Tips for Living with Low Vision

What resources can you recommend to help individuals living with vision loss? My husband has macular degeneration that has progressed to the point that he is unable to perform many of his routine activities anymore, and has become very discouraged.

Unfortunately, there are around 15 million Americans, like your husband, living with macular degeneration. Over time, this progressive disease can rob people of their central vision, making everyday tasks, like driving a car, reading the newspaper or watching television, extremely challenging. Here are some resources that may help.

Low Vision Help


The best place to get resources for living and coping with macular degeneration is at a vision rehabilitation agency or clinic. Typically run by state agencies, nonprofit organizations or private eye care clinics, there are more than 1,500 of these services scattered across the country helping people who are living with all types of uncorrectable vision impairments. Most state and nonprofit vision rehabilitation services are free or low-cost, while private clinics typically charge a fee or may accept Medicare.

While vision rehabilitation does not restore lost eyesight, it may help people maximize their existing eyesight. If an individual has completely lost his or her vision, these services can provide techniques and tools to help maintain an independent lifestyle.

Vision rehabilitations services often provide counseling, support groups and various training programs. The training programs may include instruction on how to perform daily living tasks with low vision and how to use visual and adaptive devices and assistive technologies to help improve quality of life.

These services also offer guidance on how to make a home safer and easier to maneuver for those with vision impairments. Some agencies will send a specialist out to work with people in the comfort of their own homes.

To find a vision rehabilitation service in your area, call the American Foundation for the Blind referral line at 800-232-5463 or visit the VisionAware website. You can also download the VisionAware app to connect to various types of low-vision resources in your area.

If, however, you do not live near a vision rehabilitation service, you can also get help from an occupational therapist (OT), who can provide low vision training in your home. Medicare, if prescribed by your eye doctor or healthcare provider, may provide coverage.

Online Help


Another convenient place to find help for your husband is the VisionAware website. This is a free website designed to help adults who are losing their vision. It provides information on eye conditions, along with dozens of practical tips and instructional videos on living with vision loss. The topics include ideas on adapting your home to make it easier to navigate, techniques for traveling safely outside the home and various tips on how to manage things like finances, medications and other tasks like cooking, cleaning, grooming, reading and writing. It also offers a comprehensive list of low vision products and technologies that can help those who suffer from vision loss stay active and independent. It also includes product reviews that are published in their online magazine, "AccessWorld."

Other Resources


Some other good resources that can help include: the Hadley Institute (800-323-4238), which offers dozens of free online instructional videos to help the blind or visually impaired live independently; Ears for Eyes (800-843-6816) that provides free audio lessons that teach low-vision adaptive daily living skills; and Living Well with Low Vision (800-331-2020), which offers up-to-date information and free materials for people living with severe vision impairment.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published June 15, 2018

How to Make a Living Will

What is the best way to go about drafting a living will? I recently retired and would like to start getting my affairs in order.

Preparing a living will is a smart decision that enables you to direct what type of care and treatment you want to receive at the end of your life. Here is what you should know, along with some helpful resources.

Advance Directive


To adequately spell out your wishes regarding your end-of-life medical treatment, you need two legal documents: a "living will," which tells your doctor what kind of care you want to receive if you become incapacitated, and a "health care power of attorney" (or health care proxy), which authorizes a designated person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

These two documents are known as an "advance directive," and will only be utilized if you are too ill to make medical decisions yourself. You can also change or update it whenever you please.

Do-It-Yourself


It isn't necessary to hire a lawyer to complete an advance directive. There are free or low-cost resources available to help you write your advance directive, and it takes only a few minutes from start to finish.

One option that is completely free to use is Caring Connections, a resource created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. They offer free downloads of state-specific advance directive forms with instructions on their website. You can also call 800-658-8898 and request copies of these forms. They will mail them to you and answer any questions you may have.

Want Legal Help


If you would rather work with a lawyer, look for one who specializes in estate planning and health care related matters. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils websites have directories to help you find an attorney. Costs will vary depending your state of residence, but you can expect to pay between $200 and $500 to get one made.

