How to Pick a Medical Alert System

How to Pick a Medical Alert System

I would like to get my 82-year-old mother, who lives alone, a home medical alert system with a panic button that she can push in case she falls or needs help. Can you recommend some good options to help me choose?
A good medical alert system is an affordable and effective tool that can help keep your mother safe, but with all the choices available today, choosing one can be quite confusing. Here are some tips that can help.

How They Work

Medical alert systems, which have been around for about 40 years, are popular products for seniors who live alone. Leased for about $1 a day, these basic systems provide a wearable help button - usually in the form of a neck pendant or wristband - and a base station that connects to the home phone line or to a cellular network if no landline is present.
At the press of a button, your mom could call and talk to a trained operator through the system's base station receiver, which works like a powerful speakerphone. The operator will find out what's wrong and notify family members, friends, neighbors or emergency services as needed.
In addition to the basic home systems, many companies today (for an additional fee) are also offering motion sensitive pendants that can detect a fall and automatically call for help if your mom is unable to push the button. Some companies also offer mobile medical alerts that work when your mom is away from home. These mobile alerts work like cell phones with GPS tracking capabilities. They allow your mom to talk and listen to the operator directly through the pendant button and, because of the GPS, her general location would be known in order for help to be sent.

What to Consider

When shopping for a home medical alert system, here are some things to look for to help you choose a quality system:
  • Extra help buttons: Most companies offer waterproof neck pendant and wristband help buttons, but some also offer wall-mounted buttons that can be placed near the floor in high fall risk areas like the bathroom or kitchen, in case your mom isn't wearing her pendant.
  • Range: The base station should have a range of at least 400 feet so it can be activated from anywhere on your mom's property - even in the yard.
  • Backup: Make sure the system has a battery backup in case of a power failure.
  • Monitoring: Make sure the response center is staffed with trained emergency operators located in the U.S., available on a 24-hour basis and responds to calls promptly.
  • Contacts: Choose a company that provides multiple contact choices - from emergency services to a friend or family member who lives nearby - that they can contact if your mom needs help.
  • Certification: Find out if the monitoring center has been certified by Underwriters Laboratories, a nonprofit safety and consulting company.

Available Companies

While there are dozens of companies that offer medical alert systems, here are some options that offer both home and mobile alerts. Fees usually start at about $30 per month. Bay Alarm Medical, bayalarmmedical.com, Life Station, lifestation.com, Medical Alert, medicalalert.com and MobileHelp, mobilehelpnow.com.
Most of these companies offer discounts if you pay three to twelve months in advance.
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 March 31, 2017

Youth Foundation Now Recruiting

The Washington County Youth Foundation is now recruiting new members for the 2017-2018 school year. The Youth Foundation is a group of students from Washington County committed to making our community a better place to live.  The board has members who are sophomores, juniors and seniors in any area high school or are home schooled. 

The Youth Foundation averages one meeting a month. Times and location will vary; however, most meetings occur on Sunday afternoons.  During the school year the Washington County Youth Foundation will offer one grant cycle, several community service activities and one peer community awareness/asset development event.  Also, Washington County Youth Foundation members will be expected to be volunteers in the Happily Ever After Project.  All members make financial contributions to support the service activities of the Youth Foundation.  

Application, permission slip and more information can be downloaded from the Washington County Community Foundation’s website at www.wccf.biz.  Additionally, informational flyers can be obtained from current Washington County Youth Foundation members or by calling the Foundation office at 883-7334.   Applications are due by 4:00 pm on April 15, 2017.

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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Services That Can Help Seniors with the Rigors of Travel

 

