How to Manage Restless Leg Syndrome

October 15, 2018  
Filed under Savvy Senior

Savvy Senior

By Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

What can you tell me about restless leg syndrome? I’m 58 years old, and frequently have jerky, uncontrollable urges to move my legs, accompanied by a tingling sensation, and it keeps me awake at night.

Jumpy John

 

Dear John,

If an irresistible urge to move your legs has you kicking in your sleep, then chances are pretty good you have restless leg syndrome (RLS), a condition that affects 7 to 10 percent of Americans. Here’s what you should know.

 

RLS, also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, is a nervous system problem that causes uncomfortable sensations (often described as a creepy-crawly feeling, tingling, itching, throbbing, pulling or aching) and an irresistible urge to move one or both legs while you’re sitting or lying down, and the symptoms usually get worse with age. It typically happens in the evenings or nights while resting. Moving eases the unpleasant feeling temporarily.

 

While RLS is not a life-threatening condition, the main problem, other than it being uncomfortable and annoying, is that it disrupts sleep, leading to daytime drowsiness, difficulty concentrating and even depression.

 

What exactly causes RLS is not known, but researchers suspect it could be linked to several things including iron deficiency, an imbalance of the brain chemical dopamine, and genetics – about 60 percent of people with RLS have a family member with the condition.

 

Treatment Options

While there’s no cure for RLS, there are things you can do to alleviate the symptoms. Depending on the severity of your case, some people turn to RLS medications like gabapentin enacarbil (Horizant), an anticonvulsant, and dopamine agonists ropinirole (Requip), rotigotine (Neupro) and pramipexole (Mirapex). But be aware that these drugs have side effects including nausea, lightheadedness, fatigue and insomnia. And, while these medications can provide short-term relief, they can also make symptoms worse in many people who use them long term.

 

So before turning to medication, you should consider some of the following natural RLS treatments first, which are very effective for most people.

 

Check your iron levels. Iron deficiency is believed to be one of the major contributors to RLS, so make an appointment with your doctor and get a blood test to check for this. If you test positive for iron deficiency, your doctor may recommend iron supplements.

 

Exercise: Getting moderate, regular exercise like walking, cycling, water aerobics and yoga can relieve symptoms, but overdoing it or exercising late in the day may intensify them. Daily leg stretches – include calf, hamstring, quadriceps and hip flexor stretches – are also helpful.

 

Check your medications: Certain drugs including antinausea drugs, antipsychotic drugs, some antidepressants, and cold and allergy medications containing sedating antihistamines can make RLS worse. If you take any of these, ask your doctor if something else can be prescribed.

 

Avoid triggers: Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and refined sugar can all make RLS symptoms worse.

 

Try these remedies: Soaking in a hot bathtub and massaging your legs can relieve symptoms, as can applying a hot pad and/or ice pack to your legs. Pressure can also help, so consider wearing compression socks or stockings. There’s also a new non-drug FDA approved vibrating pad on the market called Relaxis that interrupts RLS episodes and can provide relief to those who use it.

 

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

Top Dental Care Products for Seniors

October 8, 2018  
Filed under Savvy Senior

Savvy Senior

By Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

I have arthritis in my hands that affects my grip strength and dexterity and makes brushing my teeth difficult. I’ve read that electric powered toothbrushes help make the job easier. Can you make any recommendations on what to get?

Still Smiling

 

Dear Still,

For seniors who suffer from arthritis or have other hand weaknesses, an electric toothbrush is a great solution to keep your teeth clean. At the push of a button, an electric toothbrush will do everything but shake, rattle and roll to do the cleaning for you, and most come with a wide handle and rubberized grip that make them easier and more comfortable to hold on to.

 

How to Choose

With dozens of different electric toothbrushes on the market today, here are several key points you’ll need to consider, to help you choose:

  • Cost: The cost of electric toothbrushes will range from $15 up to around $300. How much are you willing to spend?
  • Brushing action: Brush heads tend to be either “spinning” (they rotate very fast in one direction, then the other, and bristles may pulsate in and out) or “sonic” (they vibrate side to side). Both methods are effective and a matter of personal preference.
  • Electric versus battery: Choose a brush with a built-in rechargeable battery and an electric charging station. They’re much more convenient and cost effective than toothbrushes that use replaceable batteries.
  • Brushing timer: Since most dentists recommend brushing for two minutes (and most adults brush less than 60 seconds), get a power toothbrush with a built-in timer. Some brushes will even split the two minutes onto four 30-second intervals and will notify you when it’s time to switch to a different quadrant of your mouth.
  • Extra features: Most higher-priced electric brushes come with various settings such as sensitive (gentler cleaning) or massage (gum stimulation), a charge-level display and more. There are even “smart” toothbrushes on the market that connect to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth to track brushing habits. What extra features do you want or need?