Do Not Resuscitate


You should also consider whether you want to include a do-not-resuscitate order (DNR) as part of your advance directive. Doctors and hospitals in every state accept them. To create a DNR, ask your doctor to help you fill out a state appropriate form.

Another tool you should know about is the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). Currently endorsed in 22 states with 24 more in some phase of development, a POLST form is for those who are approaching the end of life or suffering from a serious illness. The form compliments an advanced directive and lays out instructions for end-of-life medical wishes and orders. To learn more or set one up, visit the National POLST Paradigm website.

Tell Your Family


To insure your final wishes are followed, be sure to tell your family members, health care proxy and doctor so they all know what you want. You should also provide copies of your advance directive to everyone involved.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published June 8, 2018

Highly Acclaimed Ron Clark Academy Coming to Washington County; Parent Night June 12th

Washington County Community Foundation, through its generous donors, is bringing the Ron Clark Academy to Washington County. The Ron Clark Academy (RCA) is a highly-acclaimed, nonprofit middle school located in Southeast Atlanta. The Academy has received both national and international recognition for its success in educating students with academic rigor, passion, and creativity balanced by a strict code of discipline. The Academy seeks to extend its reach beyond its student body by having an impact upon students everywhere to learn better ways to engage students, promote academic rigor, and create a climate and culture that promotes success.

There is a Ron Clark Academy Parent Training at 6:00 on June 12th at the SHS Presentation Room at 500 N. Harrison Street in Salem. The session will conclude at 7:30 with the opportunity to ask questions of Kim Bearden, presenter from the Ron Clark Academy. Door prizes of several $50.00 gift cards will be given at the end of the session, but participants must be present to win.

All Washington County parents are invited to attend this special and informative evening.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

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How to Find Retiree Travel Perks

What types of travel discounts are available to older travelers? I just retired and am interested in learning about travel deals for people over 60.

There are literally thousands of different travel-related discounts available to retirees, usually for travelers between the ages 50 and 65. These discounts — typically ranging between 5% and 25% off — can add up to save you hundreds of dollars on your next trip. Here's how you can find them.

Ways to Save


The first thing to know is that most businesses do not advertise them, but many give senior discounts just for the asking, so don't be shy.

Be aware that when it comes to senior travel bargains, the "senior discount," if available, may not always be the best deal. Hotels, resorts, airlines and cruise lines, for example, offer advanced bookings along with special deals and promotions from time to time that may be a lower rate than the senior discount. Before you book, always ask about the lowest possible rate and the best deal available.

Another way retirees with flexible schedules can save is to be flexible when traveling. Taking advantage of last-minute travel deals, traveling during off-season or off-peak times and avoiding holidays can lead to huge savings.

Club memberships may also garner you a wide variety of travel bargains. AARP, for example has dozens of travel discounts available on hotels, rental cars, cruises and vacation packages. There are also alternative organizations you can join like the Seniors Coalition or the American Seniors Association that offer discounts on hotels and rental cars.

Types of Discounts


Here's an abbreviated rundown of some of the different travel discounts you can expect to find.

Transportation: For airline travel, Southwest has fully refundable senior fares for passengers 65 and older, and British Airways offers AARP members $65 off economy travel and $200 off business club travel. Airlines such as American, United and Delta also offer senior fares in certain markets but are extremely limited.

For traveling by train, Amtrak provides a 10% discount to travelers age 65 and above, and a 10% discount to passengers over age 60 on cross-border services operated jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada.

Greyhound bus lines also offers a 5% discount to passengers 62 and older. Most car rental companies offer 10% to 25% discounts to customers who belong to membership organizations like AARP or AAA.

Hotels: Many U.S. hotels offer senior discounts (at varying ages) usually ranging between 5% and 15% off. For example, Marriott offers a 15% discount to travelers 62 and older at over 4,000 locations worldwide. Wyndham hotel group offers 60-plus guests best available rate discounts.