Do you know of any services that help seniors with the rigors of traveling? My youngest daughter is getting married in a few months and would love to have my 82-year old mother attend, but she needs help flying across the country.
Traveling can be daunting under the best circumstances, but for elderly seniors, those with disabilities or those recovering from an illness or injury, it can seem particularly overwhelming and unmanageable. Fortunately, there are a number of companies that provide travel companions to assist these individuals with the rigors of travel.
Whether the individual needing assistance is someone who has a physical disability and wants to go on a vacation or is a grandparent who wants to attend a family member's wedding or graduation, travel companions help their clients move through airports, manage luggage, navigate busy terminals and hotel lobbies and much more.
Some companion services even provide personal care like medication reminders, dressing, bathing and feeding. Additionally, there are also traveling nursing services for those with specific medical needs.
Be aware that these services aren't cheap. You will pay for the travel companion's tickets, a fee for the services and, if necessary, the companion's hotel room, meals and incidentals. The price to accompany a client on a plane trip within the United States - including the companion fees and travel costs for all parties - can range anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 or more for coach airfare. Business or first class would cost more.
To locate a travel companion service in your area, search online for "senior travel companion" or "senior travel escort," followed by the appropriate city or state. Another option is to use an experienced national service, like Flying Companions (FlyingCompanions.com) or FirstLight Home Care (FirstLightHomeCare.com), which operates a national network of franchises that provide in-home care for seniors and offers travel companion programs in about one-third of its 130 franchises.
If a medical travel companion is needed, you can search online for "traveling nurse companion" or "medical travel companion," or checkout Travel Care & Logistics (YourFlightNurse.com), which provides registered nurses who provide travel assistance.
If, however, the individual does not require a lot of assistance, or cannot afford a travel companion, consider asking a trusted family member or friend who has air travel experience to accompany the individual on his or her trip.

Questions to Ask

If you're interested in hiring a travel companion service, there are a number of things you need to check into to ensure you get the right travel companion.
First, if personal or medical care is required while traveling, find out if the travel companion is trained to manage healthcare needs. Ask what type of medical certifications he or she has (e.g., nursing credentials, C.P.R. training, etc.).
Next, you will want to find out how many trips the companion has taken with clients. Has he or she completed trips with similar clients/travelers? How long has the travel service company been in business? What is the company's safety record? What type of insurance does it carry and what/who does it cover?
Also, ask for a quote that breaks down exactly what you'll be required to pay, in addition to the companion's fees. Lastly, request a list of two or three clients/references who have used the service and call them to find out if they would recommend the service.
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.

Wal-Mart Gives Away Free Books to Local Students

Just in time for Spring Break, our local Wal-Mart store gave away almost 600 books to local second and third grade students. Why?  Because Wal-Mart is supporting the Happily Ever After Project, which was started by the Washington County Youth Foundation in 2010.

“We love partnering with Washington County Community Foundation especially on this project because we feel passionately about reading. In our age of technology, the ability to read is still the foundation of a lifetime of learning,” stated Mike King, Salem Wal-Mart Store Manager.

King went on to say, “I love kids and I really enjoyed visiting the classroom and reading to Ms. Johnson’s class. They still have what we all should never lose:  The belief that you can do anything.  Being able to read is the key to open every door and achieving any goal you set.”

Members of the Washington County Youth Foundation started the Happily Ever After Project to promote a love of reading in every child’s life. Since 2010, with the help of generous sponsors like Wal-Mart, they have given away almost 12,000 books to local elementary students.

Additionally, the Washington County Community Foundation started the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in 2015. Through this program, children in Washington County from birth to age five can register FREE and receive an age appropriate book mailed to their home every month.  This service has over 900 children registered in our community. 

Programs like these happen because of generous donors. Individuals, businesses and organizations all working together are supporting the Happily Ever After Project and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and teaching our very young children to learn to love to read.

If you would like to support these programs, contact the Washington County Community Foundation at 883-7334 or director@wccf.biz.  For just $26.00 a year (Fifty cents a week), you can sponsor a child in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library for an entire year.  Contact the Foundation to learn more.

The mission of the Washington County Community Foundation is to engage people, build resources and strengthen our community. Visit the website at www.wccf.biz and like the Foundation on Facebook. 

How To Stop Snoring

 

Over the past few years my 57-year-old husband's snoring has gotten much worse. It's to the point that I have to either wear earplugs or move to a different room. Any suggestions?
Snoring is a very common problem that often gets worse with age. Around 37 million Americans snore on a regular basis according to the National Sleep Center.
Snoring occurs when the airway narrows or is partly blocked during sleep usually due to nasal congestion, floppy tissue, alcohol, or enlarged tonsils. But you and your husband also need to know that snoring can be much more than just an annoyance. It can also be a red flag for obstructive sleep apnea, a serious condition in which the snorer stops and starts breathing during sleep, increasing the risks of cardiovascular disease, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia and hypertension. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 34% of men and 19% of women who snore routinely have sleep apnea or are at risk for it.