 

Top Electric Toothbrushes

While there are many makes and models of electric toothbrushes to choose from, two of the best-selling, top-rated products to consider are the Oral B Pro 1000 (spinning brush head) and the Philips Sonicare 2 Series (vibrating brush head). Both are simple, very effective at removing plaque, and reasonably priced – around $50. They also both offer two-minute timers, rechargeable batteries and a range of brush heads to meet your needs.

 

To learn more about these electric toothbrushes and a wide variety of other options, visit OralB.com and Sonicare.com. And for more information on choosing an electric toothbrush, visit Toothbrush.org/best-electric-toothbrush.

 

Easier Flossing Products

If flossing is difficult too, a good alternative to traditional string floss is floss picks. These are disposable plastic-handle tools that have floss threaded onto them, which makes them easier to hold and use. DenTek, Oral-B and others sell packages for a few dollars, or check out the Reach Access Flosser, which comes with a toothbrush-like handle for a better reach.

 

Some other flossing devices to consider that are easy on the hands include: The WaterPik power flosser ($7), which gently vibrates to dislodge embedded food particles between your teeth; Philips Sonicare AirFloss water flossers ($50 or $90) that uses burst of water or mouthwash to and clean in-between your teeth; and WaterPik Water Flossers ($50 to $130), which use high-pressured pulsating water to remove food particles and plaque and will stimulate your gums in the process.

 

All of these dental care products can also be found at your local pharmacy or retailer that sells personal care items or online.

 

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

 

Former Governor Madeleine Kunin Guest Speaker at Aging in Vermont Conference Oct. 26

October 4, 2018  
Filed under News

In just over a decade from now, one in 4 people who live in Vermont will be turning 65. That means that we all have to re-think and re-frame aging in ways that we may not have considered prior to now. We all have to come together to think about healthy living and successful aging in more wholistic ways.

 

One way we are going about this exciting challenge is through our upcoming Aging in Vermont: Healthy Living Conference to be held on Oct. 26, 2018 in Killington. The conference features 10 presentations led by nearly two dozen experts, 30 exhibitors and over 300 attendees. We will all learn from keynote speaker, Sandy Markwood, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging about the shift from medical-based clinical care to a recognition of the value of home and community-based services and supports. We will find out together – what the aging network have known all along – that new and exciting opportunities are emerging for us to partner with the health care system to promote healthy aging.

 

The Aging in Vermont: Healthy Living Conference will provide a variety of opportunities for all of us to celebrate aging by learning:

  • how to talk about aging through reframing our conversations
  • how Tai-Chi has a direct impact on falls prevention and overall healthy aging and that we can have access Tai-Chi activities in several areas throughout Vermont
  • that you can age in place without isolation
  • that we can all make a difference by getting involved with policy-making.

There are several more topics to be presented; something for everyone.

 

On top of what has been organized for the conference, special guest, former Governor Madeleine Kunin will share her new book, Coming of Age. The timing is perfect for this book to be launched and that she can share this with the attendees during the Aging in Vermont Conference. Madeleine Kunin writes, “My memoir takes the scattered events and thoughts of my life and sorts them within the covers of a book. It creates the happy illusion that life is an organized whole.”

 

State Representative Theresa A.M. Wood who is one of the conference’s presenters says, “Former Governor Madeleine Kunin embodies successful aging.  Throughout her life, including in later years, she has remained a vibrant leader and mentor.  I am delighted she will share her most recent work Coming of Age at the upcoming Aging in Vermont conference.”

 

Janet Hunt, Executive Director for the Vermont Association of Area Agencies and main organizer for the Aging in Vermont Conference says, “I am thrilled that so many dedicated individuals representing our aging network throughout Vermont are coming together for our conference to celebrate what we care about so deeply; older Vermonters. To have such expert presenters from throughout the state, plus, Sandy Markwood, a nationally known leader, and to host special guest, former Governor Madeleine Kunin as she launches her new book, Coming of Age promises to be a monumental day!”

 

Coming of Age by Madeleine Kunin will be available for sale at the conference through Phoenix Books.

 

For information about the conference, please visit http://vermont4a.org/conference.

Is Staying in Their Home Really the Best Choice for Retirees?

October 4, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, News

When asked, many retirees express a strong preference for staying in their home as long as possible. After all, it is often where they raised their children and is located near their faith community and familiar shopping spots. In her new book, Your Home Sweet Home, financial planner Penelope Tzougros helps people dispassionately evaluate whether staying put or going makes the best economic sense.

Tzougros shares the stories, insights, fears and clever solutions her clients made when facing the same dilemma. She also presents analytical tools, worksheets and a Decision Guide to create a step-by-step process for sorting out fears, facts and finances.