Restaurants: Some restaurant chains offer senior discounts, ranging from free drinks, to senior menus, to discounts off your total order. National chains that offer these deals include Burger King, Chili's, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin Donuts, Golden Corral, IHOP and Wendy's. Offers may vary by location.

Cruises: Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise lines offer discount rates to cruisers 55 and over.

Entertainment and Attractions: Most movie theaters, museums, zoos, aquariums, public golf courses and even ski slopes provide reduced admission to individuals over 60 or 65. Individuals who are over the age of 62 are also eligible for the "Senior Pass," which provides a lifetime entry to 2,000 national parks and recreation sites. You can obtain this pass in person at one of the federal recreation sites for $80, or online for $90.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

'Extra Help' Program Helps with Medication Costs

Are there any special Medicare programs that help with medication costs? My 74-year-old mother, who lives primarily on her Social Security, takes several high-priced drugs that sap her income even with her Medicare drug plan.

Yes, there is a low-income subsidy program called Extra Help that can assist seniors on a tight budget with paying for their premiums, deductible and co-payments in their Medicare (Part D) prescription drug plan.

Currently, around 10 million people are receiving this subsidy, but another two million may qualify and not even realize it. They are missing out on hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars in savings each year.

Changes in the law make it easier than ever to qualify for the Extra Help program. Even if your mom applied but was not qualified in the past, she may be eligible now. The amount of additional assistance she would receive depends on her income and assets. If she qualifies for help, she will pay no more than $3.35 for a generic drug and $8.35 for a brand-name drug in 2018.

To qualify to receive the subsidy, your mom's assets cannot exceed $14,100 (or $28,150 for married couples living together). Assets, for the purposes of qualifying for this program, include bank accounts, stocks and bonds. Homes, vehicles, personal belongings, life insurance and burial plots are not considered assets under the program.

In addition, your mom's monthly income cannot exceed $1,538 (or $2,078 for married couples). If your mom supports a family member who lives with her, or lives in Alaska or Hawaii, her income can be higher. The government will not include as income any funds that your mom receives for household expenses like food, rent, mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes.

How To Apply


There are three ways to apply for Extra Help: online at SSA.gov/prescriptionhelp; by calling Social Security at 800-772-1213; or by visiting a local Social Security office.

The application form is easy to complete, but you will need your mom's Social Security number and information about her bank account balances, pensions and investments. Social Security will review her application and send her a letter within a few weeks letting her know whether she qualifies.

If your mom doesn't qualify for Extra Help, she may still be able to get help from a state pharmacy assistance program or a patient assistance program. Visit the National Council on Aging's Benefits Check Up website to search for these programs.

Other Medicare Assistance


If your mom is eligible for Extra Help, she may also qualify for help with her other Medicare expenses through her state's Medicare Savings Program.

State Medicaid programs partner with the federal government, therefore income and asset qualifications vary depending on where she lives. Medicare Savings Programs may pay her entire Medicare Part B premium each month. Some also pay for Part B coinsurance and copayments, depending on her income. Contact your mom's state Medicaid office to determine if she qualifies for benefits in her state.

She can also get help through her State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which provides free one-on-one Medicare counseling in person or over the phone. To locate a SHIP counselor in your area, visit the SHIP National Technical Assistance Center website or call the eldercare locator at 800-677-1116.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published May 25, 2018

WCCF Celebrating Superhero Nonprofits with June Contest

WCCF has declared 2018 the Year of the Superhero.  In April, the fire fighters and law enforcement officers were honored; May brought The Wall that Heals to honor our veterans.  Washington County nonprofits will be recognized in June through a contest to highlight some of the organizations that WCCF, through its fantastic donors, has granted money to.  The contest is called the Game of Phones and is open to contestants aged 18 or older. 

