Spotting Fraudsters: Don’t Become a Victim

November 5, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, News

By: Dr. Stacey Wood, Ph.D.

 

Fraud takes many different forms these days, with identity theft being foremost among them. Just about anyone can become a victim. Some groups are at greater risk than others of falling victim to identity theft. The groups most at risk for identity theft are children and adults with caregivers, users of social media, business owners, high-level employees, college students, and young adults. Learning how to protect yourself is essential for avoiding fraud.

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5 Ways to Stop Spam Calls 

November 2, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, News

By Sid Kirchheimer, courtesy AARP Bulletin, October 2018

Unwanted phone calls and text messages continue to surge, no matter what efforts lawmakers and regulators take to curb them. In the first four months of this year, call-blocking service YouMail reports, more than 12 billion robocalls were made to American homes. That’s about 4 million every hour, and a steady increase from last year. Live calls from telemarketers have also continued to increase. Read more

DVHA Launches Tool to Help Vermonters Compare 2019 Health Plans and Save Money

October 22, 2018  
Filed under Health & Wellness, News

Recent changes mean that Vermonters who take a few minutes to compare plans will find more choices and more financial help than ever before

 

In preparation for open enrollment, state officials have launched the 2019 version of an online tool that helps Vermonters weigh insurance options and choose the health plan that best fits their needs and budget. The 2019 Plan Comparison Tool is accessible from VermontHealthConnect.gov and allows individuals and small business employees to easily screen at least 26 health plan options.

As in past years, the tool allows members to compare total costs in an average year or bad year, view doctor directories and drug lists, and much more. New this year, the tool also provides members with the ability to see their total costs in a low-use year (or “good year”) and the likelihood of someone with their age and health status having a good year.

With big changes on the horizon, the tool is an essential five-minute step for all current and prospective members of Vermont’s health insurance marketplace.

Three big changes in marketplace

First, it’s important to note that most Vermonters who purchase health insurance on their own qualify for financial help to lower the cost of coverage. Due to a complex set of events initiated by recent federal changes, that financial help will go way up in 2019. Subsidized single members will receive over $1,200 more in 2019 than they did in 2018, while couples and families will generally receive over $2,500 more.  This means that most members will see significant savings if they explore all options (see what the typical member pays in 2018 vs. 2019).

A second change is that premiums for silver-level qualified health plans (QHPs) are increasing much more than other metal level plans. This is especially notable because three out of five (60%) individuals are currently enrolled in silver plans. It is especially important for these members to actively explore their alternatives.

Finally, to help small business employees and higher income individuals whose incomes are too high to qualify for financial help, Vermont developed “reflective silver” plans. These plans – available only by calling Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont (BCBSVT) or MVP Health Care (MVP) directly – give unsubsidized members the opportunity to buy silver plans for closer to the price they paid for similar plans in 2018. Reflective silver plans are displayed on the 2019 Plan Comparison Tool, but only if the tool determines that the user does not qualify for subsidies.

“We want Vermonters to know that there were policy changes at the federal level that could impact the cost of their current plans,” said Governor Phil Scott. “I want to thank the members of my Administration, legislature, and stakeholders across the state who came together to respond to these changes with a focus on affordability for Vermonters. The key remaining step is for Vermonters to pick the right plans and, fortunately, the Plan Comparison Tool is here as a resource to help them do just that,” Governor Scott added.

Time to take action

Current Vermont Health Connect members aren’t required to compare health plans or to take any action at all. As long as they continue to pay their bills, members are automatically renewed into the 2019 version of their 2018 plan. In past years, most members have gone this route. Due to this year’s changes, however, officials are strongly encouraging members to invest the time needed to be sure they’re in the best plan for them.

“This is not the year to auto-renew,” said Cory Gustafson, Commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access. “Comparison shopping is how Americans try to get the best deal possible for all kinds of consumer choices. That is true for every purchase, every year, but it’s especially true for health insurance in 2019. The difference between the ‘right plan’ and ‘wrong plan’ could easily be thousands of dollars. Fortunately, the Plan Comparison Tool will help Vermonters identify the right plan.”