Self-Help Remedies

Even if you are unsure whether your husband has a primary snoring problem or sleep apnea, sleep experts suggest you start with these steps.
Open a stuffy nose: If nasal congestion is causing your husband to snore, over-the-counter nasal strips such as Breathe Right may help. Or, if allergies are the cause, try saline nasal sprays.
Elevate his head: Buying a foam wedge to elevate his head a few inches can help reduce snoring. In the alternative, consider buying him a contoured pillow to lift his chin and keep the tongue from blocking the back of his throat as he sleeps. Also check out Nora (smartnora.com), a wireless snoring device that slides under the pillow and gently moves the head to a different position when snoring is detected. This, they say, stimulates the relaxed throat muscles and opens the airway.
Sleep on side: To prevent back sleeping, which triggers snoring, place a pillow against your husband's back to keep him from rolling over or sew a tennis ball in the back of his pajama shirt. Or check out the Night Shift Sleep Positioner (nightshifttherapy.com), a device that's worn around the neck that vibrates when you roll on your back.
Avoid alcohol before bed: Alcoholic beverages can relax the muscles in the throat and constrict airflow. He should not consume alcohol three to four hours before bedtime.
Lose excess weight: Fat around the neck can compress the upper airway and impede airflow and is often associated with sleep apnea.
Quit smoking: Smoking causes inflammation in the upper airways that can make snoring worse.

Need More Help?

If these lifestyle strategies don't make a big difference, your husband should see his doctor, a sleep specialist or an otolaryngologist who may recommend an overnight study to test him for apnea.
For primary snoring or mild to moderate sleep apnea, an oral appliance that fits into the mouth like a retainer may be prescribed. This shifts the lower jaw and tongue forward, keeping the airway open.
Some other options are Theravent snore therapy (theraventsnoring.com) and Provent sleep apnea therapy (proventtherapy.com), which are small nasal devices that attach over the nostrils to improve airflow.
But the gold standard for moderate to severe sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, device. This involves sleeping with a mask that is hooked up to a machine that gently blows air up your nose to keep the passages open.
If these don't work or are intolerable, surgery is an option too. There are procedures available today that remove excess tissue in the nose, mouth or throat. And a newer procedure called hypoglossal nerve stimulation uses a small device implanted in the chest to help control the movement of the tongue when it blocks the airway.
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.

How Would You Like to Send Your Child to College for Free?

Washington County Community Foundation is offering incentives through county middle schools for students that apply for the 21st Century Scholar Program.

Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars Program began in 1990 to ensure that every Hoosier student can afford the opportunity provided by a college degree. Today, eligible students who keep the Scholar Pledge to excellence in school and life receive a Scholarship to help pay for their college education.

Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars Program offers income-eligible Hoosier students up to four years of paid tuition at an eligible Indiana college or university after they graduate from high school. In middle and high school, 21st Century Scholars are connected to programs and resources to help them plan, prepare, and pay for college. Once in college, Scholars receive support to complete their college degrees and connect to career opportunities.

7th and 8th grade Indiana students whose families meet income eligibility guidelines can apply to become a 21st Century Scholar. Applications must be received by June 30 of the student’s 8th grade year. Students may apply online, or through a local school or nonprofit organization that has agreed to submit online applications on behalf of eligible students. To enroll your student, visit www.in.gov/21stcenturyscholars.  School counselors also have more information about the program and the application incentives sponsored by Washington County Community Foundation.

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 ABCs of Picking a Medicare Supplemental Policy

 

Can you provide any advice on choosing a Medicare supplemental policy to help cover things outside of Medicare? I'll be 65 in a few months and could use some assistance.
If you plan to enroll in original Medicare, getting a supplemental policy (also known as Medigap insurance) too is a smart idea because it will help pay for things that aren't covered by Medicare like copayments, coinsurance and deductibles. Here are some tips to help you choose an appropriate plan.

