• May 06, 2015
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Protecting Your Parents (and Yourself) From Identity Thieves

Identity thieves and other criminals often prey on aging seniors. They know that someone who is a bit confused or forgetful may be persuaded to provide information about their bank account, Social Security number (SSN), date of birth or other private information. But identity theft is a serious problem for people of all ages, and knowing how to respond is important for you as well as your aging parent.

I myself was the victim of identity theft in April when I learned that someone else had used my SSN to submit an income tax return to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – presumably for a big refund that would be deposited in someone else's account.

What ensued was a full day of waiting on hold, filing reports, and learning a lot more about the realities of identity theft.  I would like to share my experience so you can learn from a "real-world" situation.

After pouring myself a cup of coffee that morning, I dialed the IRS, listened to their list of confusing prompts and then waited for more than 45 minutes before being "disconnected." The same thing happened when I dialed in a second and third time. But without any assistance from the IRS and a little luck, I was able to piece together what to do.

While on hold I emailed a money manager that I work with who told me about an Identity Theft Affidavit (form 14039) that you can find on the IRS website (www.irs.gov).  I downloaded the form, filled it out and attached it to my tax return, which I filed manually, by snail mail, rather than electronically, the following day.

Once this form is submitted to the IRS, you will receive a PIN number that you must include on all tax submissions in the future in order to file your taxes. Unlike many tax forms, you can complete this yourself. You can also give it to the accountant who prepares your tax return. If you have questions about this I suggest you speak with an Accountant.

As luck would have it, I was checking my Twitter feed while on hold with the IRS and saw that Jonelle Marte, a financial blogger and reporter for the Washington Post  had just posted an article, “Report cites a second blow for identity theft victims: Long waits from the IRS.” She noted that “only 40% of callers will get through to an agent, and it was clear I was NOT going to be one of them.

So, I quickly emailed Ms. Marte, who responded right away with some helpful advice. (By the way, her well written, easy-to-read blog is full of useful financial information.) She told me three things I should do that day:

            1. Contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to place a “fraud alert” on my credit records. This will help prevent a downgrade in your credit rating, but it also means that you cannot apply for credit within at least 90 days. Once you place the alert with one of the companies, they will alert the other two companies. You will receive a notification from them with a "code" to allow you to get a free credit report to make sure the fraud has not gone "deeper" than what was initially identified.

            2. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.com or by using the FTC Identify Hotline at 1-877-438-4338-- Their website contains a lot of helpful information.

            3. File a report with your local police department, which may have a complaint form that you can download

As extra precaution, and in the event that the identity theft was more than just for my taxes, I went to my banks and notified them, so that no one could apply for credit in my name or withdraw my money.

Fortunately, when identity theft involves filing a fake tax return, it usually doesn't impact your credit cards, but remains confined to the taxes. Nonetheless, this experience has made me protect myself and now have engaged the services of a company that will protect me from ID and Credit Fraud. (this will be the subject of another post!!).

But you should know that you will have to navigate this process on your own – or on behalf of your aging family member – because the IRS provides no assistance.  Also, let your parents know that the IRS will never contact them by telephone.  In fact, IRS impersonators have been know to call people and convince them that they need to pay their taxes right then and there. Beware of this scam!

Nearly one month later, I am starting the entire follow up process. I’ll keep you posted about what happens.  Because we can all learn from each other, I would be interested in hearing your comments about other personal experiences with identity theft.  It's a very serious problem for everyone.

  • August 20, 2015
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The Residences: A New Assisted Living Facility In Miami

If you or your parents are considering moving to an assisted living facility (ALF), you’ll want to add The Residences in West Kendall to your list of places to check out. It’s owned and operated by United HomeCare, a non-profit home health and community care organization in MIami-Dade County and it's located right next to the West Baptist Kendall Hospital. I went to see it for myself and met with the executive director. Here’s what I learned:

  • It has a capacity for 150 residents and is expected to open in the next few weeks.
  • They plan to accept some medicaid residents in semi-private accomodations.
  • There are 122 studio and one-bedroom units in addition to a 15 room memory care unit.
  • The dining room features table service with meals prepared by a gourmet chef (I sampled some of her dishes and I have to say they were excellent).
  • Their monthly fees include laundry, transportation, telephone, WiFI, daily housekeeping services and other activities.
  • Residents who live independently but need a little assistance at night with things like medications or turning down their beds receive this help without additional charges.
I was impressed with the chief administrator, Maria Torre who told me that her main goal is to operate the facility “like a first class hotel.” And, as the first residents move in, she hopes to be able to assign rooms in a way that places like-minded people near each other (perhaps bridge players in one corridor and garden enthusiasts in another).
 
It’s a lovely looking facility that’s light and bright with lots of artwork, with gardens and entertaining spaces planned for the building’s exterior.
 
