather than help. Please be on the look out for scams.

One, price gouging is illegal, to report it call (862) 209-0130 or (973) 220-3474.

There have been a couple of instances of people posing as utility or inspection personnel and then attempting to rob the home once they gain entry. Anyone approaching your home as a utility worker or inspector should have proper ID and have no problem showing it to you or verifying the reason for their visit. Don’t let anyone into your home that you are not 100% sure is who they say they are. Make sure to call the police and report any false attempts to gain access to your home.

There may also be people posing as false insurance programs or other assistance programs. Please make sure to always ask for proper ID and verify that the program or services they are offering are legitimate. Report any problems to your local police department.

And for those of you looking for ways to help, be aware of that there are also scammers posing as charities . The IRS has issued a statement encouraging people to look out for scam artists impersonating charities to help Hurricane Sandy victims. Donate to recognized charities only. Some will even try to use a name similar to a recognized organization so be sure to look closely. Do not give out personal information. There are various ways that these scammers will try to reach you, they may call on the phone, by email or through the use of a phony website set up to mimic that of a known charity. Legitimate charities may also be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Web site at fema.gov.

Call the IRS toll-free disaster assistance telephone number, 1-866-562-5227, if you are a hurricane victim with specific questions about tax relief or disaster related tax issues.

If you would like to volunteer to help those affected by Sandy, you can also contact your local Red Cross or Salvation Army or call the NJ Volunteer Emergency Response Hotline at 1-800-JERSEY-7 (1-800-537-7397)

Recovering from Sandy will be a lengthy process. You may have long wait times for responses from disaster assistance programs, but know that help is coming.

It’s Tax Time- How to Get Volunteer Tax Help

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Volunteer Tax Help

Yes, it is time to think about filing your 2011 tax returns. It’s a job that is never a joy, but could be less of a hassle, if you try using a terrific free service Рthe Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). 

 For over 30 years, the VITA force of 2,000+ volunteers has helped more than 2 million households file basic tax forms.  This program offers free tax help to people who cannot afford professional assistance (generally those with incomes under 49,000). Volunteers help prepare basic tax returns in community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, and other community locations.

A recent focus of the program is to encourage taxpayers to file their returns, federal and State, electronically. Each year the number of taxpayers that take advantage of this method continues to grow.

 According to the IRS website the following are the items you should bring to have your tax return prepared:

  • Proof of identification
  • Social Security Cards for you,¬†your spouse and dependents and/or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration
  • Birth dates for¬†you, your spouse and¬†dependents on the tax return
  • Current year‚Äôs tax package if¬†you received one
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, from all employers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
  • A copy of last year‚Äôs Federal and State returns (if available)
  • Bank Routing Numbers and Account Numbers for Direct Deposit
  • Total¬†paid for¬†day¬†care provider and the day care¬†provider’s¬†tax identifying number¬†(the provider’s Social Security Number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number)

To file taxes electronically on a married filing joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-829-1040 or contact your local Office on Aging, you can find the # for your County office by visiting www.njfoundationforaging.org/services.html or call 1-877-222-3737.

Excessive Heat Warning This Week!

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Excessive Heat Warning

With Summer in full swing, we are faced with high temperatures and high humidity all week! There is an excessive heat warning for NJ until Thursday June 9th.  Heat and humidity can become a serious health hazard, especially for children, elderly or those with chronic conditions, such as respiratory issues. Please remember to not only follow the above steps to keep yourself safe, but also check on family, friends and neighbors, again paying close attention to older adults, children and those who are ill.

 Conditions caused by excessive heat include dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Heat exhaustion is a mild condition that may take days of heat exposure to develop. Someone suffering from heat exhaustion may have pale, clammy skin and sweat profusely. They may also feel tired, weak or dizzy and can suffer from headaches. Heatstroke can take just a few minutes to make someone very ill. A person with heatstroke will have dry, hot skin and a body temperature of 106 degrees or more, they will also have an absence of sweat and a rapid pulse. Someone suffering from heatstroke can become delirious or unconscious and needs immediate medical attention.

Here are some tips for staying cool and safe in the NJ summer heat!

  • Drink plenty of water or other non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Make sure children and the elderly are drinking water, and ensure that persons with mobility problems have adequate fluids in easy reach.
  • If you do not have air conditioning, spend time in air-conditioned places such as libraries, malls¬†or other public buildings during the hottest hours of the day. Check with your municipality to see if cooling centers are available.
  • Wear loose and light-colored clothing.¬† Wear a hat when outdoors.
  • Avoid any outdoor activity during the hottest hours of the day. Reduce physical activity or reschedule it for cooler times of the day.
  • Don’t leave children, a frail elderly or disabled person, or pets in an enclosed car as temperatures can quickly climb to dangerous levels.
  • Talk to your health care provider about any medicine or drugs you are taking. Certain medications, such as tranquilizers and drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease, can increase the risk of heat-related illness.

There may be a cooling center in your area or other assistance available for those who need to escape the heat. If you need more information or would like to find a cooling center in your area, Contact information for your County Office on Aging can be found at http://www.njfoundationforaging.org/services.html

To find a Senior Center in your area visit:

http://web.doh.state.nj.us/apps2/seniorcenter/scSearch.aspx

 To get more information from NJ Division of Aging and Community Services visit http://www.nj.gov/health/senior/index.shtml or call 1-800-792-8820.