Medigap Plans

In all but three states (Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin), Medigap plans, which are sold by private health insurers, come in 10 standardized benefit packages labeled with the letters A, B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M and N.
Plan F is the most popular policy followed by plan C because they provide comprehensive coverage. Plans K and L are high-deductible policies that have lower premiums but impose higher out-of-pocket costs. Plan F also offers a high-deductible version in some states. And a popular middle ground policy that attracts many healthy beneficiaries is plan N.
For more information on the different types of plans and the coverage they provide, including Medigap options in Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin, see Medicare's "Choosing a Medigap Policy" guide at Medicare.gov/pubs/pdf/02110-medicare-medigap.guide.pdf, or call 1-800-MEDICARE and ask them to mail you a copy.

How to Choose

To pick a Medigap policy that works best for you, consider your health, family medical history and your budget. The differences among plans can be small and rather confusing.
To help you choose, visit Medicare.gov, and click on "Supplements & Other Insurance" at the top of the page, then on "Find a Medigap policy" and type in your ZIP Code. This will give you a list of the plans available in your area, their price ranges and the names, and contact information of companies that sell them. But it's up to you to contact the carriers directly to get their specific pricing information.
You can also compare Medigap prices on most state insurance department websites (see NAIC.org/state_web_map.htm for links), or you can order a personalized report from Weiss Ratings for $99 at WeissMedigap.com.
Since all Medigap policies with the same letter are required by law to cover the exact same benefits, you should shop for the cheapest policy.
You'll get the best price if you sign up within six months after enrolling in Medicare Part B. During this open-enrollment period, an insurer cannot refuse to sell you a policy or charge you more because of your health.
You also need to be aware of the pricing methods, which will affect your costs. Medigap policies are usually sold as either "community-rated," where everyone in an area is charged the same premium regardless of age; "issue-age-rated," based on your age when you buy the policy, but only increases due to inflation, not age; and "attained-age-rated," that starts premiums low but increases as you age. Community-rate and issue-age-rated policies are the best options because they will save you money in the long run.
You can buy the plan directly from an insurance company, or you can work with a reputable local insurance broker.

Drug Coverage

You also need to know that Medigap policies do not cover prescription drugs, so if you don't have drug coverage, you need to consider buying a separate Medicare Part D drug plan too. See Medicare.gov/find-a-plan to compare plans. Also note that Medigap plans do not cover vision, dental care, hearing aids or long-term care either.

Alternative Option

Instead of getting original Medicare, plus a Medigap policy and a separate Part D drug plan, you could sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan that provides all-in-one coverage. These plans, which are sold by insurance companies, are generally available through HMOs and PPOs. To find and compare Advantage plans visit Medicare.gov/find-a-plan.
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 March 10, 2017

Jinny Scifres Memorial Scholarship Applications Available

The Washington County Community Foundation will be accepting applications for the Jinny Scifres Scholarship. The scholarship is for any individual planning to attend a post-secondary accredited institution in the 2017-2018 school year and plans to pursue studies in the medical field.  The scholarship payout this year is $1600.00.  The number and dollar amount of scholarships will be determined by the committee. Preference may be given to non-traditional nursing students who may be returning to school after starting a family or career, as did Jinny. 

After starting a family, Jinny made the tough decision to return to school and study nursing. After graduation, she began her nursing career at Washington County Memorial Hospital as an Emergency Room Nurse.  Jinny’s love of nursing eventually lead her to several promotions and back to school once again.  She eventually became the Director of Patient Care Services.

Jinny died in the fall of 2000, after bravely battling bone cancer. Her family and many friends established this scholarship fund in her memory, to assist others who, like Jinny, return to school to study nursing after starting a family or career.  

For questions or an application, please contact Judy or Lindsey at 812-883-7334 or program.officer@wccf.biz.  Applications are due by April 15, 2017 at 3:30.

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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WCCF is Offering Scholarships to Non-Traditional Students

The Washington County Community Foundation is now offering scholarships to non-traditional students through its Education Matters initiative. 

Education Matters is a regional undertaking organized by the community foundations that serve Washington, Scott, Harrison, Clark and Floyd counties to try to increase the number of working adults in our region who started but never completed some form of post-secondary education – education that extends beyond high school.