About the Plan Comparison Tool

The Plan Comparison Tool was developed by the non-profit Consumers’ Checkbook and has won the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s award for best plan choice tool. This is the fourth year that Vermont is using the tool. It has been used in nearly 60,000 sessions over the last twelve months.

After taking a couple minutes to enter age, income, health status, and expected use of medical services, the anonymous tool tells the user if they qualify for financial help to lower the cost of coverage. It also presents the estimated total annual costs (premium minus subsidies plus estimated out-of-pocket) of each of the 26+ qualified health plans. The user then has several options for sorting and screening results, or they can dive into plan details and link to more information on the BCBSVT and MVP websites.

“This kind of resource is very important because a consumer just can’t figure out: is a plan with the $200 deductible and a $10,000 out-of-pocket limit better for me than a plan with a $2,000 deductible and $4,000 out-of-pocket limit—and how about differences in co-pays, co-insurance, etc.?” said Robert Krughoff, president of Consumers’ Checkbook. “People don’t know how much various health services cost or their likelihood of needing different services – and even health insurance experts can be hard-pressed to figure out which plan is best without a helpful tool. Vermont Health Connect is a leader in making this help available.”

About 2019 Open Enrollment

Open Enrollment is the time when new applicants can use the marketplace to sign up for health and dental plans for the coming year. It is also an opportunity for existing members to change plans – an option that many more members than usual will want to consider for 2019.

This year’s Open Enrollment runs from November 1 to December 15, just like last year. Vermonters who sign up or request a new plan will have a start date of January 1.  Those who miss the deadline could have to wait until January 2020 to start health coverage, although residents who qualify for Medicaid can sign up throughout the year and those who qualify for a Special Enrollment Period generally have 60 days to sign up.

Starting November 1, applicants can sign up in one of four ways: online, by phone, by paper, or with an in-person assister. For more information or to get started, visit http://VermontHealthConnect.gov or call 1-855-899-9600.

 

Sleep and Memory: How They Work Together Psychiatrist & Sleep Medicine Specialist Dr. Alex Dimitriu Offers Tips on Improving Both

October 22, 2018  
Filed under Health & Wellness, News

“Sleep on it.” We’ve long known that a good night’s sleep confers important benefits on mood, alertness, concentration, and judgment. Research over more than a century has also established that sleep plays an important role in memory retention. More recently, studies have begun to establish more precisely how the connection between sleep and memory works. “Sleep and memory are both mysterious,” says psychiatrist and sleep specialist Dr. Alex Dimitriu. “Exciting research is being done to unearth the secrets of the connection between them. We’ve known that the quantity and quality of sleep affect our ability to learn and remember in two ways. First, adequate sleep enables us to concentrate so we can learn efficiently. Then, sleep itself is needed to consolidate memories of what has been learned. Now neuroscientists are learning how different facets of memory and different stages of sleep work together.”

There are three necessary steps for memory to function properly: acquisition occurs when we learn or experience something new; consolidation is the process that stabilizes the new information in the brain – makes it stick; and recall is the ability to access the information after it is stored. Acquisition and recall occur when we are awake, consolidation while we sleep. “When we are awake,” says Dr. Dimitriu, “our brains are optimized to react to external stimuli and encode new memories that are, at that point, unstable and subject to forgetting. The sleeping brain, with greatly reduced exposure to external stimuli, provides optimal conditions for the consolidation processes that strengthen and integrate the new memory into existing knowledge networks for long-term storage.”

 

“At one time,” says Dr. Dimitriu, “it was thought that sleep played a passive role in enhancing memory by protecting it from interference by external stimuli. Now we know that sleep plays a more active role. It was also thought that rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep played the primary role. Now we know that slow-wave sleep (SWS) plays an important role in consolidating memories. Scientists now believe that different kinds of memories are processed during different stages of sleep.”