All contestants must be a registered Facebook user and “like” the Washington County Community Foundation Facebook page.  The contest starts on June 1st and runs through June 25th.  The grand prize is a $500.00 gift card, second prize is a $150.00 gift card, and third prize is a $75.00 gift card.  Clues to determine the 21 different nonprofits will be given through www.wccf.biz under the “25th Anniversary” logo.  Once a contestant determines the answer to the clue, they should go to the organization, and then snap a selfie that will clearly indicate the organization (outside signage, building, or easily recognizable landmark).  Upload the picture to the Washington County Community Foundation Facebook page and use #WCCF25 as your caption.            One selfie from each location will be entered per contestant.  If a contestant takes a selfie at all 21 locations with the hashtag, the contestant will receive an additional 25 entries.  Washington County Community Foundation Board of Directors and staff, as well as their immediate family, are not eligible to win prizes in the contest.   Board Members and staff of the Washington County Community Foundation, as well as their immediate family, are eligible to post pictures on Facebook still using #WCCF25.  For more information, contact WCCF at 812-883-7334.  The complete list of rules can be found on the WCCF website, www.wccf.biz, under the 25th Anniversary Logo.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

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How to Choose a Good Estate Sale Company

Can you provide some tips on how to choose a good estate sale company who can sell all the leftover items in my mother's house? 

The estate sale business has become a huge industry over the past decade. There are roughly 22,000 estate sale companies that currently operate in the U.S., up nearly 60% from just 10 years ago. But not all estate sale companies are alike. 

Unlike appraisal, auction and real estate companies, estate sale operators are largely unregulated and are not required to adhere to licensing or standard educational requirements. This leaves the door open for inexperienced, unethical or even illegal operators. Therefore, it is up to you to decipher a good, reputable company from a bad one. Here are some tips to help you choose.

Make a list: Start by asking for recommendations from your friends, a real estate agent or an attorney. There are various estate sale websites that let you search for estate sale companies in your area. 

Check their reviews: After you find a few companies, check them out on the Better Business Bureau's website, Angie's List, Yelp and other online review sites to eliminate ones with legitimately negative reviews. 

Call some companies: Once you identify some reputable estate sale companies in your area, select a few to interview over the phone. Ask them how long they have been in business and how many estate sales they conduct each month. Also, find out about their staff, the services they provide, if they are insured and bonded and if they charge a flat fee or commission. The national average commission for an estate sale is around 35%, but commissions vary by city and region.

You may also want to ask about visiting their next sale to get a better feel for how they operate. Also, consider requesting a list of their past clients who you can contact as references.

Schedule appointments: Set up two or three face-to-face interviews with the companies you felt most comfortable with after conducting the phone interviews. 

During their visit, show the estate liquidator through the property. Point out any items that will not be included in the sale. If you have any items where price is a concern, this would be a good time to discuss it with them. Many estate companies will give you a quote after a walk-through of the home.

You should also ask questions about their pricing, including how they research prices, whether every item is priced, how they track what items sell for, what credit cards they accept and how and where they will promote and market your sale. 

Additionally, ask how many days it will take them to set up for the sale, how long the sale will last and whether they will take care of getting any necessary permits.

You should also find out how and when you will be paid and what types of services they will provide when the sale is over. You will want to ask whether they will clean up the house and dispose of the unsold items, and whether there is an extra charge to do so. Also, make sure you get a copy of their contract and review it carefully before you sign it.

For more information on choosing an estate sale company, you may want to visit the National Estate Sales Association's online guide, which includes a "Find the Right Company" feature.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.


Published May 18, 2018

Washington County Community Foundation Donors Award over $27K

  

Grants totaling over $27,000.00 were awarded to several organizations serving Washington County by donors of the Washington County Community Foundation for the Spring 2018 grant cycle.  Grants are awarded from the Foundation’s Touch Tomorrow funds.

The Campbellsburg ballfields will be a safer place due to a $2,005.95 grant to purchase an AED machine.  Many people will be trained on the use of the AED and it will be housed at the ballfield.

A $6,000.00 grant has been awarded to Awareness Washington County.  They will use the funds to repair the lights on the walking trail as well as installing infrared security cameras for the trail.

Blue River Services is updating their software and will be receiving a $2000.00 grant to assist in offsetting the cost for that.

United Way 211 is the recipient of a $1,532.87 grant to continue 211 referral service in Washington County. 