If you or a family member have been thinking about moving to an ALF,  you should schedule a visit and see if it's a good fit.  You won’t know until you spend some time there, enjoy a meal, talk to other residents or prospective residents and “try it on.” 
 
I’d love to know your opinion about The Residences if you do visit. Email me at nancy@senioritymatters.com and let me know what you think. For more details about The Residences, here’s a link to their website.

Fifty: It Is NOT The New Thirty

When author and editor Lorraine C. Ladish turned 50, her friends congratulated – and consoled - her. But when someone tried to comfort her with the oft-repeated phrase “Don’t worry, 50 is the new 30,” she took offense.

“Fifty is not the new 30, or the new 40. It´s the new 50, and that´s a great thing! If it really were the new 30 or 40, I´d probably be pining to have another baby. And then when my mid-life kid turned 20, I´d be a good old 70. Now please don´t tell me that life starts at 70,” she writes on her website, Viva Fifty.

Her witty website was created as a bilingual and multicultural community to share the joys of midlife. “My hope is that we can inspire and empower one another to thrive in health and happiness,” she writes.

The website features weekly articles and posts on everything from beauty, travel, and health issues to reviews of products. Here, you’ll discover that 50 is not too old for DIY projects, learn how to choose the best eyeglass frames, find the best spots for a getaway – even how to delve into dating.

Want to share your ideas? She’s inviting writers, bloggers and readers to offer their stories and thoughts on how to live life to the fullest. After all, we’re all in this together. Or we should be.

“I promise we’ll do our best to make you feel at home and help you enrich your life, and more importantly, to give you a voice,”  writes Ladish, who quips that she “can still look stunning in a tight, sassy red dress (with only the best body-sculpting shape-wear underneath, that is).”

Ready to learn more? Visit www.vivafifty.com

  • October 27, 2015
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Meet Angela Colley and Make Your Home A Safe Place

Angela Colley is on a mission. She determined to make it safe for seniors to stay at home, one residence at a time.

As a certified Aging in Place Specialist, she has the expertise to design safe, secure – and stunning – homes. She’s takes care of daunting details those of us with aging parents worry about. And, her consultations offer in-depth suggestions on how to make your parents’ home safer – and give you peace of mind.

“I'm passionate about providing accessible freedom for my clients in their own homes. I work closely with all my clients and their families to design a living space that promotes their independence,” she notes on her website. “I work only with quality contractors and coordinate their efforts to ensure that the home project is completed in the highest quality, on budget, and with a minimum of stress.”

Angela holds a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude and is a member of the National Association of Home Builders and the American Society of Interior Designers. She also helped transform an Extreme Homemaker Home.

She’s worked with clients throughout Broward and Miami Dade counties, developing long-term relationships with many of them while providing them a home, sweet (and safe) home. 

For more information: check out her listing in the Seniority Matters Directory or visit her website,   http://acstylesdesigns.com/services/accessible-design.

 

  • December 03, 2015
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And Now For Some.....Bling---- Introducing Glam Squad

If you live in Miami, New York CIty, or Los Angeles you're in luck.  We’ve got just the ticket for those in need of a little glam (and who isn’t?). Glamsquad to the rescue. This new service – we like to think of it as the Uber for home beauty – will dispatch licensed, talented and vibrant beauty professionals to your door. Need your hair blown out before a big event?  A makeover for the new year? A professional meeting?  Or how about some well-deserved “me” time?

It also makes a great Holiday or Mother's Day gift for those who miss those mother-daughter days out with Mom who isn’t so mobile these days. Once you set up the app, the company will take care of the rest. They’ll arrive with everything needed for hairstyles ranging from an updo to a wavy style. And, the high-quality services are prepaid, making the experience even more relaxing. 

The personalized, one-on-one consultations offer clients a celeb experience (it will be all about you). The team “is hand-picked and expertly trained, undergoing extensive education and character assessment to guarantee consistent, high-quality results and a positive stylist experience with every appointment,” according to its website.    

Among the styles: Icon, Bronzed Beauty and Dreamer.

“We are a convenient and high quality experience delivered to your home, hotel, office or wherever you may be.  Our clients use us for all sorts of reasons - personal, professional, events, etc.,” notes Drew Lipsher, the company’s Chief Revenue Officer.

Ready for some bling? Visit glamsquad.com and you’ll be sitting pretty.

If you don't live in these three areas, stay tuned... hopefully Glamsquad will come to your home, soon!