“Ultimately,” she says, “this is not a real estate decision but a decision about what retirees need to have the best life possible.” She adds, “And the reality is that when a house’s maintenance costs are draining people’s savings, it is no longer an asset.”

Extensively interviewed on TV, radio and in print, Tzougros produced and directed the television show Money Makeover. She has worked with thousands of retirees and is known for her ability to explain complicated financial concepts with elegant simplicity. She can discuss:

  • How to figure out if your home is the cheapest place you can live.
  • Calculating the relative costs of different housing options – and why almost everyone makes critical miscalculations.
  • The biggest mistakes seniors make when considering whether to stay in their home or move.
  • Whether you stay or move, critical timing mistakes to avoid.
  • The true and hidden costs of moving vs. maintaining your house.
  • How to move beyond your inevitable fears and discover clever solutions that can serve your long-term interests.

About the Author

Penelope S. Tzougros, Ph.D., ChFC, CLU, is a Financial Consultant, author, speaker and founder of Wealthy Choices, a Registered Investment Advisor. Although she is based in Boston, she is registered in all 50 states and offers securities and advisory services through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. In addition to Your Home Sweet Home, she is the author of Wealthy Choices: The Seven Competencies of Financial Success, and Long-term Care Insurance: How to Make Decisions That Are Right for You. Tzougros holds a master’s degree from Harvard, a doctorate from the University of Toronto, and has taught at Northeastern University and Hellenic College.

The Tax Credit That Lets You Double-Dip on Retirement Savings

October 1, 2018  
Filed under Savvy Senior

Savvy Senior

By Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

What can you tell me about the retirement saver’s tax credit? At age 60, I’m looking for ways to boost my retirement savings beyond my 401(k) plan and have heard this may be a smart way to do it. Is this something I’m eligible for?

Need to Save

 

Dear Need,

If your income is low to moderate and you participate in your employer-sponsored retirement plan or an IRA, the “Saver’s Credit” (also known as the Retirement Savings Contribution Credit) is a frequently overlooked tool that can help boost your retirement savings even more. Here’s how it works.

 

If you contribute to a retirement-savings account like a traditional or Roth IRA, myRA, 401(k), 403(b), 457, federal employees’ Thrift Savings Plan, Simplified Employee Pension or SIMPLE plan, the Saver’s Credit will allow you to claim 10, 20 or 50 percent of your contribution of up to $2,000 per year for singles or $4,000 for couples.

 

This valuable tax credit can be claimed in addition to the tax deduction you get for saving in your traditional retirement accounts.

 

To qualify, you must also be at least 18 years old and not a full-time student and were not claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return. And your adjusted gross income (AGI) in 2018 must have been $63,000 or less as a married couple filing jointly, $47,250 or less if filing as head of household, or $31,500 or less if you’re a single filer. These income limits are adjusted annually to keep pace with inflation.

 

To get the 50 percent credit, you’ll need to have an income below $19,000 if you’re single, $28,500 if you’re filing as head of household, and $38,000 for couples in 2018.

 

The 20 percent credit rate applies to individuals earning between $19,001 and $20,500; for head of household filers it’s $28,501 to $30,750; and for couples it’s $38,001 to $41,000.

 

And the 10 percent rate is for individuals with an adjusted gross income between $20,501 and $31,500; for head of household filers $30,751 to $47,250; and couples it’s between $41,001 and $63,000.

 

Here’s an example of how this works. Let’s say that you file your taxes as head of household and your AGI for 2018 is $30,000. Over the course of the year, you contribute $2,000 to your employer’s 401(k) plan. Since your AGI puts you in the 20 percent credit bracket, and you’ve contributed the $2,000 maximum that can be considered for the credit, you are entitled to a $400 Saver’s Credit on your 2018 tax return.

 

It’s also worth mentioning that the Saver’s Credit is in addition to any other tax benefits you get for your retirement contributions. So in the previous example, not only would you be entitled to a $400 credit, but you would also be able to exclude the $2,000 401(k) contribution from your taxable income. So, if you’re in the 15 percent tax bracket, this translates to an additional $300 in savings, for a total of $700.

 

How to Claim

To claim the Saver’s Credit, you will need to fill out Form 8880 (see IRS.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8880.pdf) and attach it to your 1040, 1040A or 1040NR when you file your tax return. Don’t use the 1040EZ Form.

 

If you think that you would have qualified for the credit in previous years but didn’t claim it, you can file an amended return as far back as 2015 and still get the credits. A 2014 amended return is due by April 15, 2019. See IRS Form 1040X (IRS.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1040x.pdf) for instructions on how to file an amended return.

 

And for more information on the Saver’s Credit, see IRS Publication 590-A “Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements” (IRS.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p590a.pdf).

 

You can also have these forms and publication mailed to you by calling 800-829-3676.

 

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.