Lifeskills prevention programming will be coming to Washington County fifth graders with a $3,198.00 grant to Our Place Drug and Alcohol Education Services. 

Pied Piper Productions is receiving a $2,450.00 grant for the royalties, sets, and advertising for four performances of “Godspell”. 

A $10,100.00 grant has been awarded to the Washington County Family YMCA for their high-quality full-day preschool program being implemented at Bradie Shrum Elementary School. 

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

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The Wall That Heals Volunteer Orientation May 16th at 6:00

There will be an orientation on May 16th at the WCCF/Ivy Tech/YMCA Campus at 6:00 pm for all that have signed up to volunteer at The Wall That Heals. The orientation will be led by the site manager for The Wall That Heals. At the orientation, you will be given instruction on your volunteer duties and will be able to pick up your volunteer t-shirt to wear when you are working at The Wall.

If you are unable to attend the volunteer orientation, you will be given written guidance when you arrive for your shift at The Wall That Heals. You may pick up your t-shirt on Monday, May 14th between noon and 6:00 pm or Tuesday, May 15th between noon and 6:00 pm if you are unable to attend the volunteer orientation. If these times are not convenient for you, please call Judy or Lindsey at 812-883-7334 to make other arrangements. Thank you, in advance, for volunteering for this wonderful opportunity in Washington County.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

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10 Ways to Avoid Identity Theft

What can people do to protect themselves from identity theft? My brother-in-law recently had his identity stolen and I want to make sure it doesn't happen to me.

Each year around 17 million people fall victim to identity theft, which happens when someone gets access to your Social Security number, bank or credit card account number or other identifying information and uses it to steal from you. Here are some free steps you can take to reduce your risks.

Guard your personal information: Never give your Social Security, credit card, checking account or savings account numbers to anyone unless you initiate the contact. Do not carry your Social Security card around in your wallet or purse. You should also avoid carrying around your Medicare card unless you are going to the doctor.

Remove yourself from mailing lists: Put a stop to preapproved credit card offers, which is a gold mine for identity thieves. To do this, visit optoutprescreen.com or call 888-567-8688. You will need to provide your Social Security number and date of birth. You can stop other junk mail at dmachoice.org, and reduce telemarketing calls at donotcall.gov.

Use strong passwords: To safeguard your personal data on your smartphone or tablet don't use a password that is easy to hack, like 1234 or 0000. Make your computer passwords more than eight characters long, with uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols like # and %. Tech experts recommend using different passwords on different accounts. If it is hard to remember them, try a password manager service.

Be wary of unknown emails: Never click on links in emails from strangers or those that claim to be from the Social Security Administration, IRS or other government agencies. Also avoid clicking on links in emails that appear to be from your bank, phone or credit card company warning of a "problem." This can result in identity-stealing malware being installed on your computer. To protect your computer from malware, install antivirus software and set up automatic security updates and full weekly scans.

Secure your mail: Empty your home mailbox quickly or buy a locked mailbox to deter thieves. Also, if you are sending a payment in the mail, use a U.S. Postal Service mailbox or go to the post office, rather than mailing the payment from your more vulnerable home mailbox.

Get safer credit cards: If you don't already have one, get an EMV chip card from your credit card provider. These are much more difficult for fraudsters to hack than magnetic strip cards.

Shred unneeded documents: Buy a crosscut paper shredder so you can shred all unneeded records, receipts, statements, preapproved credit offers or other papers you throw out that contain your financial or personal information.

Monitor your accounts: Review your monthly bank and credit card statements carefully, and see if your bank or credit card issuer offers free alerts that will warn you of suspicious activity as soon as it is detected.

Watch your credit: Check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228. You can receive one free report a year from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), so consider staggering your request so you can get one free copy every four months.

Set up security freezes: If you don't plan to apply for new credit, loans, insurance or utility services, freeze your credit reports so crooks cannot open up new accounts in your name. Rules vary by state, but the $5 to $20 fee is waived if you are 65 or older or show proof of past identity theft. Security freezes are set up at all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published May 4, 2018

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1707 North Shelby Street
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Phone: 812-883-7334
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