You might be surprised to learn that in Southeast Indiana, only 25% of our workforce has an associate’s, bachelors or professional degree, compared to 38% nationally. Yet one in four of our community’s adult workers has earned some college credits! That’s over 3,100 people in Washington County!  For whatever reason, they started but never completed their post-secondary education. This represents a tremendous amount of untapped potential in our community.

The community foundations that created Education Matters have elected to concentrate on a small sliver of the overall issue, those one in four of our adult workers who have some post-secondary credits but did not complete their degrees or certifications. This population of people who started but didn’t finish their education is where the Washington County Community Foundation sees opportunity to implement immediate changes that can drive our educational attainment numbers up, ultimately having real impact on our community.

The following criteria have been established for this first round of scholarships:  

  1. Annual awards will not exceed $3,000 the first twelve months and $5,000 per person in any subsequent twelve month period.
  2. Scholarship applicants must be a minimum of 28 years old as of the date of application.
  3. Only individuals who can demonstrate continuing legal residence in Washington County for at least the past five years are eligible. Documentation such as tax forms, housing receipts, or utility bills will be used to verify residency and/or household income.
  4. Scholarship awards may be used for tuition, course-related fees, or books only. Checks will only be written to an educational institution or certified training provider.
  5. The application deadline is 3:30 on April 15, 2017. No exceptions.  Applications can be found on the Foundation website at or by requesting an application from our office. 
  6. Adult scholarship awards may not be used to pay for college debt.
  7. Subsequent awards will only be considered for students maintaining at least a 2.5 GPA.

Call the Washington County Community Foundation office at 883-7334 or email program.officer@wccf.biz to request an application or for more information.

The mission of the Washington County Community Foundation is to engage people, build resources and strengthen our community. 

How to Find Affordable High-Speed Home Internet Services

 

Do you know of any resources that can help me find affordable high-speed home Internet services? I'm retired and live primarily on my Social Security and would like to find something cheaper than the $40 per month that I currently pay.

There are two great resources you can turn to, to help you locate low-cost or discounted Internet services, but's what's available to you will depend on where you live and/or your income level. Here's where to begin.

Low-Cost Internet


Your first step to locate cheaper high-speed Internet is EveryoneOn, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to making affordable Internet services available to all Americans.

Through partnerships with Internet providers like Comcast, Cox, AT&T, T-Mobile, Mediacom and others, EveryoneOn can help you search for services in your area that provide high-speed (4G LTE) Internet at a very low cost. Most participating companies charge around $10 per month with no contract and no equipment fee. However, for non-income qualifiers, there may be a one-time setup/equipment fee of $62. Data plans will vary too.

To start your search, go to EveryoneOn.org, type in your ZIP code and click on the "Find Offers" button, or you can call 877-947-4321. You'll then need to answer a few questions regarding you household financial situation so the Internet services you're eligible for can be located.

Some providers offer their services only to people with limited financial resources, however there are others that offer low-cost deals to everyone regardless of income. What's available to you will depend on where you live.

Also note that in addition to the low-cost Internet services, EveryoneOn also provides referrals to affordable computers and free computer classes. Most of the companies they work with offer refurbished tablets usually for under $100 and computers for under $160 that are available to everyone. And, they provide referrals to free computer classes, which are typically offered in public libraries across the U.S.

Discounted Internet


If you don't have any luck finding a low-cost service through EveryoneOn, and your income is low enough, another option is the Lifeline Assistance Program. This is a federal program that provides a $9.25 monthly subsidy to help pay for broadband Internet service or for a home or wireless phone. Only one benefit is available per household; either phone service (home or wireless) or Internet (home or mobile), but not both.

To qualify, you'll need to show that your annual household income is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines - which is $16,281 for one person or $21,924 for two. Or, that you're receiving certain types of government benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, SSI, public housing assistance, veterans pension or survivors pension benefit or live on federally recognized tribal lands.

To apply, you'll need to contact an Internet provider in your area that participates in the Lifeline program and ask for an application form. To locate providers in your area, visit LifelineSupport.org or call 888-641-8722. Once the provider verifies your eligibility, they will begin service. (NOTE: The Internet companies that partner with EveryoneOn do not currently accept the lifeline subsidy.)

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 March 3, 2017

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