 

  • December 10, 2015
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Let’s Remember Our Older Relatives, Friends And Neighbors This Holiday Season--- And Always

I love this message from the Alliance For Aging (Department of Elder Affairs)--

Although popular culture is not openly aware about this, older adults are generally wiser than most people.  The wisdom of older people is sometimes not obvious, but when we get the opportunity to run something by them, we generally learn something essential.  People in their seventies, eighties and older have lived through some of the most important historical events that others can only imagine, not to mention growing older, illnesses and personal losses. Most have not only survived a very long time, they have prospered and contributed vastly to all of humanity, through their intelligence, caring and their love.  During the holiday season, be it Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanza, and regardless of where you live, be kind to older adults.  Play it forward.

Thank you Alina Becker, Elder Abuse Prevention Coordinator, for sharing this important message to me. You can click here to learn more by visiting their website. 

 

 

Prevent Elder Abuse, Show you care! If you suspect abuse, please report it to:

1(800)96-ABUSE (22873)

 

 

  • February 16, 2016
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A Different Take On Caregiving

Finding a competent, compassionate caregiver can be stressful. Who can you trust when you can’t be there for your loved one?

For those who want to use a private caregiver, you'll be happy to learn about and meet Carespotter, a company that screens private caregivers with a tenacity that’s so important for this endeavor. Its five­ step screening process includes an intensive background check. The company accepts only experienced, exceptional caregivers ­ and they must have worked in a hospital, assisted living facility, homecare agency or directly with seniors.

“We also do a situational phone interview where we look for professionalism, technical ability and compassion,” says founder Darren Wendroff. “Caregivers should have a level 2 background check if they've worked in a professional setting. They must also pass a level 1 background check (SSN/Identify verification, national criminal background check, county background check and national sex offender check).”

Just how tough is the vetting process? CareSpotter only approves about 50 percent of applicants. To make things even easier for clients to find a compatible caregiver, the company will soon include two reference contacts with testimonials and the ability to conduct a video interview with prospective caregivers via Skype.

“We also insure and bond the caregiver if the family pays the caregiver through our platform, and of course we help with payroll taxes and payments as well,” notes Wendroff.

While you should take comfort in Carespotter's attention to screening details, I strongly urge you to do your own due dilligence as well. Make sure they're licensed, bonded, and insured, feel free to ask for references- and feel comfortable in doing a personal background check. 

Interested? Check out their website.

 

  • April 08, 2016
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Stay Connected: Technology Will Impact How We Age

I was thrilled to be used as a resource for a recent article by Ana Veciana-Suarez in the Miami Herald on the impact of technology on us as we age.  The article, aptly titled "Technology Will Change How And Where We Age, stresses the importance of staying connected.

Thanks Ana!

If you missed it, take a look. You'll be glad you did.

  • June 29, 2016
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Hospice Care in South Florida

I receive a lot of inquiries about Hospice so I thought a quick post was in order.

There are many misconceptions about Hospice and what it is and what it does. Hospice addresses the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of dying patients and their families. A team of interdisciplinary experts work together to provide palliative care, with the goal of making the patient as comfortable and pain-free as is possible during their remaining days, in their own home if possible. It's an option to anyone who has been determined by their physician to be terminally ill and who has six months or less to live. Many families mistakenly believe that it is only a resource to be used for the very last days or weeks of the patient’s life. That is unfortunate because they are not taking advantage of the many benefits it offers. 

Under the Medicare Hospice Benefit, all expenses associated with Hospice care, including a hospital bed if needed, medical equipment and other supplie,s are covered under the Hospice benefit. The patient must sign a form that states that they are choosing Hospice over other forms of medicare-covered benefits to treat their terminal illness. However, when it comes to coverage of prescription drug expenses, as explained in Medicare’s latest policy statement (October, 2015) the “medicare hospice benefit covers only drugs and biologicals used primarily for the relief of pain and symptom control for the terminal illness and related conditions.” It also states that “the Medicare hospice benefit does not pay for services that are curative in nature.”

I've written about Hospice in an Ask Nancy column. In addition, please check the resource section of this website to learn of some the different hospice organizations available here in south Florida 

I'm very excited to learn about Vitas Healthcare's new Residential Hospice Facility in Delray Beach (Palm Beach County, just North of Boca Raton). It's the first hospice inpatient unit that the company has built from the ground up.  The 14,000 square foot facility houses eight beds in a modern, home-like environment that includes a spacious family room and kitchen, a meditation room, and a spa area for patient services. It's on 2.2 acres that are fully landscaped with more than 1,700 native Florida plants, creating a park-like environment that overlooks a tranquility pond. The facility accepts 24-hour direct admissions of high-acuity patients referred by doctors and hospitals throughout Palm Beach. The facility will serve approximately 550 patients each year. 

For more information on Hospice Care, ask your physician or other healthcare provider. Also please visit the website of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. 