 

The stages of sleep alternate in a cycle over the course the sleep period. SWS, which is deep, restful sleep, is predominant during the early part of the cycle and then decreases in intensity and duration; REM sleep, when dreaming most frequently occurs, becomes more intense and longer-lasting toward the end of the sleep period. While the relationship between types of memory and sleep stages is complex, some studies have suggested that declarative memory, which is fact-based – what we know – benefits primarily from sleep periods dominated by SWS and procedural memory – remembering how to do something – is related to REM sleep.

 

“There’s a lot we don’t know about the relationship between sleep and memory,” says Dr. Dimitriu. “But we know that adequate sleep will improve concentration to help you learn and will help you remember what you’ve learned.” Dr. Dimitriu offers these suggestions for improving the quantity and quality of sleep:

·        Exercise early in the day, not within several hours of bedtime.

·        Reduce or eliminate stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine during the day and alcohol in the evening.

·        Avoid naps or limit them to 30 minutes; don’t nap after 3:00pm.

·        Stick to a sleep schedule, going to bed and waking at the same time each day, including weekends.

·        Relax and clear your mind before bedtime – read a book, listen to quiet music, take a hot bath

·        Keep your room cooler than during the day. Use a fan or noise machine to mask distracting sounds. Try room-darkening shades if morning light is waking you too early.

·        Consider changing your mattress and bedding if it’s more than 5-8 years old. Bed, mattress and pillow are important to quality sleep and eliminating back pain.

·        Don’t eat a heavy meal or drink a lot of liquid close to bedtime.

·        Increasing exposure to sunlight or bright light during the day can improve sleep at night.

·        The opposite is true at night. Don’t use a computer, tablet or smart phone right before going to bed! The light from the screen stimulates the brain and makes it hard to fall asleep.

 

Alex Dimitriu, MD, is double board-certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine

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.

Taking Control of Stress and Menopause Symptoms

September 27, 2018  
Filed under Health & Wellness, News

It’s another one of those chicken-or-the-egg dilemmas…do bothersome menopause symptoms create stress or does stress bring on menopause symptoms? The correct answer might not matter since a new study suggests that higher mindfulness may lower stress and the impact of menopause-related symptoms such as hot flashes. Study results will be presented during The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Annual Meeting in San Diego, October 3-6, 2018.

Mindfulness has been a topic of increased popularity in recent years. Long-practiced in Far Eastern cultures, it has only recently gained attention in the West. The practice of mindfulness, which allows patients to be aware of the present moment, without concern for past or future consequences, calmly accepting their feelings about the present event or person, has been touted by some in the medical field as one of the most important developments in the mental health discipline in the past 20 years.

Thanks to a new study out of the Mayo Clinic, enhancing mindfulness may now be considered a viable treatment option for helping midlife women deal with stress and bothersome menopause-related symptoms. The cross-sectional study of 1,744 women aged 40-65 years showed that higher mindfulness correlated with lower menopause symptom scores, as well as lower stress scores in this population. A correlation was seen between higher menopause symptom scores and higher perceived stress. In women with higher stress, the benefits of mindfulness on menopause symptom scores were even more significant.

“Although more research is needed, this study provides a strong signal for the potential role of mindfulness in improving psychological symptoms, emotional response to menopause symptoms, and stress in women during midlife,” says Dr. Richa Sood, lead author of the study from the Mayo Clinic.

“This study provides encouraging results as it demonstrates that women may have a tool to help them control stress and menopause symptoms and improve their overall quality of life,” says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director.

 

The trust older patients place in doctors can compromise their medical care: study

September 13, 2018  
Filed under Aging Parents, News

Placing trust in doctors to advocate for their health needs, older adults rarely ask for referrals to specialists, specific prescriptions, express concerns or follow-up after medical visits, according to a new study from Case Western Reserve University.

The findings highlight a disconnect between the expectations of older adults and the realities of a changing health-care system, where doctors have less time to spend with patients.

“These findings are concerning,” said Eva Kahana, Distinguished University Professor and Pierce T. and Elizabeth D. Robson Professor of the Humanities at Case Western Reserve. “Our data suggests older generations are clinging to how health care used to be, when doctors had more personal relationships and continuity with patients.”

“When patients incorrectly assume actions and advocacy by doctors, this leads to major problems,” Kahana said, “especially for older adults living with one of more chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and high blood-pressure.”

The study shows that older adults (defined as 65 and older) are less likely to advocate for their own health concerns the more they trust the role is being taken on by their doctors.

The findings are especially relevant for minorities and the sickest of patients, who have less access to health care and face particular challenges in finding responsive care, according to previous research.

Among of the study’s other findings:

  • Older adults who feel comfortable advocating for their own care feel more empowered;
  • Compared to white patients, African-American patients were less satisfied with their physicians;
  • Latino patients expressed greater satisfaction with their medical care than white and African-American patients;
  • The perceived emotional support of physicians was associated with patients’ satisfaction.

“Our findings strongly suggest that families of older patients should be ready to step in as advocates for their older relatives,” Kahana said. “And it’s helpful for doctors to be more aware of how older patients see them.”

Published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, the study is based on data from a diverse pool of 806 older adults from a large retirement community in Clearwater, Florida, and others in Orlando, Miami and Cleveland, where Case Western Reserve is located.

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VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR AARP FOUNDATION TAX-AIDE PROGRAM

September 12, 2018  
Filed under Money, News

 

AARP Tax-Aide Wants You!

 

Want to volunteer to help neighbors in your community?  Want to be engaged in a meaningful way?  Want to give back?  AARP Tax-Aide is looking for volunteers for the upcoming tax season. Tax-Aide volunteers make a difference in their communities by assisting many older, lower-income taxpayers who might otherwise miss out on the credits and deductions they’ve earned. Volunteers receive training and support in a welcoming environment.

 

In addition to tax preparers, there are several important positions that help the program run successfully that don’t require tax knowledge:

-Technology Coordinator

– Site Coordinator

– Electronic Returns Originator

-Volunteer Recruiting Specialist

-Communications Specialist

 

Following the training most positions require 4-8 hours a week during the tax season but most schedules can be accommodated. There are tax sites throughout Vermont.

 

In Vermont last year, 187 AARP Tax-Aide volunteers helped more than 14,400 people file their federal and state tax returns. The program is offered at approximately 35 sites in Vermont, including senior centers, libraries and other convenient locations. Older Vermonters received some $4.4 million in tax refunds as a resulted of this program.

 

To learn about our volunteer opportunities, contact kathiebtv@comcast.net or visit www.aarpfoundation.org/taxaide . AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offered in coordination with the IRS.

 

Vermont State Women’s Golf Association

July 26, 2018  
Filed under Health & Wellness, News

Press Release – July 20, 2018

 

Parker Wins 10th Senior Women’s Golf Title

 

Defending champion Reggie Parker of Ekwanok Country Club in Manchester captured her 10th Vermont Senior Women’s Amateur golf title and the Ruth Raymond Jones memorial trophy this week at the Ralph Myhre Golf Course in Middlebury.

 

Parker went into the final day of play with a 3-stroke lead over Mary Brush of Burlington CC and held steady, finishing with a 2-day total 160 to Brush’s 164. Brush was awarded the Loretta Tupper Lillie Runner-up trophy. Nancy Devaux of West Bolton Golf Club, playing in her first Senior championship, finished in third place with 168.

 

Parker also won the Mary R. Emans Legend trophy for low gross score among players 70 years and older. Susie Bremner of Rocky Ridge GC won the Dolores Frenier Messier Super Senior trophy in the 65-69 age category.

 

The low Net winner was Lois Forester of Brattleboro CC. Williston GC and Burlington CC, always strong contenders, were the co-winners of the Pat Job Cup team competition. The first day featured a low-putt contest, which was won by Cathy Neff of Vermont National CC with just 26 putts.

 

The Ruth Raymond Jones Memorial Seniors’ Championship began in 1966. The event is open to women golfers 55 years and older who are Vermont residents or who belong to a Vermont real estate golf club.

Seventy women from around the state participated this year and enjoyed two perfect days of golf weather and the camaraderie of their fellow competitors.

 

Full field results and photos are available at www.vswga.org

 

 

 

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