  • August 11, 2016
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Tips for Visiting Parents In Long Term Care Facilities and Other Good Caregiving Tips

The Association of Long Term Care Planning (ALTCP.org) has put together a list of tips for visiting parents in Long Term Care Facilities.  Their list was generated by 20 "experts" in the field and I'm thrilled to be part of this group. The tips range from communicating with your family member, to understanding the nuts and bolts of the facility. I think you'll find each and every tip informative and valuable. While some pertain to a solely residential facility setting, others are just great general caregiving tips as well.

Among them:

  • When visiting a family member, space out your visits and vary your arrival times.
  • Pay special attention to verbal cues, body language, posture and gestures.
  • Come as often as possible and stay for a minimum of an hour.
  • Be sensitive to where they are that day-emotionally, physically and mentally, and go with the flow.
  • It's less about what we as family members want, and more about how our loved ones feel.
  • Don't quiz them about the events of the day, just enjoy the moment.
  • Stay in the moment, don't try to solve the problems of the past.

Here's a link to the article from the Assocation's Website. 

Let me know which tips you find the most helpful.

 

  • October 24, 2016
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Step-by-Step Guide for Selecting A Medicare Care Drug (Part D) Plan

It’s Medicare Open Enrollment time (October 15 - December 7)!  Maybe it’s because many of us are nearing Medicare age,  that I’m receiving many calls on how to select a Part D Drug Plan.  I thought I’d lay out a step-by-step guide on how to go about it.

No doubt about it, finding a drug plan can be a daunting experience.  In fact, Jane Gross, creator of the New Old Age Blog in the New York Times, and a caregiver to her own mother for many years, wrote about selecting her own Part D Plan in a post aptly titled “D is for Dazed.”  Signing up for Part A and Part B was, she said, “a snap,” but Part D was another story.

This process will take about 10 minutes. Before you start make sure you have a detailed list of all prescribed drugs that you take, or have the vial(s) laid out in front of you.

Here's what you do:

  • Go to www.medicare.gov
  • Click on Drug Coverage, Part D
  • Go to Find Health and Drug plans
  • Scroll down to “General Search” and enter your zipcode of residence
  • Check “I don’t know” to both questions concerning your coverage and click “Go To Plan Results”
  • You are now ready to enter your prescribed drugs in detail.  You can follow the prompts for this. When you’re done you can save it and you’ll receive an ID number that you can use at a later time to retrieve your information. [This is particularly helpful if you’re helping a parent with this]
  • When you’ve completed your drug list, it will give you a list of pharmacies that you can choose from.  I recommend that you choose two so you can compare the prices not only between drug plans, but between the different pharmacies as well.
  • Click on Continue to Plan Results
  •  If you’re planning to have a Medicare Supplement plan, click on Plans with Original Medicare. If you have an Advantage Plan (HMO) then you will choose one of the other two options.
  • You can now see the different plans available to you. If you click on the actual plan you will be able to see detailed information.

Few pieces of advice:

  • MAKE SURE THE PLAN HAS ALL OF YOUR PRESCRIBED DRUGS.  If you take many drugs, it’s possible that they may not all be covered. Make sure your most expensive one is, or choose the plan that will result in the lowest amount of out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Look at the annual costs, not just the monthly premiums.
  • And finally, things change. Your medication needs and the drug plan may change from year –to- year.  It’s very important that you review your individual information every year.

Additional Resources

  • December 01, 2016
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Meet Senior Homeshares: The New Wave of Having Roomates As We Get Older

Forget everything you know – or experienced – about living with roommates. Times have changed. It’s a new world and Senior Homeshares— the innovative online housemate service designed for older adults – has embraced it.  

The company matches elders who have more home than they need or can afford with others on a fixed income looking for safe, affordable housing. “Many of our users are empty-nesters, widows or widowers, who may have an especially difficult time adapting to life alone,” notes its website.

This new wave of living together is perfect for our generation – we can remain independent, avoid an assisted living facility and get some much-needed companionship (after all going solo isn’t always a good thing).

The company ensures a good match with its intensive questionnaire (after all it’s important to be able to pick and choose amenities, such as location, internet, nearby shopping and outdoor space) that also takes into consideration your budget.    

There’s also phone support (in addition to email and chat) staffed by experts 55 and older – who better to understand our needs and desires?

As Boomers, we’re paving the way for our own brave new world. We’re putting a new spin on getting older. And that’s a good thing.  “We're going to change the way we age. More so than the generations that precede us, we want to remain active and independent,” notes Stephanie Heacox, Founder of Senior Homeshares. “Yet we are also keenly aware that we are social, familial creatures, and we are willing to explore new ways of living in community, and of participating in today's sharing economy.”

Want to share your home? Or find your own version of home, sweet home?   

If this is something you've thought about, take a look at the site and register-- It's free. They're growing and always adding new listing throughout the US.

Visit www.seniorhomeshares.com for more information. 

 

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